The Strategic Digital Media Entrepreneur:
Syllabus One: For Use as Primary Text in a Semester-Length Undergraduate/Graduate Course

Instructional methodology:  Instructor-Led Class Discussion/Lecture (See Lesson Plans for each Chapter), supplemented with Case Studies and Exercises incorporated into both classroom discussion and optional pre-class and post-class homework assignments. A sample study guide is provided.

Appropriate courses for adoption of this book as a primary text:  The book can be used as a stand-alone text in courses, media centers or innovation laboratories that explore the changing dynamics of entrepreneurship and leadership, or that offer students the opportunity to design and test digital products and services for media organizations. This includes courses that focus on:

  • Digital economics (especially the underlying economic and business factors that determine the success of start-up and legacy media and technology enterprises)
  • Management, digital innovation and the business of media (including those that focus on the challenges confronting news, as well as entertainment, enterprises)
  • Consulting (especially those that involve in-field work with media and/or technology organizations in developing audience and revenue strategies or designing digital solutions that enhance the flow and accessibility of news, information and entertainment)
  • Strategy and entrepreneurship with a focus on the challenges and opportunities confronting media and technology organizations

Part One: (Weeks One through Six)

Understanding the Basics of Digital Media Entrepreneurship 

Week One: Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

Assigned Reading:Chapter One

Chapter One Summary: Explores how innovations (from the printing press to the internet) have changed the dominant business models for media organizations.  It also establishes the unique features of a media enterprise and discusses the differences between disruptive and sustaining innovations.

Instructional Objective: To identify the analytical and creative characteristics of innovative entrepreneurs who manage to successfully develop and nurture long-lasting and sustainable media businesses.

Case Study and Exercise: Facebook

Weeks Two and Three: The Story Behind the Numbers

Assigned Reading:Chapter Two, focusing in Week Two on understanding the income statement and Week Three on the balance sheet and cash flow statement. 

Chapter Two Summary: Identifies the massive amount of information – strategic, as well as financial – that can be gleaned from a publicly traded media enterprise’s annual income and cash flow statements and balance sheet.

Instructional Objective: To become familiar with the basic financial information included in the three standard financial documents that most companies maintain. 

Case Studies and Exercise:HarperCollins and News Corp

Note:For students who have never enrolled in a business course, Chapter Two may seem to be written in a foreign language. The only way to gain proficiency in a new language is to use it.  Therefore, the instructor may want to consider devoting extra class time (three weeks of instruction, instead of two) and providing extra exercises, such as homework or classwork that stretch over the first half of the semester to help students develop proficiency.  Instructors might want to consider three to four assignments related to this chapter.  The first assignment could ask students to identify specific line items (net income, total assets) on a recent annual financial statement posted by News Corp or another media/technology company. The second assignment might ask them to read the annual letter to shareholders to determine the “narrative” the company is putting forth, comparing it to some of the topline results in the financial statements of the company (e.g. how are revenue and income trending?)  The third and fourth assignments can ask students to delve deeper, using the management comments and footnotes included in annual statements to spot changes in income, assets or liabilities, cash flow, and then determine the strategy behinds the numbers, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing the company.

Weeks Four and Five: What’s a Company Worth?

Assigned Reading: Chapter Three

Chapter Three Summary: Examines the various types of media investors (from hedge fund managers to venture capitalists) and provides students with elementary ways to place a value on a company and calculate a return on investment.

Instructional Objectives: To identify the main factors that influence the financial value placed on a company by a variety of investors, ranging from shareholders of publicly traded companies to venture capitalists that finance start-ups.

Case Study and Exercise: Snap

Note:  Chapter Three builds on the financial skills learned in the previous chapter so it is important that students have some familiarity with terms such as EBITDA or Cash Flow from Continuing Operations, for example.  Therefore, instructors may want to consider Chapters Two and Three as a four-week module that blends seamlessly together.   

Week Six: The Changed Competitive Landscape

Assigned Reading: Chapter Four

Chapter Four Summary: Lays out the typical life cycle of a media enterprise (from foundation to maturity and decline), and explores the challenges that confront management of those enterprises at each stage of development. 

Instructional Objective: To understand the strategic imperatives confronting both start-up and legacy media/technology companies.

Case Studies and Exercise: Viacom and Yahoo

Note:  The material in this chapter explores the strategic challenges confronting media entrepreneurs and sets up Chapter Five, which lays out a digital strategic path forward. 

Part Two: (Weeks Seven To Twelve) Creating Sustainable Strategies and Business Models 

Week Seven: A Strategy for Dealing with the New Business Imperatives

Assigned Reading: Chapter Five

Chapter Five Summary: Provides an introductory framework for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a media or tech enterprise (SWOT analysis), discusses the broad concepts behind development of sustainable business models, and lays out the five primary components of successful digital media strategies.

Instructional Objective: To introduce the five key components of a customer-focused, digital strategy for media enterprises.  Those five components are: developing a unique value proposition, understanding how digital communication changes customer relationships, using the most appropriate channels to reach new and current customers, figuring out when to compete and when to partner with a rival, and knowing how to invest for maximum benefit.  Each of these components are discussed in detail in Chapters Six through Ten.

Case Studies and Exercise: Bloomberg, The New York Times, Thrive

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Suggested Midterm Assessment and Exercise:At this point, students should be familiar with a range of basic concepts.  A midterm exam or exercise might consist of two parts: a financial exercise (in which students are tested on concepts they learned in Chapters Two and Three), followed by a short-answer essay portion that tests their ability to apply concepts learned in Chapters One, Three, Four and Five.   For example, students could be asked to analyze the annual financial statements of a publicly traded media or technology enterprise, noticing trends (such as EBITDA, cash flow, and deteriorating assets) and then discuss the strategic challenges confronting the company. With the essay portion, students can be asked to analyze and explain quotes taken from recent news stories about media or technology companies. 

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Week Eight: Developing a Unique Value Proposition

Assigned Reading: Chapter Six

Chapter Six Summary: Provides various tools and research protocols for developing a unique value proposition for a product or enterprise, pricing products and services to capture added value. 

Instructional Objective: To develop a unique value proposition for a media endeavor (enterprise or initiative) by using value creation mapping tools.

Case Study and Exercise: Netflix 

Week Nine: Understanding Customer Relationships

Assigned Reading: Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven Summary: Explores ways to engender loyalty and brand attachment among new and existing customers, and provides tools for calculating the profitability of various customer segments.   

Instructional Objective: To understand which types and segments of customers are the most promising prospects and, ultimately, most profitable.

Case Study and Exercise: Sling TV

Week Ten: Reaching Current and New Customers

Assigned Reading: Chapter Eight

Chapters Eight Summary: Explores the various ways to communicate and connect with current and potential customers.  Students learn how to map the customer journey and identify the various channels for reaching customers.

Instructional Objective: To identify the best channels for acquiring and retaining customers.

Case Study and Exercise: NFL

Week Eleven: Competing in a Networked World

Assigned Reading: Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine Summary:  Explores the concept of “contested boundaries” between media and technology companies.  Students learn how to assess the potential gain or risk of partnering, instead of competing with rivals.  

Instructional Objective: To understand when it is best to compete, and when to partner.

Case Study and Exercise:The Newspaper Industry, Google and Facebook

Week Twelve:Investing in Key Assets and Capabilities

Assigned Reading:Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten Summary: Provides a framework for identifying key assets in a media or tech enterprise and then investing wisely in new digital products and services so that the primary needs and wants of target customers are prioritized.

Instructional Objective: To introduce a strategic framework for aligning the wants and needs of the audience (the media environment) with the resources available to a company.  This chapter considers not only the financial resources available to a company, but also the capabilities it possesses. 

Case Studies and Exercise: the Skimm, Scalawag, The Pilot and The News Reporter

Part Three: (Weeks Thirteen to Fifteen) Leadership in a Time of Change 

Week Thirteen: Entrepreneurial Leadership and Culture

Assigned Reading: Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven Summary: explores the importance of organizational culture and the leadership characteristics of successful entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial enterprises.

Instructional Objective: To define the qualities of a successful leader of a digital media enterprise.

Case Study and Exercise: Axel Springer 

Week Fourteen and Fifteen: What the Future Holds

Assigned Reading: Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve Summary: Reviews what we have learned so far and the challenges confronting media and tech enterprises, the very beginning of this digital age.  It provides basic advice to those entrepreneurs who seek to start their own companies.  It concludes with speculation about future innovations and how those might change the media landscape, as well as the business models for media and tech enterprises.

Instructional Objective: To understand how the media landscape will be changed in the coming years through disruptive and sustaining innovations, and the implications this may have on future business models.

Exercise: Business Models for Industry Segments

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Final Assessment/Exercise: Instructors can determine proficiency in the subject with any of the following projects that ask students to:

  • Produce a sell-side analyst’s report of a publicly traded media or technology company, with a recommendation to either buy or sell the stock.  This alternative works well for classes that focus on digital economics or the management of media enterprises
  • Develop a three-year business plan for a new media enterprise (such as a digital news operation or a video site).   This works well in classes focusing on digital entrepreneurship and innovation, strategy and consulting, or leadership
  • Develop a new digital product or service, and create three-year business plan.  This works well in digital advertising and marketing classes, as well as laboratory classes that focus on innovation and product design