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Dr François Nel

Reader in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship

National Teaching Fellow 2013 | Fellow of the European Entrepreneurship Educators (3EP) Programme | Convenor: Digital Editors Network, UK

University of Central Lancashire
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Research Interests

An award-winning investigative journalist, educator and author, François Nel researches media innovation and entrepreneurship in the news industry globally – and then helps forward-thinking individuals, groups and organisations to make it happen.

At the University of Central Lancashire, UK, he is Reader in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a member of the Media Innovation Studio (MIS) with responsibility for the MIS Visiting Researchers Programme and the monthly Adelphi Research Network meetings, amongst others.

Named a National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2013, François in that year also became the first media specialist to be named a Fellow of the European Entrepreneurship Educators Programme (3EP). As such, he is amongst a select group of 25 UK academics and one of only 75 in Europe to have been awarded the prestigious 3EP Fellowship which aims to support and develop enterprise education. He has earned both the Harris Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation and the Harris Award for Research Excellence at UCLan, been named Educator of the Year by the Public Relations Institute of South Africa, and won the Specialist Press Association’s overall Pica Prize for Consumer Journalism for an investigation into illegal diamond smuggling in South Africa.

He is a founder of the Digital Editors Network, UK, which is an academic-industry learning network for thought leaders and influencers that has been meeting since 2007.  

An active researcher, François was a key contributor that UCLan’s submission to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework in Communication, Culture & Media Studies (UoA36), which was considered to include “World Leading” scholarship – and was the university’s highest ranked unit of assessment. François’ research focuses on the opportunities and impacts of digital technologies on the business, practice, and role of news media firms.

He is the principal investigator of the world news publishers innovation study initiated in 2009 in collaboration with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). The annual study is conducted globally in 10 languages and underpins a variety of scholarly and industry outputs, including WAN-IFRA’s new World News Publishers Outlook. From 2018, he will also be editor of WAN-IFRA’s key World Press Trends report, which has benchmarked the industry since 1989. With Dr Coral Milburn-Curtis of the University of Oxford, he is also a partner in the Innovation Research Group .

He is the author of two books for Oxford University Press and more than 30 book chapters, journal articles, papers and industry reports that have appeared in, amongst others, Journalism Practice, Journalism Studies, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, and the Rhodes Journalism Review.

François serves on the editorial board of Digital Journalism and is an associate editor of the International Journal of Media Management and Entrepreneurship (IJMME).

He earned a BA (cum laude) in Business Communication and English from North Park University at Chicago, an MA in English from Winthrop University in South Carolina, and a PhD in Journalism from City, University of London. He completed the Leadership for Online News Managers programme at the Poynter Institute, FL and earned a Certificate in Finance and Strategy for Media Managers at the Graduate School of Business of the University of Cape Town.

A committed academic mentor with experience supervising research students at undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels,  Francois welcome queries from researchers, practitioners and organisations interested in building  incisive, actionable insights into the changing context and processes by which media organisations transform ideas into new and improved products, services or processes in order to successfully compete in the digital economy.  

François was born in Zimbabwe and has lived and studied in the US, South Africa, and the UK. A citizen of both the UK and South Africa, he now works in the UK and internationally from his bases in Manchester and Cape Town.

Twitter: francoisnel

Recent Publications

Nel, F.P. (forthcoming). ‘Managing News Organizations’ In Örnebring, H. Encyclopaedia of Journalism Studies. Oxford University Press.

McClelland, G. and Nel, F.P. (forthcoming). ‘Outsourcing in the Media Industry’ In Örnebring, H. Encyclopaedia of Journalism Studies. Oxford University Press.

Nel, F. P., Milburn-Curtis, C., & Lehtisaari, K. (2018). Choosing for success: How divergent priorities of innovating leaders at ambidextrous news media firms reflect on the bottom line. Global Media Journal, Canadian edition, 10(1) (forthcoming).

Nel, F.P & Milburn-Curtis, C. (2017) World News Publishers Outlook 2017. Paris/Frankfurt: WAN-IFRA. Available at: World News Publishers Outlook 2017  report for WAN-IFRA

Nel, F. P., Lehtisaari, K., & Milburn-Curtis, C. (2015). Exploring confidence: Entrepreneurial leadership in news media organisations. International Media Management Academic Association (IMMAA) Annual Conference, pp. 170-174., ISSN 978-5-19-010987-0  

Nel, F. and Westlund, O. (2013) ‘Managing New(s) Conversations: The Role of Interactivity in News Provision, Participation and Profit’. In: Friederichsen, M. Muhl-Benninghaus, W. (eds.) Handbook of Social Media Management: Value Chain and Business Models in Changing Media Markets. Berlin: Springer

Nel, F. and Westlund, O. (2012) ‘The 4C’s of Mobile News: Channels, Conversation, Content and Commerce.’ Journalism Practice, Future of Journalism Special Issue, Spring 2012.

Hunter, A. and Nel, F. (2011) ‘Equipping the Entrepreneurial Journalist: An Exercise in Creative Enterprise’, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, Spring 2011

Nel, F. (2010). ‘Where else is the money? A study of innovation in online business models at newspapers in Britain’s 66 cities.’ Journalism Studies, Vol 4, No 3, 2010, 360-372.