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The internet: a bittersweet ‘Taste’ for some…

These days it seems like there isn’t one organization that is not online, large or small. This is especially true in the world of journalism. And not just on the web, they are present in all forms of social media devices – take the New York Times iPod app, for instance. But it is not just large publications going online; small outlets are finding that they need to include web elements as well. Tastemakers magazine, a small student music publication at Northeastern University, is a great example of this phenomenon.

Tastemakers began in the fall of 2006, and currently has a circulation of about 3,000 readers on average. It has a pretty steady production rate: a few issues every year give or take, and features reviews of local music shows and CD releases, artist interviews, feature articles, and the like. But, being a student publication, its audience does not stretch beyond the Northeastern community by much, if at all.

In November 2008, the publication’s leaders finally decided to make the move and play in cyberspace.

Katie Price, editor-in-chief of Tastemakers magazine and third year journalism and music industry student at NU, pioneered the creation of the website, along with other members of the team, such as Jackson Connor, a third year journalism student at Northeastern and feature editor of the publication.

Now one might wonder what took Tastemakers so long to make the jump, but a number of technical issues arose when the idea to set up online first came about.

“It was really poorly maintained back then, and we didn’t have content going up every day like we wanted,” said Connor. “Katie and I really pressed for a new website; last semester we said we need a deadline for when there’s going to be an actual live website.”

The Tastemakers website

And that’s exactly what happened. Over this last semester the website has gone from being “just a solid blog”, according to Price, to now featuring, in addition to all the latest magazine content, feature articles, CD and show reviews, links to multiple music blogs and more, all using the Word Press platform. Tastemakers also makes good use of applications like Twitter and Facebook as well: they offer a feature called “Tasty Tweets”, which highlights the most interesting and popular feeds on the groups page at the time, and they also now have a Facebook Fan page as well, where they used to simply have a Group page.

In addition to all this material, the group plans to soon produce podcasts on the site using SoundCloud, offer advertising space to local businesses, and also include a forum and comments section. The website will also be group’s primary focus for the summer months, when the print staff writers are usually at home or participating in the co-op program and not on campus.

So would you say that Tastemakers needed a website? While first time staff writers like Michelle Buchman believe that the publication could survive on its own in just print form, higher ups like Price and Connor believe it was a key move in progressing the publication and the group as a whole. In fact, Price believes that they were getting to the point where they couldn’t be considered a legitimate publication without a website.

Click to view Slideshow

“We get now about nine 900 a week (on the Facebook Fan page), which is kind of crazy,” says Price, “and our website per month gets about three thousand views, which is how many magazines we can print. So what we are getting in a month (on the site) is what we are getting in a full issue cycle.”

Tastemakers’ marketing director, Diandra Apoyan, also claims that it was a necessary shift as well, and says that it has done wonders for her marketing endeavors, helping to spread the Tastemakers name and increasing readership of the physical publication on campus.

“It was definitely the best move we could make. If you’re not on a website you’re just not in the loop,” she said in an interview. “It was no question that we had to be on Twitter, be on Facebook, and that we needed a legitimate website.”

Price says that having the website has allowed her to reach out to more music executives and PR agencies interested in being involved with the evolving publication, in addition to attracting more writers to work with the magazine. Connor says it has been easier to get the publicists of bands to respond to interview requests after he sends links to the site to prove their legitimacy. Even writers like Buchman get a perk: she now feels more comfortable applying for jobs knowing that she can direct potential employers to the website to showcase her work.

The advertising that Price brought up is a big deal as well. Tish Grier, a Social Media Strategist and Freelance Writer at Tish Grier & Associates, said in a phone interview that one of the greatest resources available to online publications is the ability to do target advertising. This means that instead of having random advertisements appear next to articles (a guitar ad is placed next to an ad about guitars, for example).

“Tools will eventually become available to help outlets, even small ones, scale advertising to content,” says Tish. She says that up until now, savvy organizations have manually facilitated target advertising on their sites, but soon the ability to automatically and systematically place target advertising on publications’ websites will become such commonplace that all groups, small or large, will be taking advantage of this method.

While the physical publication is always the priority, the website is high on Tastemakers' to do list

But is everyone necessarily happy about this trend? While it is a great benefit for groups and helps to compete with larger publications, some, such as Connor, wish that they could go back to the good old days of straight print.

“Just in general I think the way that journalism is moving to be mainly based online is a bad thing,” Connor says. “I’m not a huge fan of it; it’s more bad than good for the business. But at the same time we’re not this veteran publication: we don’t get to make the rules, and we can’t really be relevant without a website.”

But as much as they admit that they need a website, it is clear that the print publication will always be their main focus, and that for them, having a website will never replace the feeling of holding and leafing through the glossy pages.

But experts like Grier maintain that there is no turning back, even for outlets like Tastemakers.

“It’s about keeping up with where readers want to access their information,” she says. “Where and when.”

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Categories: Local Stuff, music

What’s the big IDEA?

Dan Gregory, a teacher in the School of Technological Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University, recently made a presentation to our Reinventing the News Class about IDEA, and the role of journalism in the entrepreneurial community.

IDEA is an NU endeavor that calls to students with dreams and ideas for  entrepreneurial endeavors and gives them the various resources that they need to turn them into reality, all conveniently located on or around campus.

But Dan did not come just to plug his group, he came to make a request: he wants more journalism students like ourselves to get involved in the entrepreneurial world. Why? There are a few reasons for this, and the key word is talent, which Dan believes is the driving force of all entrepreneurial endeavors.

One of these reasons is the skill set that journalists bring to the table. This includes writing skills, investigative skills, the ability to communicate clearly, the ability to meet deadlines, etc. These are all invaluable skills when it comes to the entrepreneurship scene: he says that there is a great need for those who can not only put these ideas in motion, but can communicate these ideas with the world.

But the other skill set is less obvious: it is the ability to keep and utilize what Dan calls “disruptive technology.” This includes gadgets like iPods and smartphones that have gotten in the way of human interaction, programs like Napster which have hurt the music industry, etc. Dan states, however, that journalists are great resources for making the use of this technology, and are always finding ways to use it in the best way possible to communicate quickly, efficiently and conclusively.

There are numerous ways that this has played out in real life situations. One of these is right here on campus with two NU students: Laura Moran and Meghan Linebarger. These two journalism students have taken IDEA by storm and have effectively revolutionized the communications aspect of IDEA, simply using the skill sets they have as journalists.

Another example is a company that Gregory is starting up himself called Knick-Knack, a group that aggregates the stories of people in the 50 plus range about companies, their families, past experiences, whatever they want to talk about. They then plan on compiling books for these consumers so they can have proper documentation of their memories! Clearly this is an area where journalism can be put to use, utilizing skill sets in communication and storytelling.

The brave new world can be both an exciting and, at the same time, scary place. New “disruptive technologies” are being created every day, and combined with changes in our working environments, it can seem like a lot to take in. But Gregory is certain that if we all combine the talents that we have, us journalists with pen (or BlackBerry) in hand included, we will be able to take on the future full force.

Categories: Local Stuff, People

No one’s crying over the House of Blues

Backstage entrance to the House of Blues, Boston

Imagine this – you’re a brand new student at Northeastern, looking for a place to indulge your love of music. Sure, you could see who’s playing at AfterHours on Thursday or Friday night, but if you want to see big performances in a hip concert setting and not business and engineering majors covering Jack Johnson (not that there’s anything wrong with that), make your way over to the House of Blues, Boston.

HOB, as its shortened to, is a chain club venue conveniently located in Boston right, next to Fenway Park on Lansdowne street, making it pretty easy to find (if you’re out on the street don’t know where that is, ask the next Bostonian Red Sox fan you see…they’ll know where it is). There’s also a number of great restaurants and bars right nearby, if you want to grab a bite to eat or a drink (if you’re of age, of course) before a HOB show.

Front entrance

HOB features a good size concert venue floor – not to big and not too small. There are also bar stations on either side of the floor. There is also balcony seating area surrounding the floor which, depending on the event, may be free to go up to, offering a cool bird’s-eye view of the stage.

Formerly known as the Avalon, HOB Boston has actually drawn in more revenue than its previous space holders and continues to book big names, such as lyrical master Ben Folds and rap icon Snoop Dogg, who both will be coming next month in lieu of other performers, both nationally acclaimed and local. I recently went to see Grace Potter,  an up-and-coning folk star from Vermont, back in November, and the venue was perfectly fitted to the event (I was right up close to the stage but didn’t feel packed in, as often happens in smaller venues).

The House of Blues is more than a concert venue, too. It features a restaurant that specializes in southern-style cuisine, a delicacy which I have yet to experience (but plan on doing so). It also offers a couple VIP lounges for special events, including their famous Foundation Room. Membership is required to access these areas but seems like an ideal location for a corporate event or special celebration. In addition to this, HOB Boston also features a Gospel Brunch that is held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.

House of Blues, Boston, is at the center of Boston's heart - right across from Fenway Park.

So check out the HOB Boston website to see the list of upcoming events and concerts. If you see something you like, I encourage to try out the House of Blues at least once.

Click the main image at the top of the post to see a slideshow of venue outside of the HIM show on Sunday, March 28th.

Info

15 Lansdowne Street

Boston, MA 02115

(888)693-2583

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Restaurant Hours of Operation

Tuesday-Saturday 4pm-12am

Sunday-Monday: Closed unless there is a show

Retail Hours

Tuesday-Saturday: 4pm-12am

Sunday Gospel Brunch: 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month, 9:30am-12:30pm

Monday: Closed unless there is a show

Categories: Local Stuff, music

Picture Time


The Egan walkway at NU

Originally uploaded by FreddyChurchville

A few pictures to test blog photos. Click on the picture to see the slideshow.

Categories: Local Stuff

The MBTA: The pride and joy of Boston…wait, is that right?

The MBTA has definitely been a work in progress in Boston since anyone can remember.  It seems that there are never enough things to complain about when it comes to Boston’s beloved transit system.  But what are other Boston blogger saying about out beloved T system?

One clever post by ‘Librarian on the Run’ got into the holiday spirit and used a familiar holiday carol to get across her feelings about the MBTA in a recent post titled “The 12 Days of MBTA”:

On the 1st day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 1 grimey pole!
On the 2nd day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 2 frost bitten toes!
On the 3rd day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 3 busses too full to stop!
On the 4th day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 4 medical testing ads!
On the 5th day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 5 blasting iPods!
On the 6th day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 6 red lights!
On the 7th day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 7 seats occupied by shopping bags!
On the 8th day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 8 seconds to read my monthly pass!
On the 9th day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 9 bottles rolling around the floor!
On the 10th day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 10 discarded Metros!
On the 11th day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 11 coughing passengers!
On the 12th day of Christmas the MBTA gave to me, 12 minute stall between South Station & Downtown Crossing!

I’m sure we can all relate.

How about those who are taking the T for its economical value?  Some bikers in Boston have been pushing for more bike cages at the T stops in Boston as stated in their online blog site.  Apparently they’ve made victories at Alewife station where a few bike cages have been installed, but most bikers are still forced to chain their cycles to iron fences around the city and risk having their bike taken.  Come on Boston, give our two-wheeled friends a break, will ya?

But in good news an article that came out in the Globe today stated that crime on the MBTA has hit a 30 year low in crimes occuring on their public transportation systems, preventing everything from shootings to stabbings to your occasional gropings (a major problem on the MBTA and one that keeps many residents, both male and female, from riding the T).

Adamg points out in his Universal Hub post that fare evasion has been one of the biggest crackdowns in the new MBTA crime reduction (with citations for fare evasion going up about 1000!).  This is the second biggest crackdown next to robberies, which are down 26%.

So it appears that Boston locals tend to keep their cynical attitude towards the T, but nevertheless are campaigning to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.  And you got to admit, to quote the Beatles, things are gettin’ better…right?

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