Iteration vs. Momentum. My News Startup in Flux

I have decided to add a major new component to my online news project. As mentioned in a previous post, when this feature was suggested to me it felt big and potentially game-changing, which necessarily also meant a bit scary and pretty damn disorienting. I have since gotten positive feedback from everyone I’ve talked to about it, except my wife. And while it is true that she holds WIDE-RANGING veto power, I am forging ahead nonetheless!?

Without going into details – both because I prefer to speak in general terms about the product, and because the details of the new feature simply don’t yet exist – I will just describe it as crowd-source related. Though I do not plan on changing the entire product around this idea, as this fellow startup dude vigorously suggested, I still think there is much room to integrate it in a way that could both shake up the very nature of how the thing will function, and give the project some extra watts of glow in the eyes of potential investors. Crowdsourcing addresses two key questions that arise at different stages of the startup: identifying our core audience at launch, and giving the enterprise a vision of how to scale it up. Needless to say, this iteration offers good reason to be optimistic.

Yet today I am feeling more paralyzed than pumped.  It’s like a sudden brake has been put on what has been a good month or two of the big ‘Mo. On the prototype (which I KEEP saying is just a week or two away!?) we will have to rejigger all the current pages and add a brand new page or two. Meanwhile, the business plan will have to be overhauled. Completely. Again.

And so right now, I have that awful feeling of not really knowing where to start. It’s hardly a new sensation, of course. Every journalist knows that moment when you’re just finishing writing your breaking daily story or enterprise piece.. and a new twist to the news arrives or a sudden interview comes up that will make the article much much richer, but requires you to virtually start over. The difference here is that I’m not on assignment for anybody, I have no deadline. That is the real novelty/challenge of this experience, at least at this stage. There is nothing that has to go to press, or hit the wires. No news cycle to feed. No editor breathing down my neck. No reader waiting for my website to go live.

It’s all on my ass, which means I have to constantly find ways to get up off of it. After two weeks of Vancouver, perhaps we can curl out a winter sports metaphor: Think of the startup as a bobsled or downhiller:  what’s necessary to get to finish line is the right tradeoff between Momentum and Bearings. The twist here is that you actually risk losing both when you’ve hit upon an idea/iteration that is no less necessary…


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Filed under business model, entrepreneurship, journalism, new media, old media, prototype

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