McGuire on Media

McGuire's 2009 Business and Future of Journalism syllabus

Classes at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism began today and so it is time to publish my syllabus for my Business and Future of Journalism class.

There are some notable changes. I am using online readings exclusively except for the four popular books I require. A quarter of the class will read one of those books. The World is Flat,  Wikinomics, The Long Tail and What Would Google Do? I have added that last one by Jeff Jarvis this year.

The most significant change is probably the addition of sessions on pay walls and aggregators. I am also spending more time this year on new models than I have in the past.  

The Business and Future of Journalism

Arizona State University

Fall Semester 2009

JMC 473

.    SLN 85318

2:00-3:15 p.m. Mon. and Wed.

Cronkite, Room 256





Tim McGuire: Frank Russell Chair for the Business of Journalism

Office: Cronkite 363

Office phone: 602-496-1812


Office hours: Tuesday: 10:30 a.m.–noon and 2 p.m.-3:00 p.m.

Wednesday: 4-5 p.m.

Thursday: 2 p.m.—3:30 p.m.

AND by appointment. I prefer appointments whenever possible even during office hours.

Required texts and reading and recommended activities:

The reading in this class will be mostly online reading of materials cited in your syllabus. They are required for the day they are listed.

As assigned by lot on the first day of class, a fourth of the class will read a portion of the The World is Flat by Tom Friedman, a fourth will read What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis. Another quarter will read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson and the final quarter will read Wikinomics. More on that process below

Further required reading:

Read Jim Romenesko’s daily briefing at

Read daily

The quizzes will be based on Romenesko, Mashable and the assigned online readings.

Recommended reading:

Read McGuire on Media regularly

Read regularly


Course Description:

Every media person you meet will tell you the journalism world you stand to enter has changed profoundly. Much of the blame/credit for that alleged change is laid at the doorstep of “the business side of journalism” and that phrase usually involves a snarl and some spit. And yet any journalist worth any salt at all knows that it is essential that a successful business supports quality journalism. Since the days 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. This class will study business models of media and briefly study the tension between the pursuit of quality journalism and making a profit in the media business.

This course will attempt to understand the history of those tensions, the current state of said tensions and how those tensions might shape the future of the media which is being decided as we speak. Arguably, the rate of change in the media business has never been more rapid, and there may be no better time to examine the tension between journalism and business than at the threshold of a brave new media world. We will try to understand where the media is headed amid this mind-boggling change. We will try to develop our own ideas about those future content and business models.

This must be a collaborative effort. No professor can 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 because we are exploring abstract concepts rather than trying to learn specific “stuff” this must be a collaborative effort.

We will survey the landscape of the current media struggle, explore the basic media business models, acquaint ourselves with how the media business keeps score, study advertising and revenue, how the business changed in a heartbeat and how we might look at disruption and innovation. We will study two current debates about pay walls and aggregators. Using that material as our base, we will explore the future using the four assigned books. After adding the material from those four books to our base of knowledge we will look at new business models including some that are operating right now. We will use the vision of a medium-sized newspaper to study how some are rethinking the models. We will study new business model ideas in media and public relations. The class will culminate in presentation of your papers on your vision of the media future.


The goals of this class are to expose advanced journalism students to broad media management realities, to understand how essential the bottom-line and quality journalism are to the entire journalistic enterprise, to understand the dynamic change going on in the digital media world as we live and breathe and to help students think and write about how to build a profitable and content rich media future in the face of great uncertainty.


Special note: This syllabus 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. Please be aware that I reserve the right to change any aspect of this syllabus if I believe the common good of the class will be served.


Second special note: Several of you have taken courses from me before. Please do not make any assumptions based on that past experience. Read this syllabus carefully and consider it our new contract. Other than the fact that I remain entertaining as heck, nothing will necessarily be the same. This is a very different course. It is a capstone course. You are in your senior year majoring in journalism. I consider this a “big kids” course. An excuse of “well in your other course you……..” will be dismissed with disdain.  


Course Requirements and Grading:

1. Attendance policy is quite simple. I will take attendance every class. Perfect attendance, being in your seat at the start of every class and at the end of every class, will result in 5 extra credit points. The quizzes will serve as the only other incentive to attend class. I understand emergencies happen so exceptional absences are built into the quiz process. I do not rate the quality of excuses. I entertain none.

  1. Participation: This is going to be a fluid class emphasizing discovery and recognition. Each student must read the assigned material and watch the web closely 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 to five points will be awarded for participation. I may well depart from past practice and call on people because I feel it is so important that you learn how to express yourself on your feet.
  1. 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, quizzes and tests.

4. All written assignments must be delivered on time and they should be typed in 12 point Times New Roman. Memos should be single-spaced and kept to one page. Papers should be double spaced. Papers 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 0. I have given zeroes and will do so again.

5. There will be twelve 10 question quizzes. The lowest two will be dropped creating a 100 possible point base. Your score on those 100 quiz questions will constitute 25 per cent of your grade in the class.

6. Thirty percent of the class grade will be based on three one-page memos. Up to 10 points will be awarded for each. Your due dates for the memos will be drawn by lot and will be staggered. These should be typed, single spaced, one-page memos. Write the memo as if you are an employee of a newspaper or TV station or Web site giving advice to the top executive at your news organization. The memo will apprise the top person (me) of something fascinating you’ve seen on the Web or on Romenesko’s blog and you will tell the top editor what it means to the future of the news organization. It should begin with a memo format (to/from/re/date), followed by the following sections: A) Observed development or fascinating web site. B) A paragraph or two explaining why this is significant and fascinating. C) A paragraph or two showing how this development or site addresses issues we’ve discussed in class i.e. business models, content models or innovation D) A discussion of how our organization can use this idea to enhance our own business success. These memos will force you to wander the web for exciting ideas, they will test your grasp of the material we’ve studied and force you to relate content and business. They memos will be graded on five categories. Read these carefully and make sure your memo can be judged positively on these:

· Creativity in selecting the issue or web site

· Effective clear writing on a single page

· your integration of issues we’ve discussed in clas or read in readings

· your “business sense” in evaluating the opportunities

· your ability to excite the top editor about your idea

Failure to complete any of the three assignments by the required date will result in an automatic zero on that memo. Again, I have awarded zeros. No excuse works. 

  1. You will be required to read one of the four books we are going to discuss. You will be required to write a “Eureka” paper which will be due on the Tuesday of the week your book is to be discussed. This will include fifteen “eureka” moments the book induced, i.e. short graphs on things that made you say “wow; Simply cite the Eureka moment in the book and then explain concisely and interestingly why the point made you say “wow.” The Eureka presentation will be worth 10 points We will draw for book responsibilities on the first Thursday of class. You will draw a book and an A or a B. The A or B will designate the team you will join to put together a 30 minute presentation to the rest of the class. Your team is going to going to have the responsibility of explaining your book. Three-quarters of the class will not have read the book. Your team’s job is to make the book come alive for the people who did not read it. Your task is to facilitate full understanding of the book. You are invited to use any method possible to communicate the power and implications of the book. The group will be judged on:
  1. Creativity of presentation
  2. Ability of presentation to help the rest of class understand the book
  3. Effective presentation of the media implications of the book
  4. Entertainment value of the presentation. Fun, command of the audience and engagement are good.
  5. Effective delegation of duties to team members

You will be awarded a score for your team’s presentation which will constitute 10 percent of your individual grade. Each person in the group will hand in a score from 0-100 grading every other student in the group. I will not look kindly on non-objective grades..

I will judge the “Eurekas” on

  1. Concise, active, interesting and ACCURATE writing
  2. the creativity of your eureka moments
  3. Your ability to find cogent and powerful “Eurekas”
  4. Your level of engagement with the book
  5. Your sophistication in understanding the book.

On Thursday of each book week I will present my take on the book and we’ll discuss the implications for the future of journalism and news media.



13. A final paper will be due on Decd 7. It will be a 6-8 page memo addressed to an editor or news director or public relations department head. It will be worth 25 points. The memo will use the PowerPoint material from the class to state the challenge your newspaper, TV station or PR firm is facing. Then you will set forth a defensible vision and business model for the future of the organization. You are urged to: examine actual developing cases in the media; use as many of the principles and insights gathered during the class to leverage your knowledge of the work media companies are doing to face the future to construct a media strategy for your company; and finally you are urged to use the innovations you’ve see on the web to inform your vision. You are also invited to come up with new business ideas you would like to try. That final paper will be judged by five criteria. A.) Originality, thoroughness and creativity. B.)Concise, active, interesting and ACCURATE writing. You are advanced journalism students. It should show. Copy errors, grammar errors and fact errors will cost you points. C.) Issue spotting, that is successfully using the business of journalism issues we have discussed. A premium will be placed on the number of issues you cite and use in your presentation. D.) Quality of analysis, synthesis and evaluation E.) The quality of your business model vision for media—you need to show how you are going to make money to support journalism. Some of you are going to find this vague. Let me say that some of the vagueness is intentional. I believe the true test of your command of this sort of material is your ability to deal with abstraction and fuzziness. That said, throughout the class I will attempt to clarify whenever I can, but I want you to be bold, risk-taking and forward thinking in this final assignment. Bending my expectations will be rewarded. I want to be able to say, “Wow, I didn’t think about it that way.” I also want to be able to show key parts of your paper to others through my blog as examples of how young people can effectively think and write about our future. You are being assigned to conceptualize up a media future that is viable from a content and business model perspective.

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 cell phones, computers, crossword puzzles or other distractions.

Respect the person speaking during class participation.

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

Stay up to date with the media.

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 memos and your final papers. If you have a command of the PowerPoint material, and if you can successfully analyze, synthesize and evaluate, you will succeed. PowerPoint slides will be placed on Blackboard periodically.


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.

The Academic Integrity policy of the school must be read and signed by Jan. 28. I will pass it out on the first day of class and I expect it back the second day of class. I will award no grades until I have the signed policy.

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.





Summary of Grading:

Attendance: 5 extra credit points for perfect attendance.

I will use my kind, but subjective judgment to award all or part of 5 points for active, constructive participation.—5 points

  • Three memos @ 10 points each—30 points
  • Quizzes –25
  • Eurekas on assigned book—10 points
  • Team score for assigned book presentation—10 points
  • Final paper—Statement of challenge, vision and media future –20 points

100 Points possible, plus extra credit for attendance.

A+ 97-100;  A 93-96;  A- 90-92;  B+ 87-89;   B 83-86; B- 80-82;  C+ 77-79; C 70-76;  D 69-65;  E  64 and below.



Week One: August 24-26 The Journalism thing

Day 1: Introduction of class, instructor, syllabus and students

Day 2. A survey of the landscape of media struggle



Negative history

History of newspaper pioneers on web

It’s TV too.

The amazing bronze metaphor






Week 2 August 31-Sept 2 Business Model Primer

As you do the reading for this week appreciate we are not trying to become accountants or stock mavens. I believe we can best understand the business models of past, present and future if we are at least comfortable with these terms and concepts.

Day 1: The basic model and history.We will do Tim’s business primer

Day 2 Understanding business and income statements. Guest speaker John Dille.



Week Three: Wednesday Sept. 9

Explore the corporate business model and stock market

Handout from Goldman Sachs

Who would miss their newspaper?

Fascinating Picard piece on value of journalists 


Week Four: Sept. 14-16

More exploration of how we landed here and where we may be headed

Day 1:

Things newspapers have given away

Illusion of being well-informed—A fairly radical view of media’s problems

Newspapers are declining because of liberal bias

anti-media venom

Community newspapers thrive

Seminal Clay Shirky iece on revolution and what replaces newspapers

Great Josh Marshall piece what young people need to create.

Day 2:




Week Five: Sept 21-23 Advertising

Cyclical or secular and the two customer problem

Is social media the future of online ads?

Advertisers are paralyzed

Advertising and ethical challenges

New ad strategies for McClatchy

Talking points memo: Advertising is thriving

Google’s anti-trust problems could affect gatekeeper role

Could Google face antitrust probems—Clemons

Really good new models for advertising


Day 2:Television advertising

TV revenue down cyclical

Cable TV model,0,6885984.column

TV radio, web revenues all down

TV headed for another golden age

Tivo vs Neilsen

Week Six: Sept 28-30 Crucial debates we need to understand

Day 1: Paid content debate

The paid content model debate,2817,2346673,00.asp

Singleton on pay model

Why pay model won’t work

Paid model –new stuff has to be charged

Is paid content and impossible dream?

Seattle PI and others indicate answer to paid content is no

paid content won’t work

Morton plan for paid newspapers

New Plan better than singleton’s

Picard on paid model challenges 


Day 2: Third party aggregator debate

AP goes after web aggregators

Someone is going to sue Huffington Post for infringement,8816,1886214,00.html

Ashton Kutcher Twitter war with CNN

Keller says Google is a Frenemy

Google doesn’t hurt newspapers, it helps them

Jarvis speech NAA publishers should hear.





Week Seven: Oct. 5-7 Moving forward. Are we ready?

Day 1: Assessing the business models going forward.

Please go to the above site and read that intro and all eight business models and rusty Coats’ analysis. .

Day 2: Saving Newspapers

Innovation and change: creating action out of panic /network/archives/2006/05/new_enough.php

Cardin’s newspaper revitaliztion act.

Electronic editions bolstering some papers

Bronstein proposes cooperation is the solution

Gillmor’s how pay model might work

Brill’s secret plan to save newspapers and journalism

Compact newspaper-tab as a new idea.


Everyblock and other hyperlocal sites



Week Eight: Oct. 12-14—The World is Flat

Day 1— designated teams make presentations of Friedman’s book

Day 2: Tim lectures on the book the World is Flat.


Week Nine: Oct 19 –21—What Would Google do?

Day 1— designated teams make presentations of Jarvis’ book

Day 2– Tim discusses his view of the book and makes connections to news media and journalism


Week Ten: Oct 26-Oct 28—The Long Tail

Day 1—designated teams make presentations on Anderson’s book.

Day 2– Tim discusses his view of the book and class makes connections to news media and journalism


Week 11: Nov. 2—4 -Wikinomics

Day 1—designated teams make presentations on Tapscott and Williams book

Day 2– Tim discusses his view of the book and class makes connections to news media and journalism


Week 12: Nov 9-: New Models


Day 1: Several approaches to new models

Nov. 11 is Veterans Day

Week 13: Nov. 16-18

Day 1: Operating Models

Take a look at

Take a look at MinnPost, Crosscut, Voice of San Diego and New Haven’s Independent. All are linked from the above story

Kramer says MinnPost model can’t save newspapers

Day 2.

Read all five links at the end of the piece.

Week 14: Nov. 23—25 New Models

Day 1: New Models

Major examination of a new journalism model. Probably a whole week. if this cannot be accessed use this address and the click on Saving the News toward the bottom

Day 2 – Catch-up day. There will be class and possibly a quiz

Week 15: Nov30—Dec 2

Day 1:

New models continued

Tale of two startup models

Integrated print and online models required

Both print and online are required at the same time, Edmonds says

Free is not a business model except when it is

new models

Why Stephen Brill can change journalism

Kupchella independent contractor

Day 2 –Public relations and Social media

Really good piece on how to save media from techies

Techie view of new world

Social media and statusphere, can they save journalism?

Pr inventing tools

Final day Dec 7: Student discovery

Presentation, debate, discussion of class vision of the future.

Final papers are due.