Friday, April 24, 2009

Kenyatta Cheese: Rare Hope and Optimism

My favorite class of all-time was today, Online Journalism. We were fortunate enough to have Kenyatta Cheese, a founder of RocketBoom, speak with us via skype. On a sidenote, a class that uses skype for guest speakers on a regular basis is fucking awesome. But Kenyatta was there to speak with us about his site, the business model to run an ad-free site and the larger implications all this has for journalism.

He answered his computer, sat down in an off-white v-neck tee, sipped a Starbucks concoction and told Dan -- my teacher who will come up in another piece -- he was glad to see him again. The class then said "Hello!" in unison, much to Ken's surprise. He shook this moppy afro and put a big grin on his face.

Ken dove into the history of RocketBoom and explained how it all works. Take a peek at the site, it really is great, and completely ad-free. They run a model based around licensing. Currently they receive money from Sony, Nokia and a few other major companies. They produce five regular shows, pay labor, buy shows and other costs with a yearly tab of about $250 thousand. The site is bringing in more than that, but Ken didn't tell us that exact number. My God! A successful online media business model.

All of this is wonderful, but really not the meat of the message. Someone asked what he thought about the death of journalism. He laughed and said journalism is alive and well. "Paper is dying, paper needs to die." With the death of paper comes the death of newspapers as we know it. He talked about a publishing company having an annual operating cost of $5 billion. $3 billion of that is in paper, printing, distribution -- all things that are gone with online publication.

Yea, ok, that isn't a cure, just get rid of the paper, HA! Advertising money would be gone, sales of papers and magazines would be gone, whatever. Sixty percent of operating costs could possibly be cut away completely. Spend your resources figuring out how to make money and profit in the long run. And all these media giants are still fighting against the culture of the internet and are killing themselves in the process.

So what, all of this is old news, why is it special. Well, this may have been a far too personal piece considering I want to make a living as a writer. But Ken is the only journalist, aside from Dan, that has told me there is hope! Everyone else jokes about how we will be driving taxis or some other heavy shit. Hope though! I can still do what my desire is. Will I be rich, no, but will I be happy and making enough of a living to live, maybe. And that is more of a chance then anyone else is willing to give us.

Keep your head above the water, keep treading and fending off the sharks. There is a ship in the distance, there is hope.

Journalism is alive, the medium is dying, this is my revolution.


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