Some time ago I presented a lecture about the “Role of Online Media in Communications” to the NMMU Honours Class in Public Relations.
The full interview appears below:
Alan Straton, the CEO and founder of MyPR.co.za, the press release website, is an interesting guy.
I had a chat with him in August of 2014 (last year, actually), just about the time I was starting out with Success Mail (this website!).
In this interview we chat about on what success is; how you can achieve it; music; the media and his “10-meter-walk” to the office, everyday.
1. 10-meter-walk to the office, everyday. What is this all about? And is it necessary?
I work from home and walk to the office every day. Sometime this goes to extremes as I am known to work throughout the day in ‘Hugh Hefner’ mode in my pyjamas – without the accompanying scantily clad ladies, though.
I would say that is not seen as a necessity (I could JOG!) but the walk is just a way of highlighting how lucky I am to be able to do something that I love and have fun.
Many people ask me; “How did you get it right to make money at something you really love and have fun with?”
2. In your lecture at the NMMU “The Role of Online Media in Communications”, you share an experience of hackers hacking into one of your sites. How prevalent is hacking? And how does it affect online publishers, and, ultimately, what’s the cure?
There will always be people trying to break in to your site – this is a fact of life. Guys constantly run bots that try to break past security for Content Management Systems, Social Media Accounts and Servers.
Just as in daily life one takes security precautions such as locking doors etc. so too do you need to take online precautions around passwords and the environment that you host.
I have been fortunate in being sponsored a managed dedicated server from a local outfit – www.serv.co.za – and collaborate closely with them in keeping our security up to date and tight.
Of course, if one is targeted by a determined miscreant then eventually he/she will get in or inflict damage.
On a server level, I get failed login attempts to the admin section of my server on an hourly basis.
On a web site level the attempts are as much per site.
One just needs to make sure that your backup system is in place, offsite and incremental.
Plus it is comforting to have a daily, weekly and monthly backup available for those times when you need them.
The cure would be to have everyone in the world acknowledge and respect everyone else. I hope and pray for that day.
3. Let’s talk about money. How do you make your money? And why that way, when you can make it any other way?
I use three basic methods: Google AdSense, Affiliate Marketing and Direct Sales.
Google Adsense: AdSense automatically place text and banner ads on my sites and I get paid a combination of a fluctuating rate per thousand impressions and per click on each ad.
Affiliate Marketing: I place mainly local adverts and text links on my sites in support of the subject matter in articles, when people click through and buy that product (mainly accommodation in my case) then I get a percentage of the sale (from 12 – 75%).
Direct Sales: People place direct ads on my sites in the form of banners or premium listings in the directory – I separate editorial and advertising and have a dedicated advertising department with no influence over content.
Advertisers can deal direct with that department or place adverts seamlessly online. This is the best method of monetising your content but takes the longest to get a buy in from prospective clients.
I feel most comfortable making money this way as I believe strongly that all my advertisers (even the free ones) get the best return on investment. i.e. I sleep well at night knowing that my clients are happy.
4. How much do you make, say, monthly?
After more than 10 years online enough to be happy and pick and choose clients that I want to deal with.
5. As an online publisher, collecting worthwhile content must be a job in itself. How do you do it?
Connections and proven value are very important. Naive people will only want to know how many visitors a web site receives.
Savvy people will want to know how many people subscribe to content (emails), the profile of people visiting the site and whether the site delivers to their niche or not.
I self generate content (when you can do so it really helps), I receive media releases from people within the specific news categories that I serve, I have forms allowing people to submit content, I have free classified ads, I run free business directories, I have an events site and I have a specific web site to collect content for my own use and generously share that with other publishers free of charge – www.MyPR.co.za – the key is to get people to submit their content themselves and then demonstrate to them that they will get mileage out of it. The content generates pages views which, in turn, generate ad views and revenue.
6. Loosely, what would you say is the role of online media in communications?
Could I say VITAL? Access to online media is cheap, targeted and can be tailored to a specific audience. Knowing how to find that audience is key.
7. And when we are talking about online media, what are we talking about, really?
I have a specific mantra – when you want to communicate online whatever you want to communicate MUST be published on your own web site first. And only then distributed to partners, publishers and social media.
8. Talking about online media, what types of media are more important than others, and which are not?
Your own web site is the most important – social media is the ‘classified ads’ of our modern world. Where social media haven’t really got it right is in the segmentation of interest groups. At the end of the day if you are relying only on social media for your communication then you’re like the sharecroppers of old – the landlord owned the ground, you did all the work and only got to keep a small percentage of your crops.
9. Why do you think Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter and the like got right; and other online media practitioners didn’t?
There is one way to encourage the masses to follow you: have deep pockets and give everything away (excellent service / solve a problem / excellent advice or content) for free until you reach critical mass that ensures you can make pots of money out of your captive audience.
10. Let’s talk about MyPR – when did it all start, and what were your goals when you started, and have you achieved those goals?
My goals with MyPR were simple: I was reaching a stage where the number of sites I have in my niche of community news were struggling for content. Finding rights free content and making the connections was my stumbling block.
All I did was create a site that would allow PR Practitioners to submit their press releases and images along with links to supporting information so that publishers/editors could develop a story from that on their publication.
I also wanted fellow publishers to be able to use those press releases as well. So, the short answer is Yes.
11. Would you advise South African businesses to invest in submitting press releases to MyPR, or any other press release website in the country?
12. What types of companies benefit most from submitting press releases? And which don’t? Also give us your reasons.
Any company / person / association can only benefit from a well crafted press release. I think the crux of the matter is contained in MyPR’s explanation on the submission page –http://mypr.co.za/submit/ – which says under our guidelines: “The press releases that gain the most attention adhere to the above guidelines, are entertaining and are NOT pure sales pitches.”
13. Let’s talk a bit about you. What kind of music do you listen to, and your favourite books?
At the moment the most played genres are: Ska, Dubstep, Reggae Dub, Hip-Hop, Blues, Jazz, Reggae, New Wave, Rock, Industrial and Classical.
When I need to blow off steam, I put Rammstein on and the animals scatter along with my children who think I am weird.
When I am concentrating – Youssou N’Dour, van Morrison.
I have an abiding love affair with books and will often have three going at once (a bed, an ablution and a lounging book).
I tend towards biographies and historical tomes around my web site niches – city based community web sites – so historical books about local cities.
14. Favourite song?
Wonderful tonight by Eric Clapton as it is special to both my wife (who appears as the Longhair in my writing) and I.
15. Gadget you can’t live without – and one the world can totally do without?
Internet and the internet.
Access to the internet has become vital BUT on the other hand I always have this sickening feeling that we are missing out by not being able (or don’t deem it necessary) to sit down with each other and really get to know each other as human beings.
16. To success now. What would your advice be today when somebody sends you an email and, say for example, “I want to start my own media company. Please advise. How can I go about it?”
Other than Good Luck?
No, seriously, it all revolves around the money and format – print, online, radio, TV.
I can only speak from an online perspective and say that the barriers to entry are pretty low when it comes to money but pretty high when it comes to time and slavish dedication to your purpose.
Do not think that you can be all things to all people – that is the path to ruin, rather choose a niche that you love and care about, set out to have fun and grow slowly.
Online is actually about one on one communication. You have to market, market and market. In the early online days it was easy to get to the first page of organic results in the search engines, these days you have your work cut out for you as more and more players enter the market.
The considerations are myriad and cannot all be covered here.
Succinctly? Put service to your intended audience first, have fun, don’t get anxious and don’t listen to anyone who has never experienced what you are going through. And having deep pockets may help.
17. Finish this: To be successful...
You have to be dogged, determined, prepared to learn from your failure, have fun and communicate that to all you deal with. Be trustworthy, give back and know when to call it quits (on clients and projects alike).
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Article source: http://mype.co.za/new/my-interview-with-lungile/49715/2015/05