Monday, 26 October 2015

(SATIRE) As traditional online media founders, pop-up blogging goes viral

For eight years the celebrity gossip and news website - Quisling - angled its cameras up the skirts of female celebrities disembarking from limousines, and plied the grubby corners of the internet for the sex tapes of the rich and famous, or their convincing pornalikes.

Former editor, Marc Ritter, recalls the afternoon when he returned to Quisling's SoHo, NY, offices to find burly men repossessing computer equipment and furniture, and instinctively knew that the era of the online media conglomerate was over:

A sea change was taking place in front of me. I was literally watching a paradigm being dismantled piece-by-piece before my eyes. When one of the departing repo-men handed me a form to sign, I told him how humbled I was to have been given a front row seat at such a pivotal moment in the history of mass-media communications.”

In the aftermath, while panicked Quisling creditors attempted to establish the whereabouts of their investment, and redundant staff resigned themselves to the prospect of a grim future, where even an 8oz steamed soy latte, with extra wheatgrass essence, might lie beyond their financial means, Ritter was able to observe the situation with a cool detachment:

As a clickbait media website we lost our way when we tied ourselves down to a premises, beanbag chairs and ping-pong tables. Online celebrity journalism needed to get back to its seamy origins and that meant a return to the gutter.”

Since July, Ritter has run Hoblo - one of a growing number of online editorials at the vanguard of an edgy new trend in pop-up blogging.

It feels right and it feels now,” he tells me when we meet, appropriately enough, at a pop-up restaurant in up-and-coming Washington Heights, NY, where a dressed down hipster clientèle await the ladling of a nondescript opaque brown soup into waxed paper cups.

As we shuffle along the queue, he tells me more about his role in the rise of the street blog:

The location of Hoblo changes on a daily, or sometimes even hourly basis, depending on environmental factors, which is what makes it so exciting. I could be blogging from a branch of McDonalds, a shop doorway, or a park bench. The only limits are the proximity of free wi-fi and the battery life on my iPod.”

A freedom from the constraints of office life has given Ritter the opportunity to reconnect with the city that gave birth to Quisling in the carefree summer of 2008:

Last week I was sitting in Central Park watching as some fallen leaves caught by the breeze chased after a young female jogger. It really brought home to me something I think Laurie Penny said about 90% of all vegetation on the earth being constructs of the patriarchy.

Unfortunately my electronics were dead so I wrote my article on a piece of cardboard and paraded around Times Square offering to read it to people for a small sum.”

Ritter was later arrested by the police and his article confiscated.

There are still certain topics in this country that people aren't comfortable discussing. You can tell when you've hit a nerve,” he says conspiratorially, wiping a glistening brown smear of congealing soup from his week-old moustache with the back of his gloved hand.

Hoblo, he tells me, is a leaner product than Quisling. A conscious attempt has been made to bring down overheads:

I told my former interns at Quisling not to worry. There are other companies out there where someone with a grossly-inflated sense of their own importance will shout at you for getting their coffee order slightly wrong. And the good news is that they'll pay you exactly the same amount as we did.”

In addition to downsizing staff costs, Hoblo, has also significantly reduced expenditure on premises and I.T:

Ask me where my company servers are. I don't know. I've delegated that part of the operation to LiveJournal and Instagram. I log-on to their sites with my user details and post my content. They take care of the rest.”

As the business model for online media content delivery changes, so too have its sources of revenue:

Previously our company was heavily reliant on sponsors and income derived from advertising. In hindsight this approach put barriers between ourselves and our readers. Now my subscribers are able to pay me directly for content by simply depositing a few coins in the paper cup that I keep with me.”

Attempts at opening new revenue streams have met with mixed results: In the past month Ritter has been arrested twice – on one occasion for trash theft and, on another, for stealing a pair of cashmere fingerless gloves from an upmarket boutique:

I was allowed to keep them,” he boasts, proudly holding up his hands for my inspection. The gloves are already showing signs of considerable wear.

More recently Ritter was cautioned by police after he was observed peering in through the ground floor window of a Brooklyn residence.

Explaining his most recent run in with the law he tells me:

I am methodically checking all residences in the New York area until I locate the dwelling of one Mr Hulk Hogan. Journalism is all about leg work and I've got two of them.”

It is late evening when Ritter and I finally part company on West 13th Street, in the heart of Manhattan's meatpacking district. Darkness has fallen and the cold is already beginning to bite. I slip him a few dollars to pay for the content I have accessed on Hoblo and advise him to find somewhere warm to stay the night. He thanks me graciously.

As I turn around and head for the bright lights of Lexington Avenue I hear him call out behind me:

I'll be alright. I just need... You know that Rebecca kicked me out..."

Mercifully, at this point, I round the corner and am suddenly beyond the range of his broken monologue.

As Malvin Wald once concluded “There are eight million stories in the naked city.” Most of them concern the amusing activities of cats, but some are sob stories.

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