Sunday, October 28, 2007

"One Week Job" On CNN: A Success For Original, Independent Online Media

One of the most interesting things about trying to make it as a travel writer has been learning about how the Internet is transforming the media industry in general, and travel writing in particular.

This is a story about how I met 3 Canadian guys who are building careers by tapping into the potential of the World Wide Web, and how creative individuals and online entrepreneurs can run circles around stodgy, corporate media.


The night before I tried to ride my bike across Eastern Canada, I hung out in Montreal with - Kyle, Ian and Sean - 3 Canadian guys who have launched an all-out assault on the gates of celebrity.

We ate in Kyle's apartment in Montreal's Plateau district. Kyle's last name is MacDonald, but he's also known as "That Guy Who Traded A Paper-Clip For A House".

I saw Kyle appear on a high-pitched Japanese variety show when I was living in Hokkaido. He made it through that show and eventually succeeded in leveraging the publicity from his One Red Paperclip project into a house - a house in rural Saskatchewan, but a house nonetheless.

I went to Kyle's place without knowing he was a "That Guy". I was there to meet Ian MacKenzie, founder of Brave New Traveler, the online travel and lifestyle magazine I'm editing. When Kyle answered the door, I thought something about him seemed eerily familiar, and when I saw a stack of "One Red Paperclip" paperbacks on the bookshelf, everything came together.

"You're That Guy!" I said.

"Yeah," Kyle answered somewhat ambivalently. "I'm that guy."

It was an interesting dinner conversation, because all the guys in the room were trying, in one or another, to establish themselves as Internet celebrities.

Ian, my partner at Brave New Traveler, has already fired one ambitious shot at the big media fortress: He once launched a Don Quixote style grassroots campaign to get himself on Survivor, an American reality TV program that didn't have any Canadian contestants.

In addition to BNT, Ian is working with his friend Sean, an affable dude (somehow clean-cut despite his long, blond dreadlocks). Sean and Ian are in the midst of creating an independent reality TV show called "One Week Job". The show follows Sean as he works 52 Jobs in 52 Weeks, with each new episode posted online. Before and after dinner in Kyle's apartment, he was firing messages back and forth with "Jay Leno's people."

I don't think Sean ended up working a week at the Leno studios (or landing that particular morsel of publicity), but his project was just written up in the Wall Street Journal, and featured on CNN.

Will Sean get enough publicity for a house, like Kyle? Or will he find a job so satisfying that he can end his "Odyssey" and settle into a career?

Will Brave New Traveler magazine become an online media heavy-weight?

I don't know - but I can tell you this: "One Week Job" is an intelligent, entertaining, timely and ad-free program.

I also know that Ian and I publish much better travel tips and articles than those "travel" magazines that try to sell you Cruise Packages and Hummers.

If you haven't visited BNT yet, come on by.

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