Author: walyce

manhattanville.columbia.edu

Translating University Goals to Web Dev and Design Agency

For those who don’t know, I am a Web Content Editor at Columbia University. One of my main responsibilities include packaging content for the University homepage and its news site. In this role, my editorial team and I discuss the best way to present institutional narratives to a general audience on our digital platforms.

Usually, we do this on a story-by-story basis. But throughout 2016, we took on a much bigger project – building a whole website to introduce Columbia’s new campus Manhattanville to the world. This project was led by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs’ executive vice president, David Stone, and vice president of strategic communications, Deb Sack.

With the help of our director of multimedia development, Sheri Whitley, my communications office searched and found a boutique digital interactive agency based in Brooklyn to develop the design and content management platform for Manhattanville.Columbia.edu.

Because the agency was responsible for most of the labor, I believed my role would mostly consist of content migration and layout. But after deciding on the design aesthetic of the website, David and Deb (my bosses), expanded my participation. Because of my editorial background and understanding of web development, I interpreted how their vision should be executed. I translated what my bosses wanted into a concept the agency could understand, and vice-versa.

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Lebron and Basketball; Social Media and Me

When looking around for open full-time positions, one of the qualifications often required is being familiar with social media practices. In interviews, one of the most important questions I hear is whether I know how to track and report on analytics.

My response is usually the same: while I haven’t been a “social media editor,” every job I’ve had has involved using social media tools. I use it to share content, engage the audience, crowdsource, gather insights, and inform the newsroom about what our audience finds compelling or not as well as what they would like to see more of.

One of the biggest social media campaigns I worked on was a Lebron James Poetry contest for The Miami Herald. At the time, I was drafting surveys meant to collect insights on different topics from a network of sources called the Public Insight Network.

Using a feature within the PIN software that tracked the number of people that opened my email with the survey, clicked on the link to the survey, and actually filled it out, I realized that about 10 percent of recipients would actually open the email. And anywhere from no one to two percent of the recipients would actually fill out the surveys. (Some of the extra participants would come in from clicking on the survey link shared on Twitter and Facebook, but the response was much lower than via email.) But there was one factor that would slightly spike up those numbers – when the subject of the survey was related to pop culture, sports, or Cuba.

So Dan Grech, the former news director for WLRN’s Miami Herald News, came to me with this idea to partner up with O, Miami Poetry Festival on a social media campaign. It was July 2010 when Lebron announced he would be taking his talents to South Beach. Naturally, we tied the contest to what was hot in the news cycle (and to our audience).

As a result, the contest received over 1,200 entries – well, over the typical two percent of recipients – and national coverage, including by ESPN and The New Yorker.

So social media may not be my main responsibility, but it is essential in almost every job I do, almost in the way that Lebron is still playing basketball no matter what team he’s playing for.

P.S. Since this was a successful social media campaign, The Miami Herald has continued to organize similar poetry contests even after I was no longer working there.

Poverty Doesn’t Equal Culture

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So many World Cup tourists will rent out homes in Rio’s slums hoping to save money and acquire an artificial adventure. I appreciate that people want to immerse themselves in Brazilian culture, but I’m not sure that poverty equals culture.

This CNN article mentions how various slums are still not clear of drug lords, gangs, and gun violence. I’ve personally seen what it’s like when foreign thrill-seekers face “danger” – in the case I witnessed, a camera was stolen, which is not that dangerous – and they freak out! I don’t want to imagine how these people would have reacted had the bad event been actually dangerous, life-threatening.

So if you want to learn about Brazilian culture and can afford to stay outside of a favela, visit a samba school, eat at local cafes (and not McDonald’s), talk to people, etc. But don’t expect that you will truly experience what it’s like for a Brazilian to live in a slum. Why? Because you get to leave. And assuming you don’t live in a favela, you won’t know what it’s like to receive visitors who find your lack of space quaint and lack of public services exciting-living.

For those who decide to go slumming in the favelas anyway, only go where you are invited. Try to recognize who is being genuine with you versus who just wants your money. And don’t assume you are happier than those who live there.

South Florida’s Media and Tech Start-up Landscape Changing Slowly but Surely

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South Florida’s media landscape at first glance may not seem diverse or thriving when the top news organizations consumed by local audiences are dwindling, the talent is leaving, and the tech community, which would support a media capital, is still developing, slowly.

But some say the solution is to bring more innovative minds together such as with meetups and conferences like Hispanicize and Social Media Club of South Florida and allow for ideas to naturally flourish.

Alex de Carvalho, organizer of Social Media Club’s South Florida chapter, cited Richard Florida in this slideshow on what this tropical landscape needs: “The key to economic growth lies not just in the ability to attract the creative class, but to translate that underlying advantage into creative economic outcomes in the form of new ideas, new high-tech businesses, and regional growth.”

“Miami has to be itself, we are never going to be a Silicon Valley,” said Steven McKeon, CEO of Acceller, in a forum about South Florida’s start-up culture. He also pointed out the advantages, “The weather is huge, the real estate crash resulting in lower housing prices has helped with recruiting, and the cross-cultural connections are a big plus.”

But in the last few years, South Florida’s unemployment rate has been swinging between seven and 10 percent and has made it difficult for talented youth to find jobs.

“I can’t think of one friend in South Florida who has a successful career,” said Lauren Hord, 31, through a Public Insight Network survey to The Miami Herald last year.

For those who want to be journalists, the environment feels grimm.

A 2007 market research study done by the Sun Sentinel shows the top news organizations visited online in South Florida are the two major papers, Sentinel and Herald, as well as local TV stations from the major networks NBC, CBS, and Telemundo.

The Sun Sentinel put together a research project of South Florida's audience to understand the top media websites visited by local residents.

The Sun Sentinel put together a research project of South Florida’s audience to understand the top media websites visited by local residents.


But these organizations are struggling to stay alive as the industry rapidly evolves faster than these companies can adapt. And it has resulted in various layoffs.

In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Daniel Lafuente, co-founder of new tech start-up The LAB Miami, shared his thoughts on why businesses hesitate to root themselves in South Florida.

“We felt Miami lacked the platform to retain its top talent and allow them a place to cultivate their businesses,” said Lafuente. “They need to be able to stay here and have access to the same type of community you might get in San Francisco or New York.”

However, there is hope.

Visionaries such as Alex de Carvalho (previously mentioned); Manny Ruiz, founder of Hispanicize; Brian Breslin, founder of Refresh Miami, and many others are changing this landscape. They are paving the way for forward-thinking professionals to come together, brainstorm, and share resources on how to make ideas come true.

Organizations such as The Knight Foundation are one of those resources, often providing grants for hyperlocal news projects. And now the city of Miami is joining the movement to make South Florida a media and tech hub by funding $1 million worth of grants for entrepreneurs.

South Florida has everything it needs to become as big as other American metropolitan cities. The ground is fertile, but the laborers are few. But a few forward-thinking leaders planting the seeds is all it takes for the growth of innovation and talent.