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Medill master’s degree in media innovation is getting a name change

New name--Media Innovation and Content Strategy--reflects students’ interests and career aspirations

Students, faculty and employees pose for a photo at Civic Exchange
Students learn about startups during a visit to Civic Exchange in Chicago. They met with leaders of DataMade and Hearken, two of the digital startups that share space in Civic Exchange.

Medill’s graduate journalism specialization in media innovation will undergo a name change starting with students who enroll in the summer of 2020.

The one-year master’s degree program has operated since 2016 under the name Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Students who enroll next June will, instead, specialize in Media Innovation and Content Strategy, with an optional minor in entrepreneurship.

The curriculum is still centered on teaching innovation and approaches to developing media products – with courses that focus on business, technology and audience understanding. But the new name better reflects the interests and career aspirations of the students who’ve chosen the program in its first four years, said Professor Rich Gordon, who directs the specialization. 

“We’ve seen two groups of people interested in the specialization,” Gordon said. “Some want to learn how to build, launch or lead new publications or media products. Others are interested in learning content strategy – in other words, how to help a business or other kind of organization create and distribute content so it can accomplish its goals.”

The core curriculum for the specialization – the first (summer) quarter in Chicago focused on journalism fundamentals, followed by the fall term at Northwestern’s San Francisco campus – works equally well for both groups of students, Gordon said.

“In their final six months, we expect students will choose different elective courses depending on their expected career trajectories,” he said. These include Medill courses in journalism or integrated marketing communications, and entrepreneurship classes offered through the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

A key reason for the name change is that the term “content strategy” is increasingly being used – in both media and non-media organizations – to describe a process for planning, creating, distributing and measuring the results of content.

“Marketers sometimes say ‘content marketing,’” Gordon said. “But we’re now seeing ‘content strategy’ embraced both by marketers and by leaders of news organizations seeking to build sustainable business models through subscriptions, donations and memberships.”

Credible, high-quality editorial content is critical to the success of just about any kind of company or organization, Gordon said. And every organization now has the ability to publish and distribute that content itself – through websites, apps, email and social media – rather than rely on the media.

“That’s why content strategy is such a growing field,” Gordon said. “Quite a few of our graduates have successfully obtained jobs in this space.”

More than 30 students have completed the specialization so far. Among the jobs currently held by graduates of the program are:

  • Product manager for Newsy (streaming news video)
  • Manager of audience strategy for New York Media (digital and print magazine publisher)
  • Digital content author for Northern Trust Corp. (bank)
  • PR specialist for Apple
  • Growth marketing specialist for Iterable (marketing technology)

The program continues to be a good choice for would-be media entrepreneurs, Gordon said. In collaboration with the Farley Center, students who complete three Northwestern entrepreneurship courses will be eligible for a graduate minor in entrepreneurship.

“It’s still a great time to be an entrepreneur in media,” Gordon said. “Even without ‘entrepreneurship’ in the name of the specialization, students interested in being entrepreneurs can take the courses that will prepare them for that path.”

For more information about Medill’s graduate media innovation specialization: