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My Q&A With Marc Odien

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Drew Fleury

a college graduate getting that Master's degree so I can succeed in the world of journalism

The best part of being a journalist is the interview process. Sitting down with interesting people is always a learning experience and always surprises me ow much people love to talk about wat they do. My Q&A with Marc Odien, was very informative. he is one of the creative minds behind WYN media, the hyperlocal blog for Buffalo, New York. In addition to that he is a multifaced photojournalist.
 
 
 
 
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Marc Odien WYNmedia

 

 

Q: How would you describe hyperlocal blogging?
 
A: I would describe it sharing your thoughts and experiences about what's going on around you. Hyperlocal can be as small as a block or a street to as big as a town or a region. Writing and sharing thoughts and ideas about what's going on in the community around you and that affects you the most.

Q: Do you feel bloggers are journalists?
 
A:Yes certainly but I think it depends on what they write about and how they write it.  If they are posting stories about their cat then probably not, But if someone went to a town meeting and is writing about what happened there or even what they had for dinner at the new restaurant down the street, there are journalistic qualities in just about anything people write about.  

Q: How did the idea for WNYmedia come about?
 
A: We started a  HTML site ,that was mostly linking to funny and interesting things we found around the web for my friends instead of emailing each other every few hours and then the emails getting lost in the shuffle.  In 2004, I decided to do more original blogging about the stories and things I was working at my day job. In 2005, I left my job at a local tv station  and started WNYmedia.net. At the time there were about a dozen excellent blogs talking about local news and politics around town. The idea was to work together tying the best local content from non mainstream sources into one place. From there we had our own little daily news website and it just took off to what it is today.  

Q: What were some of the struggles you encountered early on?
 
A: Some of the struggles we still deal with to this day is the lack of a marketing budget, word of mouth, social media and internet advertising can only take you so far. Getting people in Buffalo who are not web savvy to realize that there are a lot of other resources for news and information out there other than the mainstream sources. Keeping up with technology is another.  We are news people not web people, so providing daily content also having to maintain the website has always been a challenge. Early on we had a problem with convincing people that one main site for all things Buffalo related was a good idea. Everyone wanted their own domain, wp blog with their own logos, themes, sidebars, etc... They felt that they would lose their identity if they weren't unique in the way their website looked. Five years later we have all but erased that idea with the bloggers we have maintained over the years i think because we see the greater value in mass. Bloggers can build their social capital more quickly on a site like ours with a professional and unified look rather than trying to do it all alone.

Q: What makes your blog stand out among others for that area?
 
A: The quality, humor, honesty and wit of our writers stands out amongst anyone else in Buffalo. The people we have on our site are "locally" famous if you will, which has helped build credibility with readers. People know they are going to  get it like it is on our site, whether it may offend you or not. 
 
Q: How do you select the bloggers for the website?
 
A: We often search new bloggers in Buffalo.  If we like what they are writing about and its thoughtful and legible, we tend to invite them to join the network.  Sometimes we recruit people who run non profits and other organizations in town that might have an interesting cause or perspective on things we might not.  Always looking to fill particular niches, and try to pick people based on the needs of the website (i.e. Music blogger, food blogger, etc..)

Q: How has the blog changed the way peple get their inormation about what's going on in Buffalo?
 
A: We also hope our coverage gives people a little more perspective on a story rather than just the who what where and when.  We are able to expand stories through urls, video, audio, pictures and multiple bloggers sharing their experience and thoughts on the same subject giving readers a fuller picture of what is happening around them and some context and background to the stories they are reading or watching.
 
Q: On average how many hits do you receive?
 
A: Today for example with three big blog hours left, we have generated just under 78,000 page views with about 8 -10,000 visits

Q: Your blog was featured on hyperblogger.com's list of the best hyperlocal blogs in the U.S., how did that make you feel?
 
A: Cool! I've got to be honest i wasn't aware of that. When we first started we were featured a lot in the daily newspaper and local magazines and television news.  As the years have progressed they now consider us competition and are not as quick to feature us in many stories.  So it's always great to be recognized for the hard work people do for what amounts to little monetary value.
 
Q: What, if anything would you change about the blog?
 
A:The front page needs a major re-haul. I would make it less aggregated and content instead of just links. I want to find new and better ways for people to interact rather than just leaving a comment.   I would like our readers to be able to contribute stories more easily and automatically than they can now. We need a better way of managing the mass amounts of posts we generate on a daily basis. And a better way of tying everyone together.
 
Q: What are some other blogs that you admire?
 
A:Gosh there are so many. I think the one I admire most is theuptake.org in Minneapolis, MN. I love all the live coverage they do on events and local politics. I also like blogTO in Toronto although they recently changed their template and Im not as big of a fan, but they have great content.

Q: What are the future plans for WNYmedia?
 
A:Our plans are to continue to grow into a local/hyperlocal news gathering operation and add a few more professional journalists on a regular basis.  We recently partnered with a local talk AM radio station in town, the Alt weekly, a 24 hour news cable channel at TIme Warner. We want to continue to grow those content partnerships and find a better way to monetize the site. 

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