McGuire on Media

Long absence is ended by Bezos, hot dogs and my 2013 21st Century Journalism syllabus

I have been gone from this space for too long. A sabbatical, book writing, the search for an agent or publisher and a hectic family summer has forced a low profile that ends today.

I am back in the teaching trenches at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and I am ready to share my thoughts, opinions and concerns about the media again.

I had not taught this graduate 21st Century Journalism course since last fall. When I stared at last year’s syllabus it seemed shockingly stale. The dizzying pace of journalism business change smacked me in the face when I looked at what seemed relevant just last year.  A complete overhaul was necessary. That is the nature of teaching about the future of the business of journalism—the target keeps moving.

One of the big lessons I’ve learned from teaching this course for the last seven years is that real-time events are the best teacher. I find that by discussing new developments in the media industry and using developing cases I can more effectively make points that I used to teach from industry manifestos and book excerpts.

As an example, the Jeff Bezos purchase of the Washington Post will occupy two full three-hour sessions of the class. Hot Dogs are another innovation this semester. I will use the business practices of two local hot dog restaurants to teach how business works and then we will explore those strategies and tactics to see if media businesses can learn anything from them.

I hope there are ideas here some of you will want to take for yourselves and I hope to hear new ones, too.

Graduate Seminar: 21st Century Media Organizations and Entrepreneurship

Arizona State University

Fall Semester 2013

MCO 525

SLN 7899

Thursday 3 p.m. –5:50 p.m.

Cronkite, Room 355

MCO 525

SLN 75435

Friday 9 a.m.—11:50

Cronkite, Room 314

Revised Sept 4


Tim J. McGuire: Frank Russell Chair for the Business of Journalism

Office: Cronkite 363

Office phone: 602-496-1812

Office hours: Wednesday 2 p.m.—4 p.m.

Thursday 1p.m.—3 p.m.

Friday Noon —1 p.m.

Can also be contacted on Twitter by followers: @timmcguire

Required texts and reading and recommended activities:

No text will be required for the class. Most of the reading will be online reading of materials cited in your syllabus. Some pdfs will also be required and they will be found on Blackboard. All of the readings are required for the day they are listed in the syllabus. Please check Blackboard frequently for class instructions.

Further required reading:



Paid Content:

Business of News Smart brief:

You are responsible for reading these sites daily. Three or four questions on each quiz will be from these web sites. We will also discuss highlights at the beginning of each class.

Recommended reading:

McGuire on Media.

(It’s a good idea to keep an eye on what your professor is saying.)

Course Description:

Journalism of the 21st Century is in the throes of dramatic change. We are going to study that disruption, the ensuing chaos and think deeply about what’s next. Since the days when presses were hauled around on the back of horse-drawn wagons a debate has raged over the proper balance between journalistic quality and business prerogatives. Now the equation is far simpler. Can quality journalism be supported by any business model? That is important to you because it will determine if you pursue journalism as an altruistic ideal or to make a living.

At Cronkite we are convinced that you need to understand the business elements of the journalism business and understand how it affects you. In an American Journalism Review article from two years ago a couple of ASU faculty members including yours truly and your dean commented on why we think this class is important for you. Here are excerpts from that article:

In the 1940s, economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the phrase "creative destruction." The words refer to the theory that innovation and entrepreneurship would be the instruments of an industry’s internal evolution, destroying the old model and creating a new one that results in economic growth and progress. Tim McGuire says that his students understand that journalism is in such a moment, and that this has increased their confidence levels dramatically.

McGuire, who teaches "Business and Future of Journalism" and "21st-Century Media Organization and Entrepreneurship" at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State, says such courses represent the best way to help journalism students avoid major pitfalls.

"Would you want a journalist to go be a journalist and have no idea that there’s a plane, a train and a truck about to hit him?" asks McGuire, a former editor of Minneapolis’ Star Tribune. "You’d say, ‘No. Bad idea.’ Well the fact is, the current economic environment is the truck and the train and the airplane, and we want to teach our students how to stay the hell out of the way."

He adds, "The modern workplace is a swiftly adjusting one, and the days when journalists can say, ‘I have no idea how we make money at this place,’ are gone."

As those who are responsible for informing the world of what is happening, journalists have an even greater responsibility to understand the market economy and the business of media, says Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at ASU.

"It boggles my mind that we would graduate people out of our journalism schools who don’t understand the market economy," Gillmor says. "That to me is bizarre. And I’m talking strictly for myself here, but I don’t think I’m alone."

Cronkite Dean Chris Callahan said, "I think as journalism educators we need to not only be figuring out where the industry is going, and how to best prepare our students for what’s going to happen tomorrow, but we need to really help create leaders and to be able to send out people who are going to be able to invent what this news future is going to look like," Callahan says.

It should be obvious the Cronkite School commitment to this class is high.

It should be just as obvious that because our times are fluid this class must be fluid. This syllabus had undergone radical change since I last taught the graduate version of the class. It undergoes significant change each semester because it must. This syllabus bears almost no resemblance to my first 7 years ago.

When we are done these are some of the themes you will understand. Do not panic if they mean nothing to you now:

The Old News World is gone, get over it.

We have moved from a “push” era to a “pull” era.

Control of news and information has shifted. Companies must yield more and more power to audiences.



Understand the Schumpeterian Moment

The eternal search for metrics

How does quality journalism get funded?

Abundance and scarcity

Advertising inefficiencies are being replaced by efficiency.

Content model + Cost model + Revenue model= business model.

Costs revenues, profits


Innovator’s dilemma

Government funding

Local and hyperlocal






Business models



I need you to be deeply involved in this process. This must be a collaborative effort. No professor can just lecture about the future. A professor can guide the conversation and expose you to new ideas and old ideas which might have new applications. A professor can also challenge you to explore new content and business models on the web, but unlike many classes this seminar must be a collaborative effort, because we are exploring abstract concepts rather than trying to learn specific “stuff.” I expect to learn at least as much from you as you learn from me, and you can probably teach me more. I will challenge your thinking and I urge you to challenge mine and that of your classmates. I do not emphasize teaching you stuff, but rather, how to think about stuff.

Special note: This course schedule WILL change. It is imperative that before every reading assignment you check on Blackboard to get the updated reading list. I may subtract some things and add web citations. THE FUTURE IS FLUID!

Course Requirements:

1. Attendance policy is quite simple. I will take attendance at the beginning of and at the END of every class. Perfect attendance, being in your seat at the start of every class AND at the end of every class, will result in one extra credit point. You will be allowed one absence so plan it carefully. Per graduate school policy, each absence beyond that will be penalized by a loss of a half-step in your grade. I do not rate the quality of excuses. I entertain none. If you take a quiz and then leave, the quiz will not be counted and an absence will be recorded. So you have one absence, use it wisely.

2. Participation: This is going to be a fluid class emphasizing discovery and recognition. It will be a highly participatory seminar. Each student must read the assigned material and fulfill the web assignments to apply the things we learn in class and participate in class discussion to enrich that discovery process. Personal experience tells me that much of your success in the workplace will depend on your ability to articulate your ideas with assertiveness, imagination and impact. I expect the same in class discussion, and I will not be sanguine about the “quiet” ones. You must express yourself well in my class and in the world. One point will be awarded for poor participation and five will be awarded for excellent participation. I may call on people because I feel it is so important that you learn how to express yourself on your feet. I will also deduct points for “conversation hogs.”

3. Critical thinking is necessary to make the discovery process work. There will be precious few absolutes in this course. It requires creativity, the ability to dream and the ability to sort out the gray areas on many issues. That requires good critical thinking. Analysis, synthesis and evaluation will be required in all written assignments and oral presentations.

4. Assignments are due at the beginning of class the day they are listed on the syllabus. If they are not on my desk in the classroom or in my electronic queue by the time class starts they will earn a zero. No joke, I have rewarded zeroes often. Twelve-point Times Roman is the preferred typeface for old professors. One page memos can be single spaced with a double space between paragraphs. They must be one page, no more, no less. All assignments other than one page memos should be produced at the length specified in the assignment below. Alternative formats are permitted and even encouraged. This class emphasizes innovation and discovering new ways of doing things so I cannot be rigid about format. This will require flexibility from the professor and the student. I will expect the amount of work invested to equal the amount of work required for the paper I assign. I will also judge the submission by the same criteria I judge a written paper. Repurposing of material from other classes will not be permitted.

5. On the first day of class, Aug. 22-23 a one page memo written single spaced with a double space between paragraphs. It must be a single page. It will be entitled “This I believe.” It will tell me what you believe about the state of the business of media BEFORE we effectively start the class. You have decided to pursue a master’s in journalism so I want to know what you believe about the business of journalism before we begin. This memo will be worth five points but it will be graded pass-fail. It will be judged on these five criteria: a) writing b) candor c) quality of reflection d) critical thinking e) forcefulness of your contentions. Obviously knowledge is not being tested here. I simply want to establish a baseline of what you think and believe. Please don’t research this. Just write what you think right now.

6. There will be eleven 10-question quizzes. The highest ten will be counted. One will be dropped, consistent with my promise you may miss one class. The 10 quizzes will be averaged and that score will constitute 20 percent of your grade. The quizzes will test your knowledge of the required daily readings and of the assigned readings for that day. You will have to do the reading to do well. Graduate assistant Rachel Leingang will administrate this process.

7. On Oct. 10-11 a mid-term long paper/project will be due. It will be titled “This I believe.” It will be a 1500-word essay based on the first half of this class. Using my “This I believe” as a vague sample you will tell me what you believe about the current state and future of the business of media based on what you’ve learned in the first half of the class. You should use your first pass-fail paper as springboard. Again, if this is done as a paper, it should be 1,500 words. If you choose another form of communication I will expect the effort to be equal to a written paper of that length. In the presentation you will be expected to show me you understand the first seven weeks of the class and that you have formed a firm, defensible opinion about where the business is headed. I will judge these papers/projects on these five criteria: a) presentation quality, b) your creative take on the question including ingenuity and freshness c) your demonstration of what you’ve learned in the first eight weeks of the class, D) the quality of your critical framing of your beliefs, E) the provocativeness and boldness of your conclusions. This paper/project will be worth 20 points. It is a crucial project intellectually and for your final grade. It will be my pedagogical hope that for the rest of your career you will write periodic versions of “This I believe.” Please pay special attention to those five criteria. I am very attentive to them in my grading. This paper will be worth 20 points.

8. I am hopeful the following assignment will be the strangest and most amusing you have ever encountered in a syllabus. Between now and Oct. 24-25 I expect you to visit Ted’s Hot Dogs in Tempe AND Portillo’s in either Scottsdale or Tempe. On Oct. 24-25 a 750 word paper will be due. The paper will compare and contrast the two restaurants. Using the readings for that week you will examine their business models, strategy and tactics. Vegetarians need to find a friend for the expedition since that will not excuse you from the assignment. The paper will be 10 percent of the grade.

9. There will be two parts of the final. On Nov 7-8 you will be required to submit a 1500 word essay/project on what Jeff Bezos has done with Washington Post and what you think he should do.

10. On the last day of class, Dec 6-7, your final paper/project will be due. It will be a 2000 word effort. But you can choose your subject. The first option will be to write a business plan for a hypothetical media company called BCX13 Inc. I will supply the hypothetical late in the semester. Your second option will be develop a news or information entrepreneurial project based on the lessons you’ve learned during our entire class with an emphasis on lessons learned weeks nine through 14. In both projects you may involve one or two partners. If you involve more than one person work effort has to reflect the work of that number of people. Your challenge in both cases will be to develop and PRESENT a media company entrepreneurial idea that will convince investors, (the class, me and guests) that this is a viable business idea and we should give you our money. It will be important to include your creativity lessons, your business model and financial lessons and your journalism value systems.

The final projects/paper and presentation for Nov 7-8 and Dec 6-7 will be worth 20 points each and will be judged on these five criteria: a) presentation quality of your project/paper, b) the ingenuity of your entrepreneurial idea c) your demonstration of what you’ve learned in the class, D) the quality of the content and revenue models and your overall “business sense”, e) you must convince your investors of the business viability of the idea.

Summary of Grading:

  • Perfect attendance, being in your seat at the start of every class and at the end of every class, will result in 1 extra credit points. Each absence beyond one will result in a half-step drop in your grade.
  • Participation up to 5 points
  • Pass-fail “This I believe” memo—5 points
  • Quizzes–20 points
  • Mid-term memo on “This I believe” —20 points
  • Hot dog paper—10 points
  • Bezos paper Nov 7-8 —20 points
  • Final entrepreneurial project –20 points
  • 100 Points possible, plus extra credit for attendance.

A+ 97-100; A 94-96; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 76-79; C 70-75; D 69-60; E 59 and below.

Additional Norms:

Expect passion from me and I will expect it from you.

Expect joy and enjoyment from me and I will expect it from you.

Expect respect from me and I will expect it from you.

Attend class.

Pay attention and stay awake.

No computers, Igadgets or cell phones will be allowed

Respect the person speaking during class participation.

Listen attentively and don’t concentrate on what you’re going to say next. Hear first.

No kibitzing.

Read all assignments.

Carefully prepare to discuss and debate.

Pay special attention to the PowerPoint material. Everything on a PowerPoint slide represents material that should be considered for your discussion board and your assignments. If you have a command of the PowerPoint material, and if you can successfully analyze, synthesize and evaluate, you will succeed.

Act ethically. Plagiarism, fabrication, reusing material you’ve used in another class, cheating or any other act of deception will result in automatic failure of this class and will be reported to the Dean of the Cronkite School.

Academic Integrity: The school has a zero tolerance policy toward academic dishonesty that is enforced within every course and educational activity offered or sanctioned by the school. Any allegation of academic dishonesty will be referred to the school’s Standards Committee for review and recommendation to the dean of the school. If any student is found to have engaged in academic dishonesty in any form – including but not limited to cheating, plagiarizing and fabricating – that student shall receive a grade of XE for the class and will be dismissed from the school. There will be no exceptions.

At the beginning of every Cronkite class, each student will be given a copy of the full academic integrity policy, along with accompanying information on plagiarism. Students must sign a pledge that indicates they have read and understood the material and agree to abide by the policy.

The Academic Integrity policy of the school must be read and signed by Sept. 3. The teaching assistant will monitor this process.

Act professionally All of my judgments on behavior, grading, explanations etc. will be based on the workplace. If I would show compassion in the newsroom you will find compassion here. If I would be skeptical in the newsroom, I will be skeptical here. If I would find a behavior or explanation to be horse hockey in the newsroom, I will deem it horse hockey here.

While I laud openness and freedom I believe only one person can speak at a time. I believe devices like computers, cell phones and Iwidgets are distractions for other students and for old, addle-minded professors. We do not use any of those in this class.

Extra credit: You may earn a half-percentage point (up to a maximum of two percentage points) by attending four “Must See Mondays” in The First Amendment Forum. These events feature prominent speakers from journalism and public relations and take place each Monday night during the semester from 7-8 p.m. in The First Amendment Forum. A schedule for the fall semester will be posted on the Cronkite website at

I will only require a proof of your attendance. However, you may be interested in the school’s program. You can blog on any event you attend (at least 150 words) within 48 hours at Students who blog the most over the course of the semester will earn an invitation to the Cronkite Awards Luncheon, featuring a nationally prominent journalism figure.

Diversity Principles: The Cronkite School practices inclusivity in student, staff and faculty populations in order to create an academic environment that embraces diversity of thought and acceptance of all people regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation or societal, political, cultural, economic, spiritual or physical differences

ACEJMC Values and Competencies: As a member of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the Cronkite School is committed to classroom learning that achieves ACEJMC professional values and competencies. These include the core areas of freedom of speech, ethics, diversity, critical thinking, research, writing and use of tools and technologies related to the field. For a full list of ACEJMC values and competencies, see

Social Media Guidelines: It’s important that students of journalism and communication know how to use social media ethically and professionally. The Cronkite School has developed standards drawn from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and the Society of Professional Journalists. Those guidelines can be found at

Building Hours: The Cronkite building is open from 7 a.m. to midnight, Mondays through Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays; and noon to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Course Schedule:

Week One: August 22-23– The world is shifting underfoot

Introduction of class, instructor, syllabus and students

Why we’re here

The Schumpeterian Moment, the shift from a “push” era to a “pull” era and the shift of control of news and information. Companies must yield more and more power to audiences

Today your 1 page memo entitled “This I believe” is due

Week 2 August 29-30– The Quality Journalism thing. It is under attack as the business is under attack.

Week Three—Sept 5-6 The history of media through the lens of the summer of 2013

History of the demise

Week Four: Sept. 12-13— WWBD? What will Bezos do and why does it matter?

Mind maps

Please get a sense of mind maps from the above article and then study some of these examples at the link below so you have a sense of how to do a mind map.

Week Five: Sept 19-20 – Is advertising past and future or are we entering a post-advertising world?

Week Six: Sept 26-27—Disruption is everywhere but the biggest disruptor is the loss of control

Control and gatekeeping

The tools

Week 7: Oct.3-4— Some issues we need to discuss and a sobering look at the future.

Light reading this week. I will carry the burden

Week 8: Oct. 10-11—Exploring your beliefs

Your paper on your beliefs is due today

Review of terms

Come prepared to critique these two This I believe essays

Tim will present his framing of the issue.

Read Schmidt first chapter. Reading to come

Week Nine: Oct 17-18–Creativity and imagination

Readings on creativity and imagination to come

Week 10: Oct—24-25 Business Models and Hot dogs

—Business models theory

You should prepare these readings in the context of Ted’s and Portillo’s. We will study these business model issues through the lens of these readings.

Sort through the past present and future of Business models.

Business Models and Teenage Sex/What Exactly is a Business Model, TechCrunch blog post (2011)

Business Model Generation, by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur: 9 Building Blocks (pp. 12-45)

Week 11: Oct. 31–Nov 1 Did hot dogs really have anything to do with the business of journalism?
We’re going to take the lessons we learned from Portillo’s and Ted’s and apply them to reinventing news experiences and news businesses.

Week 12 Nov.7-8— Back to Bezos and the summer of 2013. How does it look now?

Readings to come. We will be following Bezos and the Washington Post in real time

Week Thirteen: Nov 14-15: Entrepreneurs—not for everybody

Should I Become an Entrepreneur? By Jeffrey Bussgang, Seeing Both Sides blog post (2011)

Thinking About Starting an Online Business? Here’s Your Start-Up Checklist, 2010 essay by by Robert Niles, OJR: The Online Journalism Review

“There’s a Lot of Pressure to Play for the Short Term”: The Bay Citizen’s Editor on its $15 Million Future, by Lois Becker, Nieman Journalism Lab

Launch! Five Lessons from Five Months of Running a News Site, by Michael Anderson, Nieman Journalism Lab

The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups, by Paul Graham, Paul Graham blog post (2006)

We will have two guests: Veteran entrepreneur Kevin Gralen and fledgling entrepreneur Brandon Quester.

Week 14: Nov 21-22–Where and how do you fit in?

Possible Guest speaker

The following are products of one of my favorite grad students of all time, Jennifer Hellum. She has articulated what I want to teach about Personal Branding. Please read them.

Techie view of new world

Personal Branding Becomes a Necessity in the Digital Age, by Mark Glaser, MediaShift blog post (2009)

What’s In a Name? Backstories to Some Personal Brands, by Robert Hernandez, OJR: The Online Journalism Review (2010)

Thanksgiving November 28-29 Off

Week 15: Dec. 5-6 Presentation of projects