SembraMedia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the sustainability of independent, Spanish-language digital media entrepreneurs, has launched an online school. The goal is to provide the essential tools and training that digital journalists and media entrepreneurs need to transform startups into successful businesses.
This is the first online school focused on journalism entrepreneurship. The classes – taught by an international team of experts – are accessible 24 hours a day over the Internet.
Through the end of February, new users can get a free class by entering the coupon code: sembramedia.
“Our goal is to help students learn all of the things they didn’t learn in journalism school, from marketing to accounting to how to make money,” said Janine Warner, co-founder of SembraMedia.
SembraMedia was founded in 2015 by Warner, who is based in Los Angeles, and Mijal Iastrebner, based in Buenos Aires. Both have experience as journalists and entrepreneurs. Their mission is to increase the diversity of voices in Spanish media by empowering entrepreneurial journalists with the business skills they need to be successful.
The two co-founders first met in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that Warner taught through the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas in 2014. The MOOC attracted more than 5,000 students from across Ibero-America. After watching many of the students go on to launch digital media projects in countries as challenging as Venezuela and Honduras, they were inspired to create an organization that could provide ongoing support and training.
The new online school is based on the same model as the organization: first, study what is working among entrepreneurial journalists, then identify the best real-world solutions, and finally, share them with others. Since 2015, their diverse team of ambassadors who represent more than 16 countries, has mapped more than 700 digital media natives in the region and created a searchable online directory, as well as case studies and other resources.
“We see ourselves as students as much as teachers,” said Iastrebner. “The digital world is constantly changing, that’s why we are constantly studying what works and sharing what we learn as quickly as we can.”
The school is launching with 25 classes taught by experts in marketing, innovation and digital business, and the team plans to publish more over the coming weeks and months. Classes include: a series on digital advertising by Adriana Peña Ruiz (Mexico/ United States), a Business Model Canvas class by James Breiner (United States/Spain), “How to attract subscribers or members to your digital media organization” by Ismael Nafría (Spain), and a course on creating budgets called “From idea to sexy project for funders,” by Fabiola Torres (Peru).
“To create my class about developing a budget for a grant, I thought about the questions that I have had and the exercises I do when I present a project,” said Fabiola Torres, an ICFJ Knight Fellow and co-founder of Ojo Público, an investigative journalism site in Peru.
The school offers four categories of classes: management, marketing, how to make money, and well-being (which includes often overlooked subjects for entrepreneurs, including “How to manage stress and avoid burnout,” and “How to cook healthy meals on a budget”).
Classes are designed to be short and practical. Each class takes about an hour to complete and includes 30 to 40 minutes of video lectures, quizzes, templates, and exercises designed to help students build their businesses. The system also includes online forums where students can ask questions, compare notes and network with each other.
“The school offers everything you need to conceptualize, prepare, launch, develop, and sustain digital media organizations. It will also help professionals stay up-to-date in areas that are more important for their work every day,” said Ismael Nafría, professor and author of the book “The Reinvention of The New York Times.”
“I have had the good fortune to work with many talented and committed journalists in Latin America who have been developing their own media outlets,” said James Breiner, a visiting professor at the University of Navarra in Spain and former ICFJ Knight Fellow. “What they need is to learn how to manage the commercial aspect of their businesses so they can achieve long-term sustainability and better serve their communities.”
In July 2017, with support from Omidyar Network, SembraMedia published Inflection Point, the most comprehensive report about the challenges and business opportunities of digital journalism entrepreneurship in Latin America. The report, which has been cited in more than 150 articles, blog posts, and academic papers, was based on an investigation of 100 media organizations in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. Many of the classes in the online school are based on the findings and insights learned during that extensive research project.
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