Melissa Hoyer’s news.com.au gig, where she is ‘Entertainment Editor at Large’, comes with the sort of heady tagline that creates SEO dreams and leaves her very few free nights in the week: ‘VIP with Melissa Hoyer, the inside word on the world of pop culture, style and celebrity’
“Let’s face it,” Melissa asks rhetorically, one hot, humid Friday afternoon, having just filed pieces for her news.com.au deadline, “which one of us hasn’t got a blog?”
Monetarising that blog – getting advertisers involved, uploading stories, sourcing content – that’s an entirely different thing: “I’m just not in the headspace at the moment to make ‘me’ into an industry, a brand that employs others. I’m a single mum, and I work very hard providing the news and commentary I do for news.com, doing my TV stuff with Channel 7 and radio, and I’m happy.”
A self-confessed one-man show, she enjoys the roles she’s forged for herself since cutting loose from her longtime employer News Ltd five years ago and the world of print journalism she inhabited then.
Compared to many others in the media, especially those of the print variety, Melissa’s experience with online and the impact it can have on jobs is very positive. Instead of the shrieks about the death of journalism, job loss and untold hardship, this one-time tabloid newspaper style and social commentator is spoilt for choice: should she step out and create herself as an industry, or, continue freelancing, building audience and awareness using any number of media platforms?
Melissa Hoyer began her career as a junior in the public relations department of Grace Bros: “It was before they were even called Myers and they had this full service in-house advertising/PR department where you learned copy writing, styling shoots, layout.”
Eventually, she became the Publicity Manager, dealing with fashion and style editors across the media landscape. She could also see the rise of outsourcing. Why would a fashion and homeware retailer, a department store, continue to have its own in-house advertising department.
Working with the fashion editor of the Daily Mirror (a now defunct News Ltd afternoon paper), Melissa was asked by the editor to step in to the job while she was away for six months. The six months passed and she stayed on, eventually working on The Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph as the newspaper industry morphed and consolidated reacting to changes brought about by technology, business and audience needs over the years.
There’s no doubt in Melissa’s mind, online is another of those seismic changes bringing about further media reaction and consolidation but the skills of news gathering, writing, communicating remain all important to feed the ‘hungry beast’.
“Social media has changed the job. The increased pace of the news cycle; the pace at which media has to supply news and information to its audiences, it’s so fast now. Social media supplies information, stories, commentary, links to other sites constantly and almost instantaneously and to keep up you have to be on it,” says Melissa, sounding almost breathless as she contemplates the changing media landscape.
Certainly, the era of eager cadets, seasoned journalists and reporters out there collecting news, meeting daily deadlines, and printing a paper that reaches its audience 24 hours later, is no longer. News now is like radio on steroids. Couple that with a virtual world population feeding us information, and the size and scale of staying in touch is as limitless as the connected population and as instantaneous as turning on the power.
“When I left newspapers it was just before the social media boom. There were blogs and online sites and Twitter and Facebook but it hadn’t kicked into the newsrooms yet. Breaking away gave me the breathing space to look at what was happening in the social media space and how it could be applied to media and to what I do in the media. I was also outside the white noise. Like any industry, you can be kept bound to traditional methods, just because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done, so why change’,” explains Melissa of the eventual outcomes of her freelance move.
Having established audience awareness and an industry profile over the years at News Ltd, Melissa quickly realised the importance of leveraging that awareness and profile on the new platform of social media to bring along and develop her audience.
“Stepping out on my own was a risk but the industry supported me. A year or so ago, news.com offered me the Editor at Large position because they could see how much information there was and the pace at which I was able to get it out.
“It was nice to be approached by my old employer and why wouldn’t you use such a big platform to put out what you’ve uncovered,” points out Melissa, going on to explain how quickly the medium also lets you know who’s reading your story and what works and what doesn’t.
“I agree,” says Melissa, “the online platforms, social media, especially, can allow too much commentary and not enough of the straight reporting of news, the facts. It’s why I think it will become important to set up credible aggregators as sources for people, so they can choose where they want to get their information.
“People edit who they’re following and where they go for information, and that’s done at the discretion of the user. I take stock of those people I’m following and I will edit if it’s no longer giving me what I need and I’m sure that happens with me,” she admits, without rancor.
Online bullying hasn’t been an issue for Melissa, although she has experienced some rather unsavory incidents on Twitter. Her tactic is to starve them of the oxygen they need to survive.
“Ignore the bully and don’t retweet,” she counsels.