When did business become sexy?
As evidence, I’ll cite the popularity of Dragon’s Den, the circulation of The Economist (over a million a week), even the popularity of business courses at university (our faculty is the size of some universities and still growing strongly).
Is it the fascination with money? Was it the quality of the stories, from Dot Com to Google to Enron and Northern Rock?
David Parkin of The Business Desk spoke to us this evening, and his story wasn’t really ‘the death of print’, a title he tried to blame on the sub-editors. His story was about the entrepreneurial urge.
You’ve been the well-known business editor of a long-established regional newspaper for seven years. Then you get the itch… Could I become one of the entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed? Could I get funding for my idea? Would I risk the job security for the thrill of running my own show?
The funding took two years to secure, but the service launched last November and he’s been recruiting staff, subscribers and advertisers ever since.
His initial market niche is timely regional business headlines, an obvious advantage over a daily newspaper. But it doesn’t stop there: video interviews are coming soon, and there’s scope to expand into lifestyle coverage and into other regions.
The big change is in tone of voice. An entrepreneur has to be a believer (if he doesn’t believe in his idea, then who will?); a newspaper reporter has to be a sceptic, able to separate the substantial wheat from the over-hyped chaff. Now that he’s an entrepreneur and an editor he has a respectful relationship with the public relations industry. We’re his sources, his subscribers and his connectors, mavens and salesmen who can recommend the service to others. ‘PR people are in a strong position’, he says.
Print isn’t dead; nor is news. But it’s very apparent that the students I teach no longer gather their news from the morning newspaper. The internet enables different means of production and distribution, and different relationships with readers. On a traditional news desk, there’s not much feedback. On the web, statistics are readily available. Parkin recited the number of subscribers, unique visitors, their locations and average time on the site. He even speculated on our average incomes and spending habits. He’s now speaking like an entrepreneur.