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Seamus

Daily News Op-Ed Editor Lion Calandra Says, “There’s a lot of crap out there.”

lioncalandra.jpgIn the hyper-sharing digital age of blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, everyone seems to have an opinion to express in a public forum. As social media platforms fade in and out, one medium that has withstood time as a credible and highly regarded source of opinion is the op-ed section.
Lion Calandra, editor of the op-ed page of the Daily News, and mediabistro.com Op-Ed Writing instructor, shares with us how op-eds have been influenced by the current economy and the future of op-eds within an unsteady media landscape.
Read our interview after the jump.

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The Wacky, Wondrous Social Networking Wheel

SN_Wheel.jpg Yesterday the MB bunch had another thrilling brainstorming session at lunchtime. This time around the cuisine was pizza from The-Pizzeria, and the topic was Social Networking. As the person who called this little gathering, I wanted to get all my ideas out there in some tangible form. If your familiar with the office meeting, you know that tangents are sprinkled like land mines waiting to appear and take you off your main focus. So I showed off my master passable PowerPoint karate and made a pretty little graph. I don’t like to think of it as a graph though, but instead Seamus’ Social Networking Wonder Wheel. The wheel basically has every idea I could think of for Social Networking. Some of the ideas were plunked from other sites like Fannation.com, where I previously blogged about their “throwdowns” that allow two users to debate topic while other members casted votes.
In all there are about fifteen spokes on the wheel– some ideas are more immediately feasible, and others are what I like to call “blank check” ideas. One of those idea$ was “fantasy media,” where users would choose a team of media professionals and celebrities, then accumulate points based on how often they are mentioned in both MB produced and user-generate content. Unfortunately I discovered I’m not that much of a trailblazer– after the meeting a quick Google search came up with fafarazzi.com, a site that does the same thing that was floating around in my head– the only difference is the players were more from the Hollywood gossip circles than the “legitimate media.” Still, maybe it can be improved upon by us, or even better– maybe Mr. Alan Meckler can buy Fafarazzi for us. Call it an early Christmas present.
The majority of the other stuff on the wheel is user-generated content like groups, video, comments, etc. As my colleague and fellow Red Sox nation member Noah pointed out, some of the stuff we discussed falls closer to crowdsourcing than social networking. But essentially the overall goal (as I see it) is to create a collaboration platform, and that includes traditional tools of social networking, crowdsourcing, and stuff we probably haven’t thought of yet.
That’s where you come in.
In addition to my wacky social networking wheel, I also created a blank one for everyone at the meeting so they could fill in all their social networking desires. The next time we have another social networking confab, we’ll see if anything new and exciting comes out.
However those are just a handful of people. That’s why I’m offering a blank wheel to the MB community. I encourage everyone to print this out, and write in it in your ideas for social networking and any other kind of online collaboration tools. You can use mine as a model, or create your own from scratch. When you’re done with your creation, mail it here:
Seamus Condron
mediabistro.com
494 Broadway
4th floor
New York, NY 10012
Click here to view my social networking wheel
Click here to view and print your blank wheel

Social Networking Done Right

fannation.jpg If you read this recent post, you got an idea about my feelings for social networking as it’s currently constituted. But I don’t want to be a negative nellie forever. Social networking is, after all, truly in its infancy– it’s not always going to be comprised of sites that feature over-exposed teenagers and crappy bands. Social networking has to grow up, and we are seeing glimpses of what could be for everyone, and that includes the MB community.
I came across this report in Mediaweek the other day, which reported that Time, Inc. was going to be rolling out social networking tools on some if its magazine’s websites. That decision was probably made easier by what happened with one of Time’s major entities, Sports Illustrated and si.com, which purchased a social networking site earlier this year called FanNation.com, and proceeded to see a spike of 4 million unique visitors. Unlike the creepiness that often lurks around some SN sites, FanNation.com has two elements that make it immediately appealing: sports and arguing. The site features sports-themed user blogs and topical discussions, dubbed “throwdowns” where two users argue such important issues as like the 100 pitch count in baseball, while votes are cast by other community members to see who is making the more logical case. The format is fun and so brilliantly simple it’s almost criminal, and it’s something that could easily be translated to mediabistro.com.
We want to bring social networking tools to MB, but in a useful and responsible way. There’s a couple ways we can do this– we can build our own stuff in-house, or we can go the Time/SI route and acquire a social networking site. Whatever we decide to do, there will be some adaptation needed from the current social networking landscape. The goal of most social networking sites is to attract young audiences. LinkedIn has been called MySpace for adults, and it’s useful, but by no means trailblazing. While we’re all aware that the children are our future, the MB community has a wide audience of varying age levels. We don’t want to go all soda pop and bubblegum on our loyal base with our SN offerings. FanNation.com however stands as an example of how we can take social networking beyond an arena for hooking up, and instead making it one for hooking media people into new ways of collaborating in their fields and with each other.

Adding More Toppings on the MB Sundae

toppings.jpg This past week the mediabstro.com staff got together for a working lunch. I know what you’re thinking— we’ve gone all corporate already since the sale last week— the ping-pong table is gone and we’re all wearing suits. Well, we never had a ping-pong table (no idea why), and any suits are still of the leisure variety. So it’s still Kool and the Gang over here.
We bounced around some interesting ideas yesterday. Most of them centered around bringing our devoted MB community members further into the digital age with our content. While I won’t steal anyone’s thunder, I’ll be happy to share my suggestions of the day (besides the one voicing my desire to be better at card tricks).

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Look Ma! Top of the World Freelance Marketplace!

dean.jpg If you’re a Freelance Marketplace member who thrives on competition (the “in your face, pal!” set), and loves the classic art of experimentation (the “if it grows in the ground it’s probably fine, right?” set), we’ve got something we think you will like.
We’re looking for volunteers to beta test a new feature in the Marketplace soon, where select members will be part of a “featured freelancer” section at the top of the page. Basically, you’re meant to stick out like a sore thumb. But don’t worry, that’s a good thing in this case. The ultimate goal is to increase your exposure in the Marketplace, which in turn will score you more gigs.
Obviously, we figure that any Marketplace member would want to be on top of the page. We might as well ask you if you’d like big sack of cash. So, we’re asking a little something in return. We’d like you to take a very brief survey about your experiences on Freelance Marketplace. Specifically, we want to know how often you get freelancer inquiries, how many jobs you get from those inquiries, etc.
Once the completed surveys start rolling in, we’ll begin featuring freelancers in a dedicated section at the top of the Freelance Marketplace page for a period of time. After you’ve been featured, you’ll complete another very brief survey to measure whether you had any additional success from the added exposure. If enough members dig it, we may make the feature permanent.
So if you’re a Freelance Marketplace member interested in some fruitful experimentation, click here and let us know. You’ll be hearing from us shortly.

Alan Meckler Buys mediabistro.com, Vows Borg Destruction

alan_meckler_trek.jpg A couple of newsworthy things happened around here this week. I got a geeky new phone that I’ve been seducing the ladies tinkering with all week. Oh, and we were bought by a nice man named Alan Meckler. And after just one hour spent together, Alan and I are already thick as thieves.
On Wednesday, Mr. Meckler and another well-dressed gentleman visited MB headquarters to meet us all, and to assure us that he doesn’t intend to replace us with robots or a call center 10,000 miles away. Still, I couldn’t help but be scared that the nice little company I joined six months ago would become like the handful of not-so-nice companies I’ve left after feeling the corporate noose tighten around my free-wheeling neck. After, all, I’m the type of person who feels that Red Sox caps, Mighty Mouse t-shirts, and exposed tattoos are suitable for home and office environments.

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Welcome to the Waaay Too Social

comscore.jpg Recently I had been shopping for a new mobile phone. I wanted something that satisfied my need for kick-ass aesthetics and equally powerful functionality. I finally decided on one a few days ago. No, it’s not the Apple iPhone (I’m just not ready for that level of hipster). I went with the Helio Ocean. As I do with all of my tech purchases, I read reviews, compare specs, etc. I construct a pro and con list for everything (like with women and fantasy football players). As I was reading an article about my new phone, it was referred to as a “social networking device.” I immediately associated that with the “con” column. Why you ask? To answer the question by asking another— is “social networking” becoming something weird and awkward— like that uncle who still likes to wrestle with you well into your thirties? Well, yes and no— the tech innovations connected to social networking are great— my new phone supports all major web mail clients and instant messaging platforms within an aesthetically orgasmic interface. There is the fear, however, that the technology is becoming too powerful for our thresholds of common sense (Sprint, starting today, will allow users and their fellow Sprint buddies to track each other via GPS).
The term “social networking” is taking on more definitions by the day. From my new phone (with its creepy, mobile MySpace client), to the seemingly countless other websites that allow people to talk to and about each other (sometimes in horrible manners), the practice is gaining as much baggage as adoration as it grows. Now it’s starting to seep into the workforce. The results aren’t pretty

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AG Benefit: Ninety Minutes of Awkwardness for $20 Less

mftlogo.jpg Without the arts we have nothing, right? I’m really more of a movie guy, but I do like to experience the majesty of theater from time to time. It really needs to be something special for me to fork over cash that I would normally be spending on seeing Harry Potter or Transformers for the umpteenth time. But I think I’ve found another reason to hit old Broadway again, because if there’s anything I like seeing more than giant robots fighting, it’s strangers telling me about the first time they got freaky.
About the show:
“I remember my first sexual experience. I was alone at the time!” (Story #6509)
MY FIRST TIME is a new play in the style of The Vagina Monologues, featuring four actors in hysterical and heartbreaking stories about first sexual experiences written by real people . . . just like you.
And now, these true stories and all of the unique characters in them are brought to life by four amazing actors in this acclaimed 90 minute play.
MY FIRST TIME . . . I’ll tell you mine if, you tell me yours.

Magnificent! Plus, our swinging and free-wheeling AG members can further rejoice, becasue they get a cool $20 off the price of admission to this orgy of openness. If you’re feeling lucky, you can also enter for a chance to win a couple of tickets. Judging by the poster, I can’t see this baby fast enough.
Click here to learn more.

Feeling Good Can Hurt Like Hell

sicko.jpg This past weekend I saw the Michael Moore film “SICKO”. Moore builds a compelling case for the moral bankruptcy of our current healthcare system, telling the stories of a man who can only afford to replace one of his two severed fingers, a middle-aged couple forced to move in with their children after being wiped out by medical costs, and destitute patients who are prematurely kicked out of hospitals and dropped off at homeless shelters. In one of the film’s most powerful lines, Moore asks a simple question: “Who are we?”
Compassion is certainly as valid a reason as any for healthcare reform, especially since any one of us could one day find ourselves in the position of some of the people Moore profiles. Yet as mediabistro.com’s Membership Director, a role in which I’ve received a crash course on freelance insurance options, I found myself wondering how often our employer-based system warps the career options of even those who don’t get sick.
Considering that we live in an age where people are increasingly seeking to break free of corporate shackles and strike out on their own, isn’t it ironic that we have a healthcare system that increasingly tries to stuff us back in? Among the media professionals who make up this site’s audience, how many would love to become full-time freelancers, but are instead forced to slog through a 9-to-5 job not because it provides any professional fulfillment, but solely to retain benefits? Alternatively, how many choose freelancing over insurance, knowing that they’re only one illness away from financial ruin (and from being the subject, rather than the author, of a New York magazine cover story)? I know all the historical reasons why Americans get their health insurance through employers, but, as with some bizarre cultural ritual that gets repeated simply because “That’s how it’s always been done”, we seem to have lost site of the fact that having employers provide us with healthcare makes about as much sense as having them provide us with spouses.
mediabistro.com created Membership offerings such as AvantGuild and Freelance Marketplace in order to give media professionals the tools they need for professional success. And I’m proud of the fact that we’re doing what we can to mitigate our members’ concerns by giving them access to discounted policies for freelancers and small businesses. But, to be perfectly honest, I wish we didn’t have to. Because I know that if our members were freed from having to worry about insurance, the creative energies it would unleash would be far better for mediabistro.com, the media industry, and the economy as a whole.
Over the next couple years, as our political system begins to grapple with healthcare reform, you’ll hear a lot of scare talk about how reform will destroy the economy and impose unimaginable costs. Whenever you hear someone make that argument, I hope you’ll ask them, “What about the costs we’re already paying?”
Greg Horowitz, Membership Director

Sprint Says Thanks But No Thanks

sprint_logo_small.jpg For around 1,000 of its customers at least, Sprint Nextel has grabbed the “customer is always right” motto and taken it into the alley for a thorough beating. A few days ago it was reported that the company notified problem customers that they were being relieved of their contracts, or in relationship terms, “it’s not you, it’s me.”
“Our records indicate that over the past year, we have received frequent calls from you regarding your billing or other general account information,” the letter reads. “While we have worked to resolve your issues and questions to the best of our ability, the number of inquiries you have made to us during this time has led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs.”
“Therefore after careful consideration, the decision has been made to terminate your wireless service agreement effective July 30, 2007.”

Ouch. Is this a slap in the face to customers or the best break-up letter in history? In the spirit of corporate transparency, what Sprint did was pretty intriguing, and dare I say refreshing. Companies that deal in products and services have “problem customers.” They’re never happy, no matter what you do for them. Complaining is what drives them, and joy is their enemy. They’re the kind of people that fill up the notes field of a CRM application in a single phone call. But they’re just a small part of a customer base, and companies begrudgingly attempt to make them happy. For all the great customers mediabistro.com has, there are a few that drive us up a wall. For us to deny their existence would just be silly.

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