My article “Professionalizing and Profiting: The Rise of Intermediaries in the Social Media Influencer Industry” was published last month in Social Media and Society. This study examines the relationship between travel influencers (e.g., bloggers and social media personalities) and destination marketers within the changing travel and tourism industry. Through in-depth interviews, observations, and document analysis, we explore the tensions between travel influencers and destination marketers that shape the way travel is promoted, labor is compensated, and professional structures are negotiated. We examine a new breed of travel and tourism worker—intermediaries who seek to professionalize and formalize the relationship between influencers and destination marketers while simultaneously solidifying their own role within the industry. Intermediaries promote and facilitate relationships based on structured flexibility—formalized agreements designed to satisfy a brand’s campaign goals yet open enough for influencers to pursue their unique needs. By examining the relationships between digital content creators, destination marketers, and third-party intermediaries, this article provides insight into how digital media industries negotiate the tension between participation and control.
Book reviews have become a good friend during my PhD program. They help decide what books are worth spending the time to read fully, contextualize what conversations the book joins, and usefully summarize some of the key arguments of the books (and often where to find them within the book). The Media Industries Journal recently published my review of Courtney Brannon Donoghue’s Localising Hollywood, a book exploring the practices and strategies of Hollywood’s distribution of films globally. Read the review here.
It’s time for my comprehensive exams in my Ph.D. program, meaning I get to spend the next few months reading non-stop. I’ve decided to share my comprehensive exam lists in the interest of helping anyone looking for resources to understand digital media industries and culture. A.J Christian undertook a similar task in 2010 because he had difficulty finding lists in media industry studies, and things haven’t changed much.
The following lists provide a non-comprehensive account of key issues in each of my five comprehensive exam areas (Digital media studies; global media industry studies; labor, participation, and exploitation; neo-Marxist cultural theory; and qualitative methods. Because each section of my comprehensive exams focuses on a unique area, it would take years to read through everything written on the topics.
I’m excited to announce I’ll be teaching two courses this fall at the University of Iowa—Journalistic Reporting and Writing as well as Multimedia Storytelling. These co-requisite classes work together to teach journalism undergraduate how to tell stories effectively across a variety of media.
Journalistic Reporting and Writing teaches students the fundamentals of journalistic practice, ranging from the ethics of journalism to interviewing skills to writing different styles of news stories (features, investigative, etc.).
Multimedia Storytelling works with Journalistic Reporting and Writing to help students produce stories that expand beyond their writing. Students are expected to produce audio, audiovisual, and photo stories for the class that pair with their written story for Journalistic Reporting and Writing. You can learn more about this class on its website.
Earlier this year, I presented a paper about digital television portals and independent media producers at the regional Big 10 Mini Conference. After receiving some useful feedback from the mini-conference, I re-worked some of the paper and will be discussing at the national FlowTV Roundtables in Austin, TX September 27-29. “The Growing Intersection of the Indie Film Business, Streaming Services, and Television” roundtable will feature brief presentations and a discussion between myself, Kimberly Owczarski, Graig Uhlin, and Katherine Marpe. You can read more about the discussion here.
The conference website will soon feature my full position paper abstract, but here is a general abstract on my position for the roundtable:
Due to the complex nature of funding films and television shows, digital film and television portals like Netflix and Amazon have found that funding and licensing independent media productions provides a simple way to bolster their global library with “original” programming. While the acquisition and licensing of content globally expands the potential reach of many types of media content, portals especially aid independent producers in reaching a transnational audience. Independent media producers have long found difficulty in distributing their content nationally, let alone internationally. Through the funding, production, and distribution of independent films and television shows, portals bolster the potential reach of independent producers globally, a form of symbolic capital. Simultaneously, the commodification of independent productions takes some programming rights away from producers, making portals the main entity profiting from the productions. This Marxian movement separates producers from the products of their labor through portals’ profit on their products.
While the majority of my position broadly discusses changes occurring in the relationship between media companies and independent producers, I specifically focus on Netflix continuing (but offering plurality of choices) traditional relationships with indie producers and Prime Video Direct offering a new form of relationship.
Social media personalities, bloggers, and other influencers have been questioned for their ethics because of fears associated with influencers marketing products without telling their audiences. Joe Sinkwitz has an accessible summary of the concerns around influencers’ lack of disclosure. My research group on influencers within the travel industry sought to explore how these workers understood their ethical obligations to their audiences. Our paper, titled “Ethics of Authenticity: Travel Influencers and the Production of Sponsored Content,” was recently accepted to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication national conference. Mariah Wellman will be presenting the conference in Washington D.C. this August. Continue reading “Conference Presentation: Travel Influencers and Ethics of Authenticity”
I was elected as the Vice President of the University of Iowa’s Graduate Student Senate (GSS) for the 2018-2019 academic year. The Vice President of GSS supports the President and is responsible for the planning and execution of the Jakobsen Conference, a poster presentation-based academic conference for University of Iowa graduate students. The conference encourages interdisciplinary as graduate students from across the university share their ideas in conversation with each other. I’m excited to work with incoming President Kaleigh White to represent University of Iowa graduate students and plan the Jakobsen conference in the upcoming academic year.
In addition to my responsibilities as Vice President, I’ll also pull in my web management skills from my professional background as the webmaster for the Graduate Student Senate.