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Michael McIntyre Talks His New Gig At Ideastream

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Michael McIntyre


The longtime Plain Dealer columnist will still be on the air for the news organization.


We’re still adjusting to opening up The Plain Dealer and not seeing Michael McIntyre’s photo knowingly grinning back at us. His Tipoff columns were short, witty and often funny takes on the world around him. After 30 years at the paper, he was among 22 newsroom staffers laid off April 3. But at least we can still hear him on Ideastream. A longtime host of the radio station’s Monday-Thursday morning broadcasts of the “Sound of Ideas,” McIntyre was named the organization’s executive editor in June. He also swapped hosting duties with Rick Jackson, who helmed Friday morning’s “Reporters Roundtable.” We caught up with McIntyre to talk the new position and more.  

Q. What does this new job mean to you?
A.
It’s kind of cool to be in a position like this after you’ve spent a decade working alongside the people that you’re now able to help lead. It’s a surreal experience in some ways to be able to go from hosting the show to then try to shape our coverage of everything. It feels like there’s a heavy responsibility there, but it also feels like this is what I’ve been preparing to do in my career for the last 30-plus years — the last 10 years here in public media.

Q. What are you most looking forward to in the new position?
A.
I like to be a facilitator. It’s really about: How can I help? I’ve got some experience. I know some people. I’ve got some thoughts. What are yours, and let’s be collaborative. The idea that I could help be a conduit for collaboration within the building and outside of it, that’s what really jazzed me up. We’re involved in the Solutions Journalism project with a number of small media outlets, collaborating with them. I’d like a chance to do more of these partnerships in the community so that we’re telling the stories that they need told. I’m excited about that.

Q. What experiences as a columnist will you bring to this?
A.
I’ve been a Cleveland journalist, or at least a Northeast Ohio journalist, my entire career. I know the region, I know the town and I certainly know a whole lot of the people. Just in the last decade, the number of people we’ve had on “Sound of Ideas” and people that I’ve worked with through my Plain Dealer column. It’s been great to be able to say, ‘Who’s an expert on that here? Here’s a [phone] number.’ I do have connections because of that longevity and experience. 

Q. Why dial back on your on-air time?
A.
I love the “Sound of Ideas,” and I love being on the air. I love our audience, and I love our production team. One of the things that I talked with [chief content officer] Mark [Rosenberger] about was that I wanted to still be connected to the audience. There was no way I was going to be able to do this new job and still host it four days a week. The compromise would be that Rick, who has tons of experience … could switch to the daily, I could do Fridays and still be able to stay in it. It was a perfect switch. 

Q. Why is public radio important right now as the media landscape shifts?
A.
We’re committed to the community. It’s more than just a news product. Everything we do, all that news we produce, is because we want the community to be better informed. We just want to give people the information so they can make informed and engaged choices in their lives. That’s what public media does.

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Being a social media influencer is no longer a side gig, but a career path for many Australians

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Five years ago, Ally Sheehan was at a birthday celebration when a friend’s father began quizzing her about the thousands of people who followed her on social media.

“I remember his dad said to me, ‘This is so crazy, you should try to monetise it’,” Ms Sheehan says.

It was the first time she ever thought about making money using social media. Not long after, brands and organisations began to approach her to ask if she’d promote them.

Half a decade later, the 26-year-old Melburnian spends a lot of her time and earns most of her income from online content creation.

She’s now got more than 53,000 followers on her Instagram account and 10,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel, where she posts content primarily about her vegan diet and travel.

Her Instagram is filled with eye-capturing images of Ms Sheehan in different, aesthetic locations, sometimes featuring products she’s been paid to promote.

She winces a little at being called an influencer but says it’s correct.

“But ultimately, I want to be a good influence. I want to be like an older sister or a good friend.”

How the industry has changed from a side gig to a career

The concept of influencer marketing pre-dates the internet — celebrity endorsements or targeted giveaways are offline examples — but today the term is predominantly associated with social media users promoting ideas, products or organisations to their audience for a fee or goods.

The emergence and rise of social media as a key source of information has positioned influencers as a major form of marketing today.

In the time she’s been involved, Ms Sheehan has seen the industry mature and its participants diversify.

She says the responsibilities of influencers and expectations from their audience and clients have grown and become more sophisticated.

Marketers aren’t just looking for the superstar influencers with millions of views, but online creators with smaller, specific audiences and expertise, like herself.

The Australian influencer industry is becoming professionalised in three main areas: increasing revenue; the development of skills, institutions and structures; and the mainstreaming of influencer culture, says Crystal Abidin, a digital anthropologist at Curtin University.

In 2019, a PwC report estimated that spending in the industry would reach $240 million in Australia that year. More people are joining the industry, with work for micro- and nano-influencers creating new opportunities for more and diverse types of people taking part.

“It used to be something that would be piecemeal income or a side gig,” Dr Abidin says.

“Since 2015, people have been able to make an entirely comfortable livelihood in this industry.”

Anyone can be an influencer but it takes skill to succeed

A teenage girl looks at a bikini model on Instagram on her phone.
You need more than great selfie skills to succeed.(ABC News: Elise Pianegonda)

The influencer career path is increasingly an accepted, even normal option for people.

The biggest in the business, such as Australian lifestyle influencer Shani Grimmond, are household names. Even celebrities who came to fame in traditional forms of media like film or television like Will Smith are acting like influencers online.

Skills and practices once associated with influencers — like how to position a camera for selfie or video call — are now just part of regular job readiness in the digital age.

“Five years ago, if I was teaching a class, I would ask them whether they wanted to be an influencer and they would say, ‘No’,” Dr Ablin says. “But now, if I ask a class if they think about what will show up when a prospective employer searches them and sees their social media, I tell them you’re doing influencer practices.”

In saying that, you need to have a plethora of skills to be successful, Ms Sheehan says.

And she’s had to learn them all on the job.

“It feels like a 100 jobs in one sometimes. You’re coordinating with brands, you’re negotiating, reviewing contracts,” she says.

“Photography, styling, editing (if you’re doing scripted content you’re writing), directing, all of these elements yourself.”

How influencers work with marketers

Professionalisation of the industry includes influencers regularly working with teams or outsourcing aspects of content creation, Dr Abidin says.

Guyala, a Birri Gubba and Wonnarua woman, model and actor, works as an influencer on Instagram.

Photographs of her posing for the camera in clothing or with items she’s paid to post on her account are interspersed with personal and sometimes political images.

An influencer, Guyala, poses for the camera in activewear.
As part of the professionalisation of the industry, organisations like agencies are providing services to influencers like Guyala.(Supplied: @guyala_lala)

She works with a management agency that acts as a conduit to the brands and organisations that Guyala promotes.

“Before I signed, people would just [direct message] me and send me things,” she says. “Now, it’s more professional. They’ll send it to the agency, and my agent will send through a brief. I go there and pick it up, I take the photos, make sure everything matches up with the briefs and send it back to my agent.”

On the other side of the equation, marketers are also codifying expectations and standards as they spend millions on influencers.

Last month, the Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AIMCO) published its first set of guidelines for the industry.

This document contains “best practice” for everything from advertising disclosure requirements, to intellectual property rights and metrics for the success of influencers.

Head of AIMCO, Josanne Ryan, says the code was developed in consultation with more than 50 Australian marketing agencies, and that future revisions will include input from influencers as well.

As part of building trust with their audiences, influencers are expected to be transparent about their relationships through clearly labelling what is sponsorship and what is not.

Failing to disclose relationships may be a breach of Australian Consumer Law, although no influencer has ever been pursued for a breach, according to a spokesperson from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Ms Ryan says marketers are also more conscious of brand risk from influencer marketing. This comes as some influencers face criticism for promoting misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Perceptions of being an influencer don’t match reality

While the idea of being an influencer has been mainstreamed, creators say that, ironically, the public’s perception of the influencer doesn’t match the reality for the vast majority of them.

Like many other creative industries, the lifestyles of the top influencers who receive the most attention from mainstream media aren’t representative of the many others in the field.

Ms Sheehan reflects on the difficult aspects of what she does: undefined work-life boundaries, insecure work, unclear career path and a constantly evolving industry.

She says the independent nature of the role isn’t all bad — “it gives you freedom” — and that she’s struck up friendships with other influencers and creators, often sharing information or brainstorming what to do.

Guyala thinks some people may underestimate how much work goes into being a professional influencer.

Even after she’s created an image for a brand, the path to publishing can feel exhaustive, she says.

“I’ll send it to the agency, who will send it to the client, who will tell me which images they want. They’ll usually check over it three times before I post, checking the caption, the edit, the image and the product placement. It usually takes a week to actually post it, there are just so many steps,” she says.

Guyala still encounters people who assume that being an influencer is something you do if you’re rich, rather than something you do as a livelihood.

“A lot of people think it’s a luxury life. Even being called an influencer, you’re put into this category, you’re labelled as someone who has a lot of money and has a good life and a big house and doesn’t have that much stuff to do,” Guyala says.

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Biden-Harris no gift for gig economy

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While Silicon Valley and Big Tech have welcomed the news that former San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris is to be Joe Biden’s running mate, gig economy companies ought to have reservations.

Both Biden and Harris are supporting opposition to Proposition 22, the California ballot measure backed by DoorDash, Lyft and Uber to define rideshare and delivery drivers as contractors rather than employees.

This suggests a Biden administration might pursue wider implementation of California’s initiative on gig workers’ rights. In the latest move in the state, San Francisco’s lead prosecutor filed for a preliminary injunction against DoorDash on Wednesday, which would soon force the company to reclassify its food delivery workers as employees — this coming days after a judge dramatically granted a similar request in a case against Uber and Lyft.

Lyft said on an earnings call on Wednesday it would suspend operations in California if it was forced to reclassify its drivers as employees. Uber threatened the same thing earlier in the day.

Lyft is in the tighter spot with its operations concentrated in California and the US. It is already under pressure from coronavirus, reporting a 61 per cent drop in revenues in the second quarter, although it said yesterday it was seeing signs of recovery as cities began to reopen from lockdowns.

Lex says Lyft’s ongoing losses mean it will need to raise more money and, with the share price on a downward trajectory, it will have to give more of the company away for fresh capital. Alphaville is even gloomier: it says the jig may be up for the gig economy amid ride-hailing’s collapsing house of cards.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. UK contact tracing app’s better beta
The British government announced on Thursday that trials of a new coronavirus contact-tracing app were under way. The latest version will also help individuals assess their own level of risk by giving them detailed information about the infection rate in a given area, as well as enabling them to order a test and providing the results.

2. Cisco shares dive on sales warning
The cloud and data centres are supposed to be thriving in the pandemic, but Cisco Systems’ shares are down more than 11 per cent today after the network equipment maker warned that its current quarter to October might produce an even bigger drop-off in sales than it experienced during the sharp contraction of the most recent three months.

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3. Lenovo reports strong growth
The world’s largest computer maker is profiting from providing new equipment for the working-from-home era. Lenovo reported sales rose 7 per cent to $13.3bn for the June quarter. Its dual headquarters in Beijing and North Carolina may offer it some protection from US-China trade tensions.

4. Facebook still hosting fake-review groups
Facebook groups enabling the creation of fraudulent Amazon reviews are thriving, seven months after the social network assured the UK’s competition regulator it would curb the behaviour. An investigation by Which? discovered dozens of groups set up to game Amazon’s review system by offering refunds or commissions in exchange for favourable reviews.

5. Ripple seeks new uses for blockchain tech
The creator of the XRP cryptocurrency is striking out in a new direction as sales stall, reports Richard Waters. It is trying to become the Amazon of the cryptocurrency world, using its platform to support activities far beyond the original cross-border payments system it hoped to build.

Column chart of Value of XRP sold each quarter ($m) showing Ripple’s cryptocurrency sales stall

Forwarded from Sifted — the European start-up week

Holvi, the Finnish fintech offering banking for sole traders and small businesses, this week said it was pulling out of the UK less than six months after launch, citing increased uncertainty over coronavirus and Brexit. The departure comes after N26, the German challenger bank, pulled out of the UK in February, also citing Brexit (although also likely motivated by low customer traction and regulatory problems) and highlights how tough the UK market really is for new banks.

In other worrying fintech news this week, Revolut said that losses had tripled in the last financial year to £107.4m. This followed a similar widening of losses at digital banking competitors Monzo and Starling.

But it was not all bad news for European start-ups. Finland’s Varjo raised $54m in fresh funding just 18 months after the launch of its first virtual and mixed reality headset, in a sign that there are still investors willing to back this unfashionable sector. And new venture capital funds are still being launched, with one this week called La Famiglia backed by some of Germany’s biggest industrial names like Mittal, Oetker and Swarovski. Founding partner Jeannette zu Fürstenberg is a hereditary princess.

Tech tools — ShiftCam smartphone lenses

ShiftCam’s multi-lens product — for iPhone XS Max and iPhone 11 — gives a smartphone camera significant new potential, writes Jonathan Margolis. A five-lens version adds telephoto, fisheye, particularly fine 10x and 20x macro lenses and — the dark horse — a (slightly fiddly) polarising filter, as used by professionals to kill reflections from shiny surfaces. Things get more interesting with the range of ProLenses, which can be screwed on to the case. This includes a £135 12mm lens for ultrawide photos without distortions, which does the job of DSLR lenses costing 10 times as much.



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BVG Associates Wins North Carolina Offshore Wind Gig

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UK-headquartered consultancy company BVG Associates has been awarded a contract by the North Carolina Department of Commerce to assist the agency with an offshore wind industry supply chain and infrastructure assessment.

BVG Associates will help the Department research and develop an inventory of businesses, organizations, and physical infrastructure best positioned to promote offshore wind development in North Carolina, according to a press release from 11 August.

“Moving to a clean energy economy will bring new jobs and economic growth to North Carolina”, said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “The Commerce Department’s study will gather the information and insights we need to prepare our infrastructure and our workforce for the future opportunities this promising industry offers us”.

The new assessment report, which is part of the ongoing work to implement North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan put into effect by the State’s Governor Roy Cooper two years ago, is expected to be published later this year.

In 2019, Governor Cooper set aside USD 1.5 million to boost clean energy and green businesses in the proposed 2019-2021 budget, including USD 300,000 for a study on North Carolina’s potential to host offshore wind operations and associated jobs.

On the North Carolina assessment, BVG Associates will work together with representatives from Lloyd’s Register Energy Americas, Timmons Group, and North Carolina State University.

Waters offshore North Carolina are home to the Kitty Hawk lease area. Avangrid Renewables secured the rights to develop the 122,405-acre lease area offshore Kitty Hawk in May 2017. 

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