New (New) Media Landscape
From print to screen, Eugene boasts a bursting scene
story By Suzi Steffen • photos by Trask Bedortha
|Jaculynn Peterson runs MyEugene|
|Mikayle Anderson of SeenEugene|
|Bang! staff at the office|
|Joshua Finch of Exiled in Eugene|
No “death of the reader” whining allowed in the Eugene-Springfield area: Reading and writing have exploded in the age of the internet, and this town’s reaping the benefits.
People read, write, snap photos, make videos, record music and generally create, because that is what humans do. Sometimes or even often, that reading’s done online instead of off. The world’s open to anyone with an internet connection or an hour to spend at the library’s computers, and some people react to that openness with instant creativity. Others react to the constant availability of opinion, information and online design with a desire for tangible objects to hold and read.
Eugene, like most college towns, serves as a perfect incubator for print and online ideas. The guys who want to expand a mixtape into a zine; the woman who takes the idea of service to the community and creates a well-trafficked site; the group of editors, writers and designers who recover from one bad print experience by creating a shiny new office and hybrid newspaper/magazine … they, and many more people, make up the scene of Eugene’s recent and new media ventures.
Did you know about Off the Waffle’s new video game and the waffles for life trade? If so, that’s because of MyEugene, where the story broke as a charming, quirky, local tale from the neighborhood that includes the Eugene-famed waffle shop.
Jaculynn Peterson wasn’t expecting to turn her marketing expertise into a community news source that breaks waffle tales. But a few years ago, just after she and her husband moved to Eugene from California, she figured it was time to experiment. “I was thinking, ‘Should I start my own business? Should I go to the J-school for a graduate degree?’” she says. Then she realized it was time to use her strengths for a different purpose. “I was totally immersed in the social web, and I was thrilled at the notion that even the tiniest voices could be amplified a million times there.”
For a year, she and her husband worked on building the site and conceptualizing what MyEugene meant. She snagged the MyEugene Twitter account. They defined the purpose of MyEugene.org — “Not dot com,” she emphasizes; MyEugene’s not meant as a big commercial venture, and they don’t own the .com site anyway — as a place for the community to share stories that were not otherwise covered by local media. “We’d like to become a platform for conversation among the different communities,” she says. “The ultimate goal is to become a glue for all the distinct neighborhoods.”
The site launched in January 2009 with pieces mostly written and often photographed by Peterson. She kicked off with a neighborhood council leaders’ meeting, and she still goes to the monthly events. “They’re a goldmine” for stories, she says, because neighborhood stories that other media might not define as part of their mission serve as bread and butter for MyEugene.
Peterson began to roll out her emphasis on guest contributors this fall. That’s right: You can write or take photos for MyEugene, even if you’re not a writer (perhaps especially if you’re not a writer, as your contributions won’t earn you money). Peterson says the site didn’t start out “to be a big money-making machine” and that she’s now taking a business class at LCC in order to put together a business plan that will attract partners.
“I’d like to have a paid staff,” she says. As she applies for micro-blogging partnerships with The Oregonian and other media partners, she says that MyEugene fits into a specific niche in Eugene’s media ecology. MyEugene doesn’t cover business stories (unless the business happens to be sponsoring a nonprofit fundraiser or something like that) or sports, and only writes about crimes when the stories are still in progress.
“We do common good stories, cover nonprofits, social causes and unsung heroes,” she says.
“People are reading more publications and accessing different types of media than ever before,” she adds.
You can find MyEugene on its site, on Facebook and on Twitter.
Talk About Explosions
There’s a new arts and culture print game in town, one that some consider a competitor to the Weekly.
Bang! Managing Editor Bronwynn Manaois, and the entire staff in an interview just before Thanksgiving, said that’s not exactly the point. But to go back a little, cut to the spring of 2010, when the biweekly The Dropout was hitting downtown … and when it suddenly ground to a halt. Most of the Bang! staff worked for The Dropout, and after some angst and a lot of meetings (“in a lot of coffeeshops,” they say) and encouragement from Dropout contributor Sean Äaberg, they decided to pick up the slack and stick together as a team.
Art Director Steven Weeks says, “We basically took it over ourselves, and made something under a different name.” They put the failed paper behind them, and just in time for the first issue (“six months almost to the day after the final issue of that other paper,” Manaois says), the new group rented an office, got a copier and figured out what the new paper/magazine should be.
One of the goals, says Mark Sullivan (who runs sales and marketing), is making sure not to head down the online-only direction, or even think online-first. “Everything’s online,” he says. “We want something you can still hold in your hands.” The website (bangpaper.com) contains a distribution list, a link to the Facebook page, an archive and a PDF version of the current edition (using issuu.com to create an online reader). Arts Editor Sean Äaberg and occasionally others update the publication’s Facebook status from time to time, especially when a new issue hits the newsstands. But the main focus, they say, is a visually compelling piece of work with strong content.
“We’re focused on the tangible,” says Music Editor Richard Owens. “If you simplify, you really start to understand your strengths.”
Music, art, food and fashion definitely occupy many of Bang!’s pages, with reviews, previews, features and a few news clips (Portland Mercury-like news of each day along with a news story or two) filling out the publication.
Bang!, whose sixth issue (known around the office as “the infamous sixth issue” because The Dropout died before its seventh issue could come out) dropped Nov. 24, doesn’t contain a lot of hard news, and that’s by design. “We’re just trying to entertain, but we also want to have credibility,” Manaois says. “We like to do stuff that pushes the envelope of comfort for most people; we want them to wake up and think about stuff.”
Äaberg says, “I want a younger audience” than most established media in town have. “I want people who are pushing Eugene out of its complacency.”
Issue 7 should drop on Dec. 8, and you can find out more about the publication in general on Facebook, at its website and by emailing email@example.com
The Eyes Have It
Mikayle Anderson couldn’t wait.
After she resigned from her marketing position at NextStep to spend more time with her daughter and her husband (and their dogs, chickens, cat, guinea pig and fish), she started thinking about how to get involved with the media and art scenes of Eugene.
Her husband Shan, studio manager for Poppie Advertising and Design, helped start both In Town magazine, a former competitor of the Weekly, and the First Friday Art Walk. That means Mikayle’s used to thinking about the media from a public relations and marketing standpoint, and in addition, she’s deeply rooted in the community, with years of attending events in and around Eugene. After she left NextStep, she says, she thought “I’m just going to freelance” — but she soon decided there was another way to go.
“I was taking pictures like crazy,” she says, “and posting them to Facebook.” Shan asked her why she didn’t think about posting her photos in a more magazine style — “but not a print magazine; print costs kept going up, and that’s some of what killed In Town,” she says.
She left NextStep in May, and launched SeenEugene.com in June. The only problem with putting the site together as a monthly magazine comes from the immediacy of the internet, she says. Sometimes the photos go on Facebook or Flickr before the actual issues “come out” or go live on the site. SeenEugene’s description on Facebook is, “A photo magazine of the happenings and art in Eugene, Oregon (and Lane County).” partly because Anderson didn’t want to confine herself only to the city limits. As the Weekly goes to press, she’s posting issue 9, covering everything from the Mushroom Festival at Mount Pisgah to the Elvis impersonator at Addi’s Diner in Springfield, hitting the local arts scene with the opening of Opus VII and a Peter Herley show as well.
Anderson lays out the photos with no captions and includes a short paragraph (or story) at the bottom of the webpage, leaving the photos clean. The puzzle-piece design leaves borders for the images while connecting them through overlap and color. Though she doesn’t sell a lot of ads yet, Anderson says that she does plan to get more ads to pay for the site. “It’s my pet thing; I don’t have any overhead costs except my time,” she says, but she does devote quite a bit of time to the site. Her daughter says, “You get kinda used to your mom taking pictures every single place you have to go,” and Anderson adds, “It’s like an addiction.”
She uses social media — Facebook, Flickr and Twitter — to keep track of events in town and to advertise when an issue comes out. “I’ve always taken photographs, and I’ve worked with local folks for 20 years doing photo shoots,” she says, and local media outlets weren’t meeting her needs for images.
“To be honest, I started my own magazine because local media doesn’t really show what things look like,” she says.
SeenEugene does that above all else. Issue 9 is newly up at seeneugene.com
Let’s Fly Away
If SeenEugene, MyEugene, Bang! and local zines focus on what’s happening in Eugene, the online-only Airplanista magazine heads the other way. Eugene has a flight school at LCC and a small airport, of course, but Dan Pimentel’s new baby serves readers all over the country (and even the world).
Pimentel, a pilot since 1996, and his wife, Julie Celeste, moved here from California, and he says they love Eugene. They run the Celeste/Daniels Advertising Company, and Pimentel worked as a journalist for a long time. He also ran his Av8rDan blog for about five years, attracting a large readership, and used the name for his Twitter feed. He says being a pilot and flying “is my everything,” and he enjoyed using his blog to share the tight-knit community of general aviation enthusiasts with a wider audience. “We had the common goal of promoting flying to nonflying people,” he says, but of course the world of general aviation (and commercial aviation as well, but that’s not what he writes about) “has been slammed in this economy.”
To keep his creativity going, Pimentel says, he started thinking about moving from the blog format to something slightly different. Sometime in the late summer, he posted to Twitter that he was thinking about an idea for a new online venture, and Airplanista was what came out of that idea.
“I call Airplanista ‘old school journalism meets new media buzz,’” he says. Even though it’s a slickly laid out publication with about 25 percent photography, Pimentel says he believes that “it all starts with content.” He intended to build up the readership for Airplanista slowly, but like so many things online, the idea grew beyond his expectations.
The magazine’s third issue, meant for general aviation pilots and running everything from profiles to feature stories, just dropped, and Pimentel’s already looking for other writers and photographers. The advantage of having an online publication that’s the same size as other trade magazines, he says (and as an advertising executive, he knows), is that advertisers can take their existing ads with the same sizes and resolution and drop them into his magazine as well.
Using Issuu.com just as Bang! does, Pimentel focuses on the online possibilities of publishing. October was the first month that the magazine went live. Pimentel and Celeste had projected about 1,000 readers for the first issue. Instead, Pimentel says, they saw 11,000 unique visitors that first month with upwards of 190,000 page views, and the growth has continued since then. Celeste serves as the advertising manager, and some of their staff help with the magazine as well.
Momentum on a new project can obviously take a dive at some point, but Pimentel says that he spent years blogging about piloting because it’s his passion. “You can be successful if you’re really into it,” he says. With all of the story ideas he has, he says that now, instead of writing a 500-word blog post, he’ll pop out a feature for the magazine. But he and Celeste don’t work alone. He says that others in the general aviation community seem happy to help out the magazine and have their voices heard. That ranges from columnists to photographers, one of whom Pimentel describes as one of the top “air to air” photographers in the world.
By the end of 2011, he and Celeste hope to sell enough ads to pay for their time and perhaps some paid writers and photographers. Meanwhile, he’s going to keep pursuing his passion and take advantage of the opportunities digital media presents. “If it’s Friday, you can’t change something in the Thursday paper,” he says. “I can go in, make corrections, pull an ad and replace it. You can do things with new media you just can’t do in print.”
The newest issue of Airplanista should be up at airplanista.com and you can also find info on Facebook and Twitter.
Living in Exile(d)
Like the Bang! crew, some people prefer print. Local zines range from the established, like Urinal Gum and BoozeWeek (which zines, by the way, just hosted a laser tag combat night at Putters — check both of them out on Facebook) and Sean Äaberg’s many ventures, to the very newest on the block. All mix art and text, some heavier on one than the other.
Speaking of that newest of the new: Take some music and mix it with two artist guys with a bunch of energy and desire to share, input from absolutely anyone who wants to contribute, and what do you get? Exiled in Eugene, a zine put out by Joshua Finch (he of Fatty’s Eugene Mixtape fame) and Richard Owens (that’s right, the music editor at Bang! and an artist and social media maven as well). The second issue’s under way as the Weekly goes to press, with Finch’s mission — “To be an open forum for the local art community” — intact.
As a matter of fact, Owens says, “It’s an open forum for any kind of creativity,” though the black and white publishing aspect of it “limits what looks good” from an artistic standpoint, he adds.
When Finch thought up the zine in the middle of the Museum of Unfine Art, Owens was hanging a show there. They talked, and Finch says Owens thought about mixing a zine with a disc — to tap into the music and art scenes at once.
“There’s so much going on, so much happening, and Eugene just needs a relief valve,” Owens says. In the first issue, an article about food carts in Eugene sits side by side with an interview with The Athiarchists, poetry, a “rant” by perennial Weekly letter-writer Eve Cienfuegos, and a column by Justin Murray called “Ballin’ on a Budget.”
That issue runs to 52 pages, which is a bit more than the guys had planned. “The first issue blew up!” Finch says. The zine sells for $2 at places like the Horsehead (where Finch works as head of security), Thunderbird Market (where it sold out three times in one day just after it came out), olivejuice, Museum of Unfine Art and Albee’s Gyros. Owens also set up an Etsy shop for it at http://wkly.ws/xy and of course, each of them usually has a copy ready for sale.
“Our unofficial motto is, ‘All voices are welcome,’” Finch says. Find Exiled in Eugene on Facebook or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or a chance to be part of the third issue (or advertise in the second issue).