And now we come into the homestretch…

I thought today’s dress rehearsal of the presentations went really well. Your business ideas are maturing and filling out (don’t we all), and you’ve gotten very good at presenting them, telling your story and making your pitch. I’ll send along more detail critiques on each pitch and P&L over the next couple of days, and we can work on them during Office Hours next Saturday, as well. (More on that below.) Hopefully, you heard things in class today—both from questions about your presentations and from Lucie’s talk on marketing—that will help you further tweak your ideas and presentations.

Since many of your seem to have problems figuring out how to drop an Excel table into your PowerPoint (or how to build a table for your projections), I’ve done it for you! Click here to download a single slide with a basic three-year projection table on it. It’s got space for traffic (unique visitors), revenue and profit/loss. Feel free to delete traffic if you don’t want to show that, or to add years (or anything else) to customize it to your needs. But you can drop this right into your presentation, put your own numbers in it, clean up the formatting to match the style of your preso, and you’re good to go. You really don’t want to know how easy this is to do. :> But now you don’t have to worry about figuring it out!

As mentioned, I’ll do Office Hours next Saturday, starting at 1:30 pm, at the Starbucks at 4750 Cherry Hill Road, College Park (just off the I-495 exit onto Rte. 1, in the Shoppers Food Warehouse/Home Depot shopping center). Drop me a note to let me know what time you want to come by. I’ll keep the schedule below updated throughout the week as people sign up.

Time Business
 1:30 PM  Pat and Susan’s Who’s Hiring
 2:00 PM  Peter’s JournoLaunch
 2:30 PM  Ericka’s WE-Rated
 3:00 PM  Cat’s Water Community
 3:30 PM  Renee’s FastCheck
 4:00 PM  Karen and Erin’s ArtAlert
 4:30 PM
 5:00 PM

We’ll try to hold each session to half an hour, but if there’s an open slot, or you just want to hang out (and the next appointment doesn’t mind), feel free.

On May 5, you’ll do the final pitches, before our panel of sharks judges, with delicious edible accompaniments. It will be fun and interesting. Alas, we have no money to give out, but the judges will look at your pitches as if they were investors making a decision, provide good feedback—and at the conclusion of the pitches, they’ll caucus and pick a winner and runner-up. Their impressions of what you present and how you present it will help me grade the final projects. As mentioned today, I’ve created a rubric to help you, me and the judges understand the criteria for evaluating the pitches; you can download it here.

We’re not quite done after the pitches! We’re going to spend some time wrapping up the class, touching on a couple of topics we didn’t get to earlier or that complement the pitch process. It will be a sort of valedictory for the semester, with a lot of Big Thoughts on the state of the media business and the revolution we’re living through. The readings for the week are on that theme (and note that these are bit different than the readings in the syllabus). And please do read them, because I’d like for us to talk about them to wrap up the semester:

–      Wear Your Startup Failure as a Badge of Courage, by Martin Zwilling, (2010)—Yes, it’s OK to fail. That’s what doing a startup is about. Many of you will experience rejection at the hands of the business plan judges on May 5. That’s OK. It’s your first try, and you’ve got to just keep swinging. Frankly, in Silicon Valley, if you haven’t failed, you’re barely taken seriously. Just keep trying.

–      100 Days at a Startup, by Don Hoang, VentureBeat (2012)—A nice recap of the basic startup tenets, from one of the founders of

–      Old Dogs, New Tricks and Crappy Newspaper Executives, speech by John Paton (2012)—Not sure this could be any more self-explanatory, but yes, it’s a cold-eyed look at why newspaper executives have failed the industry, by one of the smartest members of the breed, and what the industry needs to do to evolve—pronto.

–      The Future of News and Why “Digital First” Matters, by Mathew Ingram, GigaOm (2011)—Digital First is the name of John Paton’s company, but it’s also an important philosophy for changing the way news is gathered, presented and sold. This is a good overview.

–      Journalism Inside, by Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine (2012)—New in the past couple of days, a fascinating rumination on why journalists and programmers need to be more alike and work together to build the future of media.

–     How We Will Read, interview with Clay Shirky—We started the semester with Shirky, and we end with him, in an interview from a couple weeks ago. As usual, he says some simple things and seems incredibly profound. There’s a lot of food for thought here. As always.

As I mentioned, I changed the lineup of readings a bit because we covered a couple of topics last week when I realized we had to rejigger the last couple of classes. If you want to read about the ethics and community management issues we talked about last week, here are those readings:

–      Creating Ethical Bridges from Journalism to Digital News, by Jan Leach, Nieman Reports (2009)

–      The State of Online Correctionsby Craig Silverman, Columbia Journalism Review (2010)

–      When Members Go Rogue and Other Community Frustrations, by Angela Connor, Online Community Strategist (2010)

–      Doing Journalism in 2010 is an Act of Community Organizing, by Robert Niles, Online Journalism Review (2010)

And if your really want to plunge into all of these subjects, there’s a list of extra readings on the syllabus on all of the above.

That’s about it. See you at Starbucks next week and/or on campus for the final showdown on May 5.