Friday, October 16, 2009
Today I'm 37. (And yes, that was me above.)
This has been my very first "social media" birthday and it has been a fascinating one in that respect. I can't count the number of greetings I've received via Facebook and Twitter and it's hard to believe that I didn't use either a year ago. Now I'm on the brink -- 19 away as I type -- of 1,000 Twitter followers and this:
...has been going on all day. (Updated, per Corey Levitan, 5:48 pm PT). I woke up to the Smith-Friess tradition of playing "Once A Year Day" from the show Pajama Game and this is what our living room looked like this:
Needless to say, breakfast was Milky Ways and Snickers, hidden in those Pooh boxes.
What's interesting is that this past year has been a challenging one because the miserable economy has accelerated the death spiral of the Old Media. I've spent much of the past 12 months relying on old standby clients -- the New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek and others -- while watching them hemorrhage money, cut their freelance rates or budgets or destroy their content and brand altogether. It's only getting worse, regardless of whether the recession is ending.
This Friessmas, though, marks my first post for a major new client whose business model I believe strongly in. You'll be surprised who it is: AOL.
You can stop laughing now. Yes, AOL as an Internet service provider and email service is a joke, old school. I still use it just because I always have, but I laughed out loud the other day when I got this email...
...offering a solution for busy signals when users are online. How 1995, right?
Well, AOL knows that. But they still have about 5 million subscribers and is among the top 5 sources for news on the Internet. That's a tremendous driver that they need to capitalize upon before their base disappears since, as we know, nobody's signing u for new AOL accounts.
What AOL is doing is fascinating. They're becoming, essentially, the online version of Conde Nast. They've got sites on politics, pets, business, pop culture and other topics that, if you go there, you can actually not realize you're on an AOL site. The content is fresh and new and from some of the top journalists who have recently lost or left Old Media jobs. And because a link from AOL drives 200,000-500,000 hits elsewhere, other sites are eager to return the favor and keep that spigot open.
So, in that context, I've been brought on to a news division AOL will brand as Sphere and will provide a certain number of stories every month starting today with my piece on how Mom bloggers are really, REALLY, cashing in.
I'm their guy not just in Vegas but throughout the region for now, and this gives me a tremendous platform to cover stories I've had to leave on the table lately because the major media either didn't care enough to spend money on it or cared so much they handled it from elsewhere. (Hello, Sen. Ensign and CityCenter.)
It's a new beginning, then, which is fitting for the timing. And there are other ventures in the works. I was supposed to start a weekly celeb-interview segment for Las Vegas One last night but it got pushed back because I had to cover the Garth Brooks press conference for AFP. Portfolio Magazine is reconstituting online and wants several business stories from Vegas. And more.
Oh! And right now, my first Las Vegas Weekly cover story is all over town!
I caught up with seven of the student artists who in 1997 as 4th graders created the murals in the D Gate of various cities around the world. They range from a Harvard law student to a recovering drug addict and at now-22 they really reflect the diversity of their generation. I always wondered and thought their fates would make a good Strip Sense column. It ended up being a lot more than that.
And, of course, the Podcast-a-Palooza is tomorrow from 4-6 pm PT at the Palms. So the fun doesn't stop yet. Hope to see all of you there tomorrow, when we can take new goo-goo photos of me (and you!) with Holly Madison! If you can't, drop in via the livestream, which you can find at that link, too.
What a way to start a year! And here, for what it's worth, is what I look like at 37:
OH! And a hearty Happy Birthday as well to Angela Lansbury, Tim McCarver, John Mayer, Suzanne Somers, Kim Kardashian, LeAnn Tinch of the Venetian, Joe Brown of the Sun, Brandon Johnson, Dan Michalski and Meryl Moskowitz! Good tidings to you all!