OWAA Session — Sponsored Blogs and Innovative Web Opportunities

The following notes were taken from a craft improvement session of the Outdoor Writers Assn of America (annual conference) on the topic of Sponsored Blogs and Innovative Web Opportunities — presented by Kim Kavin, past president of Boating Writers International (www.bwi.org).

  • www.boatermouth.com and www.charterwave.com are her two websites.
  • If you learn just a little about producing websites you look like a genius to many people.
  • CharterWave became the world’s largest repository of yacht charter content articles.
  • Sponsored blogs are listed on her website (either hosted on her website or the sponsor’s own site).
  • Kim also offers her services as a ghost blogger (writing a blog for someone else).
  • Be smart with URLs (everyone should try to own your own name)
  • www.google.com/trends
  • www.google.com/insights/search
  • Use these two sites to help determine your URL names.
  • Learn some tech basics
  • Follow these Twitter geeks: @LanceUlanoff, @pkafka, @mashable, @NiemanLab
  • Biggest mistake she made…not thinking big enough.  Be fearless.

 ©2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Becoming An Outdoors Communicator (Part Two) — OWAA Conference

Continued from part one…

Bill Powell (OWAA legal counsel)

  • (Practices law in Columbus, MO.)
  • (Freelance writer)
  • Choice of a business entity.  Be yourself.  Be professional and accurate.
  • Copyright — the right to profit from any creative work.
  • Generally the person who creates the work is the owner of the right to copy that work and benefit financially.
  • If the person who creates something is an employee, then the employer likely owns the copyright to the work. (Work for hire doctrine)
  • There must be a prior, written agreement if this is not the case.
  • Independent contractors are not employees, but do work similar to an employee with some restrictions.
  • As an IC, the presumption is the IC is the owner.   A free-lancer is an IC.
  • If a free-lancer signs a contract (work for hire) then they likely give up their copyright ownership.
  • Registration of copyright is always encouraged.
  • If you do one job and then do freelance work on the side — be able to prove you keep all things separate.
  • After March 1, 1989…it is no longer necessary to include the copyright notice.   But do so anyway.
  • Defamation and slander is two legal areas of trouble for the communicator.   Make sure what you say is clearly identified as opinion if you this could be a problem.
  • Privacy — the law does protect the privacy of certain information.   Know the rules.
  • The presenter keeps referencing a book he wrote entitled: “Legal Handbook For Freelancers” by Bill Powell.
  • Anything you send out electronic is not private.
  • Contracts. The law does not always require a written agreement to be an enforceable contract.
  • Be wary of language speaking of “all rights” or “works for hire.”
  • If asked to sign a contract, don’t be afraid to modify that contract before agreeing to it.

Michael Furtman (talking on book publishing)

  • 1980s were the heyday of outdoor book publishing.
  • In about the year 2000, this changed.  First to go were the large coffee table books.  If people wanted to learn about a subject they turned to these sort of books…then the Internet made things much more available.
  • Book companies began being run by bean counters instead of editors.   Publishing companies became a very traded commodity.
  • Coffee table books are expensive and risky to produce.
  • Guide books tend to sell better.   People will pay for information to read about where they plan to vacation or travel to.
  • Book sales are still good for the presenter, but he points out there is a downward trend.
  • Guidebooks are cheap to produce…usually just a few bucks.
  • People are reading and writing more than ever…just that much of it is being done on the computer.
  • Books can still make money.  You need to be aggressive in your marketing to publishers.
  • Plus, publishers need to be aggressive in marketing your finished work.
  • Publishers will sometimes pay you an “advance” against future royalties.
  • Work for hire projects are a one-time sale of your work (no future royalties)
  • Self-publishing.  Can be very lucrative, but can also be highly risky.
  • Pick titles for your books that will stay on the shelves for decades.
  • Right now the market is in flux…so much dependent on the Internet.
  • Figure out how you as a book writer can tap into the opportunities.

Jody Stemler (communications consultant)

  • Be a generalist…but have the expertise by doing your homework when necessary.
  • It’s not always what you know, but often it’s who you know.   Call on the right people.
  • The beauty of being a consultant or writer, you can choose to live anywhere.
  • Certain states require a business license if you work out of your house.
  • Taxes—pay those estimated taxes.
  • Retirement and benefits is all on your own.
  • Working from home is great…but you have to be a self-starter to succeed.
  • Build relationships to gain clients.  Let people know what you are doing.
  • Fill a niche.  Offer something that other people need.
  • As a consultant, know the objectives of your clients.
  • You have to be detail oriented knowing what you want to accomplish.
  • Meet your deadlines.   Establish a project outline.
  • Be available, but know that there are times when you are not at work (especially when working from home).
  • As a consultant, if you do a good job people are going to hear about it.   If you do a bad job, even MORE people are going to hear about it.
  • If you do a good job the work will flow.

Chris Hunt (Trout Unlimited, non-profit communicating)

  • www.eatmorebrooktrout.com (presenter’s personal website)
  • Earned media — getting the word out without spending lots of money.
  • TU is reaching out to the blogosphere more than they are to print these days.
  • Non-profit outreach is rewarding because you can see it working.
  • It can be challenging to get on the radar to share your goals to the media.
  • The press generally looks to non-profits as “the good guys.”
  • The key is to identify the people who can be most helpful to you.
  • Learn how to “use” the media, in a good way.
  • Control your message and be consistent.  The message needs to correlate with the work the group is doing.
  • Be a real person…the media looks for that credibility.
  • Take the media outdoors and show them what you are trying to do.

Steve Lightfoot (state agency communicating)

  • Works for the Texas Game, Fish and Parks.
  • Considers his work a liaison with the general public.
  • Working for an agency is not a bad thing…most still have money.
  • The traditional communicators are the Public Information officer.
  • Many state agencies have their own magazines or publications.   Many will accept freelance work.
  • Free-lancers can create a niche (such as radio programming) for a department.
  • Agencies are now looking to social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)
  • When state agencies have cutbacks, this is usually to their full-time staff.   These cuts create opportunities for free-lancers.
  • Approach the agency with the concept of providing contract work.   It can be lucrative.
  • Remember, government has fiscal years.   Sometimes at the end of the year there is money that needs to be used.   Be there for them to spend it on you.
  • Build relationships with the people who make decisions.
  • Be willing to do something different.   This will get you noticed quicker.
  • Government work can get dull…too many forms, procedures, etc.   You also have to rely on politicians at times.
  • Have to be able to think quick on your feet…be flexible.

Robin Giner (OWAA Executive Director)

  • 1927 OWAA was born.
  • This is the 83rd annual writer conference.
  • About 1,000 individual members with about 300 supporting (corporate) members.

 ©2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Becoming An Outdoors Communicator (Part One) — OWAA Conference

The following blog post is notes taken from an Outdoor Writers Association of America conference geared toward beginning outdoor communicators.   The content is provided from the perspective of a number of outdoor speakers (as credited below).   If you want to become an outdoor communicator, hopefully some of these tips will help you.

Mark Freeman (Medford Mailtribune, newspaper columnist)

  • Newspapers are becoming very multi-media (adding video content, etc.)
  • Full-time newspaper writers are going away replaced largely by free-lancers.   This creates opportunity for newcomers.
  • At your local paper, find out who the people are.   Ask them how they might need assistance (hunting/fishing reports, etc.)
  • Consider writing little filler stories…newspapers love them.
  • Get good at the fillers, and soon you might be doing full feature stories.
  • The goal is to get your foot in the door.   Look for the non-conventional ways.
  • Be prepared, not all of these gigs are very lucrative.
  • You need a positive attitude and perseverance to succeed.
  • Get your name out there as a writer and things will happen.

Jack Bauer (photographer)

  • Millions of images purchased annually for books, magazines, calendars, greeting cards, organization publications and even the fine art markets.
  • Lots of room for new people to break in.
  • Develop an attitude as a professional.   This breaks you apart from those who carry around point and shoot cameras.
  • Be brutally critical of your own work.   Don’t shoot for average.   Remember, you’re only as good as your worst image.
  • Composition, lighting and subject matter are important.
  • Get a professional already in the field to critique your work.
  • Approaching buyers — query/letter for article photos.   Try to create a need for your photos.
  • Most magazine editors will submit a photo want list — get a hold of that list.   You might have to submit a portfolio first to prove to that editor you are worthy of getting the chance.
  • Photos with a strong regional or local theme tend to sell better.
  • Other opportunities include making personal contact with buyers, having a web presence, being in professional publications, and simply “finding the source.”
  • In terms of making an editorial submission — mail a CD, Email to the editor, upload the file to an ftp site.
  • Initial contributions should be low-res images that open easy.
  • What is a publication quality image?   It needs to be 11” x 14” at 300 dpi for a two page spread.
  • Don’t over process photos before you submit them.   Most photo purchasers want to do their own processing — color processing, etc.
  • Don’t send too many images.
  • Make sure you only send images that match the request.
  • Photo editors are extremely busy people — don’t waste their time with things they don’t want to see.
  • Expect to be paid upon publication of the photo…not when the photo is accepted.
  • Being a photographer today requires computer skills for editing and submitting.
  • A photographer must be organized cataloging the images, as well as tracking the submissions.
  • You have to market your work.   Even good photographs will not sell themselves.
  • Some photographers are specialists — becoming known for a specific subject matter (fly-fishing) or technique (macro photographer).
  • Most photographers, however, are generalists in their work.
  • Marketable images — scenics, wildlife, people, geography/landmarks, macro-flora, etc.
  • Know the market, study the publications.
  • Capture both traditional and unique perspectives.
  • Shoot with an eye to the future.  Anticipate seasonal needs/requests.   Most publications will think about a year ahead.
  • Attitudes matter — be patient, persistent, proud and optimistic.

Risa Weinreb-Wyatt (travel writer)

  • According to USA Today, travel writing is one of the top 3 dream jobs to be found.
  • What are the outlets for travel writing?  Broadcast (radio and TV), newspapers, magazines, guide books, foreign markets, blogs, iPhone apps.
  • Types of travel writing: Travel trade, business travel, Consumers.
  • So, how do you break in?   Remember, your backyard can be someone else’s dream vacation.
  • Pitch the story to editors in distant locations.
  • If you do travel, you can pitch a story to your local outlets.
  • Get experience — you might even have to start out by offering your work for little or no money.
  • Try to become an expert.   It’s better to be an economist who writes rather than a writer who talks about economics.
  • Join OWAA and other organizations for networking.
  • Tell the people what they need to know.   Where to go, where to stay, what to expect, etc.
  • Read others’ stories and determine what you like/dislike.
  • Go to the website www.mediabistro.com for assistance.
  • Find new markets.   Go to Barnes and Nobles to see what people are writing.   What are their demographics.
  • Look at the advertising that publications are running.   For example, publications running lots of ads for a certain destination will likely run stories for these places, too.
  • Where can you break in?  That is the goal.
  • Keep in mind, it is very competitive in this field.
  • Media outlets are in crisis which creates fewer opportunities for the writer.
  • Travel writing is very professionally rewarding.  The presenter explains how she even had an opportunity to eat bat on one experience.

Tim Holschlag (angling book author, free-lancer)

  • You need to know the publication to get it right.   Read the publication so you know what you are doing.
  • Follow the writer guidelines…they have them for a purpose.
  • Find out who the person is to contact.   Personalize it…don’t just send something to “the editor.”
  • Be forceful, but not pushy to be a pest.   You need to follow up if you don’t hear something.
  • Persistence is an important factor to make it.
  • When you make your pitch, explain how you can offer some new information or insight on a topic.
  • Explain your expertise.
  • Narrow your focus to what you are good at before you try to offer too much.
  • Strive to be a good wordsmith.
  • Don’t take shortcuts on your research.
  • Be a good interviewer, but also be a good interviewee.
  • The goal is to earn the trust of the editors first, and then ultimately the readers.
  • Be a good business person — don’t give your work away.   This is particularly true if publications are late or no pay.

Rick Jordan (radio personality)

  • You have to find a sponsor…this is key.
  • Get to know somebody at the radio station.   Stations need talent.
  • Buy the program manager, sales manager or GM a cup of coffee and pick their brain.
  • Expect to start slow.   Polish your craft by gaining experience.
  • Use the local angle.
  • Sometimes it pays to be a BSer.
  • The outdoors can be a lucrative time-slot for stations in garnering advertising.  Remind the stations of that fact.
  • Bring the station ideas for sales contacts.
  • Once the listeners become familiar with you…then you know you’ve made it.
  • Make yourself valuable to the station.

Dan Small (television)

  • Started in the biz about 26 years ago.
  • Probably would not happen this way now, but Dan was asked to come in and interview for hosting a TV show when he had no previous experience.
  • Many opportunities exist today on hundreds of channels.
  • Do something local (3 to 5 minute drop ins for local news).
  • Dan does the 1/2 hour magazine format (including hunting, fishing and general outdoors).
  • In contrast, many shows are now niche market (all turkey hunting, etc.)
  • Theme shows (like Tiffany and Lee Lakosky)
  • Sponsor driven shows (Ducks Unlimited, Beretta, etc.)
  • Broadcast TV differs because it takes a lot of money.
  • Dan’s parting thoughts…don’t go into TV.   It’s too expensive (he’s being sarcastic).

 ©2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.