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Sensible Talk Front Page Archive for December 2012

December 27, 2012

The secret to business success? When the music stops, always have a chair

The following is the introduction to my new guidebook for news entrepreneurs, How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online:

If you are an auto racing fan, you probably have heard of Roger Penske. Even if you don't care about race cars, you might have seen his bright yellow Penske rental trucks on highways around the United States. Roger Penske is one of America's top entrepreneurs, having built a multi-billion dollar transportation business that sells, rents and races motor vehicles around the nation. My favorite line about Penske comes from one of his former race car drivers, Indianapolis 500 champion Danny Sullivan, who once said,

"When the music stops, Roger always has a chair."

That is who you want to be in life, and in business — someone who is always at least one step ahead of the next change, with a chair waiting to hold you, no matter who or what might try to knock you down in this world.

This book is about the news publishing business, in which I've worked for the past two decades. Over that time, I've won some major awards... and also been paid minimum wage, run out of town, had six bosses in one three-year stretch (without changing my job), watched that employer go out of business, been bought out by another employer, and been laid off.

But, like Roger Penske, whenever the music stopped at some job, I always had a chair.

Why? Because in 1995, I started publishing my own websites. I didn't start these as vanity projects, just because I liked seeing my name online. I created my websites because I saw them as ways to meet very specific needs in particular communities. Because my sites met those needs, they've earned money that I've been able to turn to when I needed support.
There's more...

December 20, 2012

Let's not honor violence by allowing it to drive us apart

So my son's school is getting locked down for an hour tomorrow morning. The school announced the a drill in response to last week's shooting in Connecticut. One of my former Disney co-workers posted to Facebook this morning that her child is home today because all of their local schools are closed due to "security threats." The often-excellent Free Range Kids blog today posted a note from a day care that's now prohibiting parents from holding the door open for each other, again, due to security concerns.

Isn't the death of 20 young students and six heroic teachers and administrators enough? Must we let this terrorist - and that's what mass shooters such as this person I will not name intend to be - make millions of other American schoolchildren and their families his victims as well?
There's more...

December 19, 2012

People are watching everything you do when you publish a website - so don't embarrass yourself

When I went to journalism school, I heard more than a few classmates and professors warn: "Don't do anything you wouldn't want to see printed on the front page of The New York Times." The idea was that journalists are watching, and if you do something wrong, you could be found out. Of course, even in the heyday of newspaper journalism, reporters couldn't be everywhere, and quite a bit of wrongdoing never showed up on any page of any newspaper.

Today, life's different. Search engines and social media make anything published online as easy to find as the stuff on the front page of today's NYT. So let's amend the advice: Do not post anything online that you wouldn't want the entire world — including all your audience and customers — to see.

What do you have up on the Web right now that you might not want the people you're asking to fund your website to see? Pictures on Facebook? Posts on Twitter? Discussion board rants? If anyone wants to find something online that embarrasses or humiliates you, if it's up anywhere, someone will find it.

Think of it this way: Your business now is getting people to pay attention to what you do. If you are successful, it means that people will now be paying attention to what you do. Are you ready to accept full responsibility for that?
There's more...

December 17, 2012

How to publish an online news site that makes money and serves readers

As newspapers cut back and shut down, we need more journalism start-ups to pick up the slack and improve coverage of our communities. For the past several years, I've been training journalists to become news publishers, through the Knight Digital Media Center and as editor of OJR.

Now, I've written a guidebook to help teach mid-career journalists, journalism students and even community members how to start and run a profitable community news website. How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online is now available for Kindle on, and a print edition of the book will become available later this week.

As someone who cares about the future of journalism, I hope that you'll help me spread the word.
There's more...

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Robert Niles is the author of How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online and Stories from a Theme Park Insider. You can connect with Robert via the following services:

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