McGuire on Media

McGuire's new syllabus for Business and Future of Journalism

Sometimes this web thing confuses the heck out of me.  Out of the blue this week my January entry on my Business and Future of Journalism syllabus started circulating the web again. My search for the source of this new life for that old entry took me to this site, but I don’t think that is where this revival began. (I now know, too late, that I owe this revivial to my friend, Bill Mitchell from Poynter.)

None of that really matters. It simply strikes me that it’s not the best situation to have an old syllabus out there when I just unveiled the syllabus for the new semester last week.

You will find it below and careful readers will find some new wrinkles. I have students read the book Wikinomics now. I am a huge fan of what that book says about mass collaboration.  Thanks to James Gentry at Kansas University I have added a financial section.

There are other changes, but I will let you find them.

The Business and Future of Journalism

Arizona State University

Spring Semester 2009

JMC 473-01

Line number 26423

3:00-4:15 p.m. Tues and Thurs

Cronkite 314


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: 5-5:30

Thursday: 11 a.m—noon and 2 p.m.—3:00 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 fairly prodigious.

A Class Reader published by Alternative Copy Shop on Forest Ave in Tempe is required reading. You can pick up a reader in Tempe or order it online at

Also required are several online 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 The World is Flat by Tom Friedman, a fourth will read The Search by John Battelle. 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

As a class we will watch the media landscape evolve by reading these two sources. We will spend a few minutes of each class discussing what captured your interest on those two sites.

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/credt 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.

The course will attempt to understand the history of those tensions, the current state of said tensions and most importantly 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. Even more importantly, 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 unlike many classes 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, , how we might look at disruption and innovation, and then we will consider audiences, old and new. Then, 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. Finally, we will attempt to bring it all together by looking at the new State of the Media Report and exploring possible ways to master the future. 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: About a dozen 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. I understand emergencies happen so an occasional absence will not be a problem. However, chronic absences will not be tolerated. Four or more absences will result in a 5 point penalty. Seven or more absences will result in a 10 point penalty. I do not rate the quality of excuses. I entertain none. Instead I allow a few, no questions asked.
  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 am going to 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. 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.

5. Forty percent of the class grade will be based on four one-page memos. Up to 10 points will be awarded for each. There is no set due date for the memos, but two of them must be submitted before March 3 and the other two must be submitted on or before April 21. 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:

· Creativity in selecting the issue or web site;

· Effective clear writing on a single page;

· your integration of issues we’ve discussed in class;

· your “business sense” in evaluating the opportunities

· your ability to excite the top editor about your idea.

Some of you are going to want examples of these memos. I don’t have them. This is the first time I have tried this particular approach. I do promise that I will share with the class the first grade of 98 or above I award.

Failure to complete any of the four assignments by the required date will result in an automatic zero on that memo.

  1. You will be required to read one of the four books we are going to discuss. You will be required to write an analysis of that book which will be due on the Tuesday of the week your book is to be discussed. 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 40 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 will be awarded up to five points for your team’s presentation and up to five points for your personal involvement. That presentation will be judged on creativity, speaking effectiveness, ability to synthesize the material. The written analysis will be worth 20 points. It will include the following components: Two full pages dedicated to capturing the essence of the book for someone who hasn’t read it; fifteen “eureka” moments the book induced, i.e. short graphs on things that made you say “wow;” the final written component will be short paragraphs on each of five things in the book you think have implications for news media. I will judge these papers on
  • Concise, active, interesting and ACCURATE writing
  • your ability to synthesize the book
  • the creativity of your eureka moments
  • the effectiveness and insight of your observations about the book
  • Your ability to relate this book to the future of media

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.

7. A final paper will be due on Tuesday, May 5. It will be a 6-8 page memo addressed to an editor or news director. It will be worth 25 points. The memo will use the PowerPoint material from the class to state the challenge your newspaper or TV station 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 examples 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. 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, gross 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 dream 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. It is is available digitally on Black board under assignments You need to First, download and read Integrity-Plagiarism pledge for students updated Spring 2009.docx. Then download and read Integrity Pledge.doc, type your name in the requested area, then submit the file.

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. Four or more absences will result in a 5 point penalty. Seven or more absences will result in a 10 point penalty.

  • I will use my kind, but subjective judgment to award all or part of 5 points for active, constructive participation.—5 points
  • Four memos @ 10 points each—40 points
  • Paper on assigned book—20 points
  • Individual participation on assigned book presentation–5 points
  • Team score for assigned book presentation—5 points
  • Final paper—Statement of challenge, vision and media future –25 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: Jan. 20-22 The Journalism thing

Day 1: Introduction of class, instructor and students

Day 2. A survey of the landscape of media struggle

From the Class reader Elements of Journalism 3-35,0,3858774.story,0,448368.story

Week 2 Jan 27-29 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

Read from Class Reader Understanding financial statements from James K. Gentry

Week Three: Feb 3-5 Learning stock market requirements and judging the status quo

Day 1 Explore the corporate business model and stock market

Read from Class Reader Americas: Media; publishing from Goldman Sachs

Day 1 What the media looks like today

Week Four: Feb 10-12.

Day 1:Economic realities and advertising

Day 2: Guest speaker on the advertising climate

Week Five: Feb 17-19: It all changed

Day 1: The business game changed and we reacted badly

Day 2: Everything else has changed too.

Read Why is Speed so Bad from the Class Reader pages 1-33 and 133-151

Read Here Comes Everybody pages 55-108 from the Class Reader

Week Six: Feb. 24-26 Moving forward. Are we ready?

Day 1: Moving forward.

From the Class reader read excerpt from Outliers pages 161-224

Watch and analyze Epic 2015. Please preview at

Be prepared to discuss, critique and predict

Day 2: Innovation and change: creating action out of panic

From the Class Reader read Harvard Business Review on Innovation article on Creating New Market space pages 1-33

From the Class Reader read Harvard Business Review on Innovation article on Meeting the Challenge of Disruption pages 103-131

From the Class Reader read 10 Rules for Strategic Innovators pages xvii to page 21 and Pages 55-66 /network/archives/2006/05/new_enough.php

Week Seven: March 3-5–Considering audiences, new and old

Day 1:

From Class Reader From “Too Much to “Just right”

From Class Reader What it takes to be a web favorite gathering

Day 2: From Class Reader, read News and information as Digital Media Come of age.

BREAK March 8-15

Week Eight: March 17-19–World is Flat

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

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

Week Nine: March 24-26–The Search

Day 1— designated teams make presentations n Battelle’s book

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

Week Ten: March 31-April 2 —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: April 7-9–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: April 14-16: New Models

Day 1: Several approaches to new models

Day 2: 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

Week 13: April 21-23

Re-envisioning the Gazette

Day 1 and Day 2. Read Re-envisioning the Gazette in Class Reader

We will use it to unearth ideas and think about the re-envisioning process.

Week 14: April 28-30– New State of the Media report

Day 1– Revisit the current state of the media. The new State of the Media report will be out about March 15. I will assign readings from that new report when it is issued. We will analyze how the landscape has changed in the last year

Day 2—We will step back after reading our four books and the updated State of the Media report to evaluate how we might think about the future. This will allow you to formulate and test your ideas for the final paper.

Week 15: May 5: Student discovery

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

Final papers are due.