News / 04.03.2011

More journalists consider starting their own company

Two years ago Jenni-Justiina Niemi and Natalia Baer started photo agency Keksi, which has taken two years to build up. One starting point as an agency is reacting to the problems of the sector: what if unfortunate surprises brought up during filming would be avoided by careful planning, and what if the photographer could be included in the planning, and what if the photographers had less agreement restriction and they could focus on the essential instead of the agent negotiating on the terms of the job?

“There are top talented photographers in the sector, but all are not interested in entrepreneurship”, said Niemi.

The aim of Baer and Niemi is to procure the biggest part of the income from photo design. The view is first and foremost towards the business world.

“We are not a telephone exchange centre of photographers”.

The entrepreneurs are bringing together talents into the same firm also because they want to expand their business. Working for ten years as a freelance journalist, Niemi has noticed that the only alternative is to work long days if one wants to expand a business individually.

Niemi and Baer have no ready-made business model. At the moment they are acquiring more resources for the company in a “bridge builder training programme organized by the Institute of Design in Lahti University of Applied Sciences funded by the European Union, where an agency model for the creative sector is being refined. Especially acquiring to tackle agreements issues is very expensive. It is important for Keksi that the sector is developed through community activities: agents will motivate photographers and turn their dreams into products. Photographers whose names are on the company’s list can also come to the office to do work and borrow equipment.

Timo Sormunen, a journalist, is also considering involving others in his business plans. Like Niemi, Sormunen has also considered the available alternatives to expanding a business in a situation where there is a job to be shared but cannot yet hire a professional in the sector on a permanent b right from the start.

Sormunen has jumped into business as news entrepreneur in 2007 after working for the financial newspaper Taloussanomat.

A that time I reflected on whether I still would like to do yes-no-journalism and torment people at nine O’clock. And a big press house didn’t appear as place for the business-minded person”.

Sormunen considers himself someone who “diligently manufactures text”. He thinks content producer is an appropriate term. According to him, money flows in more easily in the media business than in the traditional press. He wonders why media entrepreneurship is considered slave work when the issue to a large extent is about writing stories and illuminating the essential just like news journalism.

According to him, the central question in the media sector is whether the aim of entrepreneur to increase production or simply to get himself a job. If the answer is the latter, then he would use the term self-employed professional. The distinction also forms watershed in a situation when determining where a self-employed acquires support.

“At least the Union of Journalists in Finland does not provide services supporting startup entrepreneurs. The market is growing but why is it not possible for sole entrepreneurs to move forward from grass root level and at the end of the chain?”, he asks.

A phenomenon that a typical media entrepreneur encounters is associating quality with the name of the producer.

“A story is commissioned from a person and not from a company”.

Sormunen wishes that stories could be sold with the name TS Communication and not that of a certain individual writer. In that case a member of a closely working team could take on assignments quickly when others have their hands full.

Jenni-Justiina Niemi has also encountered situations where work is personalized: known customers ask whether Niemi can still film even if she is running the agency herself.

Customers are running after certain names but the appearance of one’s own name is also important for photographers and writers of articles.

“However the author-based chain should be broken up. Quality should be guaranteed by some other means”, observes Timo Sormunen.

For Niemi, the appearance of one’s own name is not important. An entrepreneur expanding his business should think of how to sell new producers to old customers with the help of one’s name. In addition to good results, the essential thing is how the process is handled and whether the customer has had his required service and possibly more.

Sormunen is of the same opinion.

“This is made-to-order work which can be made a little better than has been requested”, he says.

In all entrepreneurship benefits the producers and the customers, when business partners complement each other with different strengths. Sormunen, says that credibility increases when one arrives at a clients’ meeting with a business partner.

Whether one is self-employed or employs several the core of an entrepreneurs work is that one has to earn a living every day, according to Sormunen.

Matti Torvinen, a news journalist and attorney who has just began as entrepreneur after 16 years of work at the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) is also internalising this thought.

Torvinen is not entirely new in the field of entrepreneurship because he had worked a long time as a freelancer before his YLE years. He is a sole entrepreneur of two companies: North News focuses on news journalism while Lex deals with legal issues in Lapland. Torvinen is particularly interested in providing legal assistance to journalists.

Torvinen’s judgment of the media sector is harsh. The number of freelancers is growing partly because permanent positions are scarcer and he is astonished by the reorganization in YLE.

“The organizational change in YLE is like pissing against the wind in a freezing condition”.

He is still optimistic about the future.

“One has to work for it. One should be able to adopt different roles and should have sound finance structure”.

For me, a journalist’s work is one of the dearest”.


Translated and edited by Linus Atarah

Original story:

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