Dean Walker Wants Expats Posting
[media-credit name="Dean Walker, Expats Post" align="alignleft" width="225"][/media-credit]When a writer leaves a website she or he helped build by contributing countless hours of producing original content through researching, rebutting and recommending, it can be a most confounding situation. It’s terrifying in a sense and there never seems to be a good time to leave a place of comfort. The creator of Expats Post, Dean Walker, has taken charge on an opportunity to carve a new community on the web that embraces writers who have jumped ship from other websites, and he is pushing to set free these written-word denizens of viral dreams. Dean Walker has weathered his fair share of adversity as many online writers have, but he couldn’t be a more giving personality. He’s entertained several of my requests during the time I’ve known him including making an appearance on my podcast and working with me on some of my suggestions.
Development of this citizen journalism site has been an eye opening adventure filled with all the normal pitfalls you’d expect any small business entity might encounter. During this ride, I have also had the opportunity to discuss matters with “Hurricane” Dean Walker as his vision materializes. He works with a website developer name MZ, and has enlisted a clan of writers he met while writing articles for other websites over the years. The idea for Expats Post is resultant of troubling experiences as a writer who has been a part of websites promising the moon but wind up delivering much less. A lot of writers become part of online writing communities with hopes of getting paid, only to face the hard realities, sometimes after donating endless numbers of time and original content, and traffic drive. Citizen journalism is controversial with issues of quality control, “wealth” distribution, and the relationship it has with newspapers delivering the news a constant theme of numerous related articles.
Walker told me (several months before the site’s May 2012 launch), “The contributing Expats will essentially be the editors of the site. They will be the owners of the profit sharing plan. They will then have to manage their interests. That said, their are no less than 14 Expat members and their decisions are ruled by a super-majority. Conflicts are dealt with from within the Expats community. I must stay out of all of this. Although, I hope my opinion will be considered.” There exists endless models of blogging and citizen journalism by so-called experts claiming to be masterminds of the successful algorithm. Walker comes off confident in the approach he takes. “Monetizing a community is something every social networking site essentially does. Just look at your Facebook page and you will see ads. Those ads are beginning to bring Facebook some revenues. We use Adsense and are now charging for links. This is a form of indirectly monetizing a community. We keep our expenses low. And so, we are now at the point where our monthly Adsense revenue is equal to our general operating expenses. We should be breaking even within the next few months. We estimate, by years end, we should be able to begin sharing profits with members and contributors. That is our hope and dream.”
One problem with falling in love with a site like Expats Post, from the writer’s perspective, may exist in the notion that most of the participating writers have suffered loss of faith for finding a site to produce content and trust that feeling of a sense of belonging. Walker says, “The Expats will essentially be the editors of the site and will be the owners of the profit sharing plan as they work out materializing some of the site’s vision. They will then have to manage, in a sense, their collective interests. Though I will stay out of all of this, I would like to think my opinion will be considered!”
Fortunately, Dean Walker has surrounded himself with writers not afraid to express their trepidation through their compliments. On his Expats Radio talk show on Blogtalkradio, Dean takes a different writer for each Friday afternoon program. The June 22nd program featured Rebecca Sassoon who professed that Expats is a “safe place” for this group of writers.
“Hurricane” provided his thoughts on leaving a site where he dedicated countless hours of contribution (research, recommendations, etc…) and how it has motivated his quest for creating Expats Post. “For me (other communities) were simply a means for me to improve my essay and article writing skills. When I began writing online, I had been essentially out of school for more than 20 years and had mostly been writing poetry and the occasional short-story. I joined a site in order to develop my writing, have a platform to post my opinion pieces, and receive feedback. Eventually, I began cross-posting my articles on several other sites.” Like many a citizen journalist, Dean found it doesn’t always make much sense to over-invest in one site if you don’t know what other sites have to offer. “However, staying at one site long-term resulted in me befriending member of the fine community of writers. This is, for the most part, the core group have now moved on and landed here at Expats Post. One essential element to my site is that it is based on maintaining and even supporting a community of writers. Something sites I was previously committed to were no longer able to do.”
When asked for a brief comparative analysis, Dean recognizes a growing legion of citizen journalism sites as potential competitors. “However, since Expats Media has become such a unique experiment, there is really no site that I know of that has been set and designed like us.” Indeed, to set the project’s sites at some of the bigger fish the pressure is on to continue to stay on top of the latest trends in brand awareness and technological upgrades. Dean elaborates, “One major difference between sites that are just ‘citizen journalism’ and blogging sites is that we are a multimedia company with four websites working hand in hand. We have our flagship site, Expats Post, then we have Expats Poetry, Expats Art, and Expats Shop. The shop gives us an extra revenue source which will be shared amongst the owners and members. So, we are not entirely reliant on ad revenue to pay our way. We are selling eBooks, art work, and even tee-shirts and mugs.”
According to the Expats Post’s mission statement, a primary intent of this entity is to “Promote and pay writers and artists working outside the mainstream media.” Walker adds, “If our site isn’t able to pay our writers, well at least we can help steer readers and potential clients/customers to our Members own websites. For example, I know someone who after reading an article on the Post went to TJ’s website and ordered some cupcake pictures for her 13 year old daughter. I also know readers at Expats purchased ebooks from our members. In addition, Katy has been able to gain certain movie review rights with her “founding member” status at Expats. In short, we are working to promote and help our members earn some money in their time at Expats Post.”
“As for Expats Media being a work in progress, I would hope we always considered the business to be just that. As we grow, our competition will change and so will our business model. Grow or die. Who knows, one day, Huffington Post might see Expats Media as their competition. If so, the original Members stand to gain as much as anyone else.” And regardless, citizen journalism will continue to democratize information, in particular, hyperlocal news will continually to draw communities together by the people, who, like “Hurricane” Dean Walker, truly care about the future of spreading good information.
Tags: BlogTalkRadio, business entity, citizen journalism, competition, dean walker, denizens, hurricane dean, journalist, movie review, opinion, pitfalls, progress, quality, quality control, websites