Using journalism skills for a start-up
BY TAYLOR WYLLIE
We all know the story: newspapers are dying and working as a reporter is one of the worst jobs on every career list.
At the same time, millennials are starting more businesses at younger ages than their Baby Boomer counterparts.
Scorpio Partnership Consultancy surveyed 2,600 young entrepreneurs in 18 countries. It found an increasing number of individuals under 35 who have created their own companies — with higher profit ambitions than their elders.
David Detrick, 33, a student at the University of Montana, is one of those “millennipreneurs.” He started the online news publication IFlyFishMontana (iflyfishmontana.org) in the spring of 2016 as project for a journalism class on freelancing. The assignment was to create a mock-up of a “new media” publication, whether that be online or in print. As a self-identified fly-fisherman, he immediately went to an idea that’d been stirring in him for months: creating a digital space for those with the same passion.
The site is designed to act as a hub for the fly-fishing community, providing news, gear reviews and classifieds for selling products, as well as acting as a site to connect anglers to each other and businesses. Detrick solicits mostly student freelance writers and photographers to produce content for the website, oftentimes students, who write news articles, products reviews or even blog posts about fly-fishing trips.
After seeing the monetary possibilities, and loving the work involved in the upkeep, Detrick decided to sink his time into the business, with a long-term goal of turning it into his full-time job.
Here’s what he has to say about his transition from student to business owner:
Q: Why did you decide to create your own business, instead of pursuing a job at a daily paper, or other traditional news outlet?
I really like being in charge of it. I really like talking to fly-fishing businesses and companies and fly shops… I like trying to find reporters and photographers who can do this kind of work. It’s like being your own boss. I’m not making a lot of money from it, but it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s what I love to do.
Q: How do you plan to make money?
We’re going to look for more sponsors … clickable ads, things like that. But I don’t want to just throw up a bunch of Google ads, or Orvis ads all over the site. That’s not the goal of the site. We want to give exposure to the little guys, the up-and-coming companies, the online companies. We’re also going to monetize it through fly-fishing shops … by the time we have lots more traffic we can say ‘Hey, here’s how much traffic your website is getting from ours. The reason is you’re in this story, you’re here on the map-finder. If you want to keep that spot on our website we’re going to be charging this membership fee for you guys.” We’ll base it on the traffic they’re getting and we’ll be fair. So we’re going to be charging membership to the fly shops and fly-fishing companies that are linked on our page, plus a membership to our readership. We will also monetize the garage sale feature on our website, which is coming soon.
Q: How important has social media been in building your brand?
Social media has been huge — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been key in guiding people to the website and getting people to read what we have on the website.
Our biggest social media outlet right now is Instagram. We have over 4,400 followers right now and it grows every day. Every day we have 10 to 30 people adding. Most of the images we have there have anywhere from 150 to 500 likes. I’ve been looking this week, and this week we’ve made 13,500 impressions. That means one of our images on Instagram has popped up on somebody’s feed, they haven’t interacted with it, but they’ve seen it. Over 13,000 people have seen one of our images in their feed.
Q: How do you build that following?
I added people at first. It seems like other people are adding us because they’re interested in our content. Everybody loves fish porn. Well, at least fly-fishing people do.
I did a giveaway a few weeks ago for stickers, basically I said the first 10 people to repost this and tag us, would get stickers. We got a lot of attention from that, probably a lot of ads because people were seeing us pop up on other people’s feeds.
Q: How does studying journalism in college prepare you for this business?
The University of Montana school of journalism basically gave me everything I needed to start this business. Except the business side of it. I learned all about journalism in print, photo, online, etc. One of my last classes this year gave me the idea for this business in one of our final projects. While this business is still very small I see the potential for unlimited growth. ♦
— Taylor Wyllie was an OWAA intern and is a student at the University of Montana, studying journalism and environmental studies. She’s worked for the independent student newspaper, The Montana Kaimin and her work has appeared on Montana PBS, Montana Public Radio and in the Missoulian.