How to Start a Media Business

It used to be that a handful of media companies with deep pockets owned and controlled the industry.

These conglomerates had complete control of the information and entertainment we consumed. 

The digital age has completely overturned the industry. 

Now, anyone with a computer and camera and an exciting take on news or entertainment can create a media company. 

If you’ve always been interested in the media business, there has perhaps never been a better time to join the fray. 

The Easy Parts of Starting a Media Business

Not everything about starting a media business has to be complicated.

One of the most promising prospects of getting into this business is the flexibility it offers. You are free to dedicate as little or as much time to starting and growing your business. In addition, you can start as a solopreneur handling all aspects of your business. This way, you can keep your day job until your company is profitable enough to justify running it full-time.

A media business also has low barriers to entry. Specifically, a digital media business requires little more than your time and effort. You can get started even without an office space, working out of your home. You can also get started with just the basics, like a workstation, internet connection, and website.

Similarly, there are few overhead costs when running a media business, especially in the beginning. You don’t need to worry about paying employees, inventory, storefront, and other overheads associated with most types of business. The media business also has potentially high gross margins. Coupled with the low overhead costs, you get to keep much of your profit.

Planning your media business is also more straightforward than it seems. A tool like Bionic has everything you need for media planning. You can easily create media plans, build flowcharts, predict KPIs, and automate your request for proposal (RPF) process. This software helps increase your productivity, allowing you to spend more time focusing on critical factors like building your client pipeline. 

Finally, all the information you need to start and run a successful media company is freely available. There are bountiful blogs, websites, Facebook groups, eBooks, YouTube videos, and other media dedicated to helping you start your business. Much of this information is also high value and completely free. You also don’t necessarily need specific media education or certification to get started.

The Hard Parts of Starting a Media Business

There are many attractive reasons to get into the media business. But not everything is rosy in this line of work. Like starting any other business, you can expect challenges and drawbacks when creating your media company.

The most immediate challenge you’ll face when starting your business is competition. The media business is crowded, and some of your competitors have been in the industry for decades. Building trust with your audience and clients can prove challenging. It will take some time before you can carve out a space for yourself in the media landscape.

Another challenge once you’re up and running is cash flow. This is especially true in the weeks and months following your big company launch. Starting your business means you are self-employed. There are no benefits or paid time off. Additionally, you don’t have a consistent check to look forward to. You only get paid for your work, and you can expect some dry months in the beginning.

Starting a media business is also labor-intensive. You’ll likely be handling all the administrative tasks on top of making major business decisions. In addition, your business could easily obliterate your social life and even get in the way of spending quality time with your loved ones.

Lastly, maintaining a positive brand image can prove challenging. You are putting yourself out there as an expert makes you an open target for criticism. Navigating the political and social landscape can be tricky. And, the internet can be brutal for people who are actively putting out their ideas and opinions. You need thick skin to succeed in this business.

However, a media business can be rewarding despite the challenges. The media market is incredibly fragmented in the digital age. There’s a good chance for you to find a niche that you are passionate about, matches your expertise, and where you are likely to succeed.

If you’re ready to pull the trigger on your business idea, here’s how to create a media business step by step.

Step 1 – Create a Plan for Your Business

The media business is an extensive industry. According to Law Insider, you’re in the media business if you engage in creating, producing, distributing, exhibiting, or otherwise exploiting visual, audio, or audio-visual works or recordings. Specific works falling under this definition include television, books, radio broadcasting, periodical publishing, and merchandising.

So, it is necessary to narrow down your idea of the media business you want to create.

Choose Your Niche

There are almost infinite options when starting a media business. So, choose a niche to get started building your business. Some of the most common media niches include:

  • Publishing – including newspapers, magazines, books, blogs, research papers, references, and comics.
  • Video & Animation – including video products such as YouTube, broadcast television, and animation
  • Video Games – including all types of virtual environments like virtual reality
  • Film – may include producing and distributing documentaries, movies, and music videos
  • Streaming Media – refers to on-demand media that people can access online
  • Audio – such as broadcast radio or podcasts
  • Music – includes producing, distributing, and performing music
  • Interactive Media – like apps, websites, and software

The business niche you choose is entirely up to you. But, there are a few guidelines that can help you choose the best niche. For example, you want to start with a general area where you are knowledgeable. To this end, think about your passions, hobbies, and previous work experience.

Then, identify a gap within that market where you position yourself to solve problems. For example, Michael Arrington started the now popular website TechCrunch.com as a part-time blogger. He focused solely on technology news, allowing him to position his blog as the go-to source for technology news. As a result, TechCrunch was acquired by AOL in September 2010 for approximately 40 million.

Create a Business Plan

A business plan will inform almost every aspect of building and running your business. So, it is worth dedicating some time and effort to creating a plan for your business. Primarily, the business plan will help you identify your goals and objectives. It will also chart a path to reaching the objectives and help you manage your budget and time.  

Some of the sections to detail in your business plan include:

  • Executive summary
  • Financial considerations
  • Objectives
  • Mission
  • Keys to success

The Small Business Administration (SBA) website offers extensive resources to help you plan, launch, manage, and grow your business.

Step 2 – Sign Up for Media Planning Software

Media planning can be tricky, especially when getting into business for the first time. Media planning software like Bionic helps to make the process easier. The Bionic team will even set up your account within an hour of requesting a free trial. The platform even sets up training at no extra cost to ensure you get the most out of the software suite.

Request a Free Trial

Simply visit this link to request your free trial. You’ll need to provide a few details including your first and last name, phone number, and email. Then, you’ll receive an email from the customer support team with the credentials for your active account.

The free trial includes all of the software’s features. The team will also help you create your first media plan. This software has everything you need to look professional from the get-go. Bionic works for all media channels, including radio, digital, TV, and print.

The software costs $195 per user per month. You also get a 14-day money-back guarantee in case you don’t like what the tool has to offer.

Step 3 – Identify Your Target Audience

It is also crucial that you identify the customer group you want to target with your media company. This step will also help you determine the direction of your business. For example, your target audience will determine the type of content you create, the most effective marketing channels, and even how you monetize your media business.

Learn the Types of Target Audiences

Breaking up target audiences into segments makes it easier to find your ideal audience. Some of the categories of target audiences include:

Interest – this group includes audiences with specific hobbies, interests, and entertainment preferences. Interest groups are especially valuable for creating brand loyalty. Therefore, it is worth segmenting audiences into different groups under this category. For example, you can have different groups for entertainment preferences, hobbies, and interests.

Purchase Intention – Audiences in this group are the spenders. They will be the backbone of how your media company generates revenue.

Subcultures – This group is even more effective for creating a community around your brand. Audiences in this group share everyday experiences such as entertainment fandoms or music genres. You can go a long way in creating a loyal following if you understand what motivates this target group.

Ask the Right Questions

There are a few critical questions that can help you identify your ideal target market.

  • The type of media you plan to offer your customers
  • The market segment that benefits most from your media
  • What is unique about the content you plan to offer?

The answers to these questions should easily guide you in identifying an ideal target audience. This way, you can create relevant media that appeals to your customer base. Then, you’ll be able to communicate your value through your core messages and media services.

Then, segment your target audience according to age group, interests, location, and language. This step will further help you target your message to the correct audiences.

Define Your Value Proposition

Defining your value proposition helps to set the pace for your business. Media businesses are a dime a dozen. So, it helps if you can figure out the unique value you have to offer. Does your media company offer unbiased news? Do you have a fresh perspective on entertainment news? 

Think about what you have to offer that is fresh, unique, and valuable in the marketplace. You’ll face a lot of competition from more established media companies. Having a unique value proposition will make it easier to take some much-needed market share.

Step 4 – Register Your Business

You’ll need to set up a business structure before you can get to the hands-on parts of starting a media business. Registering your business will help you appear professional right out of the gate. Also, registering your business has practical implications like paying taxes, liability protections, opening a business account, and hiring employees.

Choose a Business Structure

For most people, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is the best business structure for a media company. An LLC is flexible, allowing you to publish alone or bring on partners. You also get limited liability protection, meaning that you are not personally liable for your business’ losses, debts, lawsuits, and other liabilities. This way, you can protect your personal finances and assets.

Additionally, an LLC offers flexible tax options to benefit your bottom line. For example, you can choose to be taxed as a partnership or corporation. We have a great guide here to help you choose the best business structure for your operation. At the very least, you should look into limited liability protection. So, a sole proprietorship or partnership is out of the question. These business structures do not offer limited liability protection. Your personal assets and finances will be fair game if you run into business difficulties like debt or lawsuits.  

Register Your Business

Once you’ve settled on a business structure, it’s time to make it official. The process of registering an LLC is relatively straightforward. You’ll need to:

  • Choose a name for your LLC
  • File an Articles of Organization with the secretary of state
  • Pay your state filing fee
  • Create an operating agreement
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS

I recommend using a business formation service or a legal service. Of course, you can always register the LLC on your own. But, you may run into challenges in any of the steps. A formation service takes responsibility for the entire process. This option helps you form your LLC quickly and easily.

Step 5 – Start Creating Content

This step may look a little different depending on the medium you choose. For example, creating an entertainment news blog will look a lot different than a podcast. But, there are commonalities regardless of the media platform you choose to reach your audience.

Plan Your Content

Content planning is the foundation of the content creation process. So, it is worth taking this step seriously. First, start by researching topics for your content. This shouldn’t be too difficult if you’ve already picked a niche and identified your audience.

Still, you may be overwhelmed with content ideas and topics within your niche.

To solve this problem, research keywords that can help drive traffic to your platform. Google AdWords is an excellent tool for this purpose. It comes with a Keyword Planner. Here, you can get valuable search volume data for your targeted keywords. This tool is entirely free, and you can easily download reports.

You’ll want to make sure that you don’t have direct competition from major players. For example, it will take a lot to compete against The Economist if you plan to offer similar content.

Choose a Topic You Like

This point is especially relevant if you’ll be creating your own content. Building valuable content is a long-term game. So, you may not be motivated enough to produce content consistently if you do not enjoy the topic. On the other hand, search engines and audiences alike reward consistency.

For text-based content, make sure that your posts are easy to read. Images, headers, and bullet points help to make your content more scannable. Again, it may sound obvious but stick to the topic best you can.

For video-based content, be sure to create a structure. A good video should include a hook, a summary of the video, the problem you’re hoping to solve, and your unique take on solving the problem. Finally, end the video with a call to action.

Again, the key to a successful media company is consistency. So, make a schedule for creating content and stick to it. The Bionics software will prove invaluable for this step. 

Step 6 – Choose How You’ll Make Money

The main reason many people get into the media business is to make money. Fortunately, there are various avenues for generating profits in this business. You can also combine two or more business models to increase your revenue. Here’s a look at your monetization options for a media business:

Affiliate Linking

Traditionally, affiliate linking has been associated with social media influencers. But, even mainstream media companies are taking advantage of this potentially lucrative revenue source. For example, the New York Times runs a review website known as Wirecutter.

It is essential to include a disclaimer about your affiliate relationships. Similarly, ensure that the affiliate links are clearly marked. This step will help you maintain your journalistic integrity.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored is a relatively new revenue source. But, many digital media companies leverage sponsored content. Here, companies pay to advertise their content on your platform, alongside yours. You can create the sponsored content or have businesses submit it.

Either way, make sure that the sponsored content is clearly marked. Again, it helps your integrity if your audience doesn’t confuse your regular content with sponsored content.

Memberships and Subscriptions

Here, you put your content behind a paywall. Your audience needs to subscribe to get access to the content. This monetization method is very similar to how traditional media makes money.

Subscriptions and memberships can be tricky to monetize. But, it is still possible if you have a sizeable and loyal membership. You’ll need to offer a lot of value to convince your audience to subscribe to your content.

Display Advertising

Most media companies make money from display advertising. You can offer space on your website for businesses to advertise their products or services.

Display advertising is versatile, effective, and relatively easy to do. So, it is worth a shot when considering how to monetize your media business. This option is particularly profitable when you get a large audience. 

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