Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist, Social Media, Uncategorized

Best of DJTF Blog: Kiratiana’s Mini Kickstarter Guide

Editor’s note: We are taking this week off to enjoy the holidays with our families.  So this week, we’ll be re-running past posts.  Today’s post is from DJTF co-chair Kiratiana Freelon, who explains how kickstarter campaigns can bring one’s dream project into reality.  It originally ran on Nov. 15, 2012.  Also, join the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force for a virtual conference “New Year, New You,” on Saturday, Jan. 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. In four hour-long sessions, attendees will learn mobile journalism tips and tricks, how to create an online portfolio, steps needed to create your journalism brand and taking your resume to the next level.  You can take 1, 2, 3, or all 4 webinars, and they will be recorded in case you can’t make it. Click here for more information.


When it came time to publish my second travel guide, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Multicultural London, I didn’t have enough money to do the research, and pay an editor, designer and proofreader. So how was I going to fund this project? Thanks to new crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo a lack of money can never prevent a dream project from coming to fruition.

I decided to use Kickstarter to help me fund my dream of publishing a Multicultural London e-book.

Kickstarter or IndieGoGo?

Having funded more than 10 Kickstarter projects, I always knew that I wanted to use the Kickstarter platform. When I was researching other platforms around May of 2011, IndieGoGo appeared to be the lesser platform, the one that people used when they didn’t to get accepted to Kickstarter. It was for people who were too scared to do the ALL or NOTHING model. But I have come to respect IndieGoGo in recent months.

To use Kickstarter, you have to propose a PROJECT, which pretty much eliminates non-profits and trips. With Indiegogo, there is no specific type of campaign you must have to raise money. Anything goes. Indiegogo also allows you to raise funds and keep some of the funds if you do not reach your goal. Another plus for Indiegogo – it’s open to international people. As of now, Kickstarter is only open to the United Kingdom. Now I think the platforms are equal to each other and Indiegogo might have even passed Kickstarter as the most respected platform.

How Much?

Your decision on how much money to raise will be the most important decision of your campaign. Obviously, everything starts with the question of how much your project needs. But if your documentary or book needs $50,000 to complete, will you go for that?

Kickstarter says the average pledge is $70. That means for $50,000 you would need 714 pledges. A documentary that I’m working on, Fast Dreams needs this amount to be completed. Unfortunately the director, Harry Davis, is not a super networker (no Facebook or Twitter) and with me having tapped my own network for Kickstarter, our ability to raise $50,000 is limited.  To fundraise for a campaign so large, we would have to make it go viral. When I thought about my own Kickstarter, I knew that there were about 80 people out there willing to support me.

When calculating money, also think about the fees (5% on Amazon Payments and 5% on Kickstarter) and the few people whose credit cards will not go through. So the $6,000 just became $5,500 after all the fees.

How long?

Kickstarter recommends that you do 30 days or less to keep the momentum going through a campaign. I chose 35 days just to give myself a little leeway. If you look at the chart below, I did not really do anything for the first five days. It finally took a friend to push me to start campaigning the day before memorial day weekend. If you have the supporters and really push your campaign I don’t think it will matter how long your campaign is (30-60 days). But do you REALLY want to be doing a Kickstarter campaign for TWO MONTHS?! No.

The campaign went nowhere when I didn’t do anything for the first five days.

The Video & Description & Prizes

I spent more than 20 hours creating the video, description and prizes. For $6,000 everything had to look GREAT. When Kickstarter first began, many of the projects only had pictures. These days all successful projects have a video that describes their project. When you are creating your video, make sure that it can have a use after the Kickstarter project. With a little tinkering, I may be able to use my video as a trailer for my new book.

Creating prizes that were worth their value was very important to me. I had no intention of using Kickstarter for people to GIVE me money. I would offer them something of value you return.

$10 got you the book.

$25 got you the book and Black Paris Guide

$45 got you the book, Black Paris Guide AND PDF.  Okay I’ll admit that one was priced slightly more than it should have been priced.

Do you see a pattern?

Having a spread like this gives someone, no matter what their financial situation, the opportunity to pledge to your campaign. A young person out of college can pledge $10 and your mother can pledge $500.

The Strategy

 I had a relatively simple strategy to jumpstart and sustain my campaign.

1)   Call my relatives and closest friends to personally ask for pledges.

2)   Develop an email campaign for my friends, family and acquaintances.

3)   Reach out to travel bloggers for support in the campaigns with blogs.

4)   FACEBOOK and TWEET it to DEATH.

The last one is what would really put me over the edge. In hindsight, I really wish I had focused on number 3 more. When I posted something about the campaign on the Racialicious blog, it started to go viral.

Facebook versus Twitter

Before I began my campaign I knew that I wanted to use twitter and Facebook to promote it. I also wanted to see if I could leverage my twitter following (about 3,500 at the time) to support the campaign. So I did the following:

1)   Encouraged celebrities to retweet the information about my campaign. While I am sure that this generated more awareness for the I could not find any connection between these tweets and pledges.

2)   Changed my twitter bio to reflect the twitter campaign. (Insert screen shot).  I was surprised by the impact of this relatively simple action. I received at least a dozen tweets from people who didn’t follow me telling me how cool the project was. Yes, twitter bios are extremely important.

3)   Near the end of the campaign, I DM’d my best followers to they could tweet out the message below. Once again, I did not see a direct connection between any tweets and pledges but I am confident that twitter helped to increase the awareness of the campaign.

Now your use of twitter could also depend on the type of project you are proposing. Nick Disabato publishes a quarterly magazine about design and technology and he’s raised more than $25,000 on Kickstarter. According to my twitter chat below with him, most of his campaign promotion is split between an email campaign and a twitter campaign.

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The Facebook Campaign

My Kickstarter campaign did not jumpstart until I launched it on Facebook. Obviously the easiest thing you can do is post it on your wall. Just doing that will not work. If you follow the steps below, I will guarantee you that your Facebook friends will start to pledge.

1)   Create an event for your Kickstarter campaign. When you create an event, make the duration of the event, the duration of the campaign. Then INVITE everyone from your friend list to the campaign. Once you finish inviting them, then start posting into the Facebook group about your Kickstarter. I found that when ever I posted or sent a message to this event, people ALWAYS started to donate.

2)   Send a Facebook message to 200 of your Facebook friends (Believe me people will be mad at you.

3)   Post your Kickstarter project on your Facebook page and tag about 15 of your closest friends. This will help it to go viral and friends will start posting the project on their pages.

4)   Tag anyone when they pledge to your campaign. When someone pledges to your campaign, give them props by tagging them in a Facebook Thank you post.

5) If I were launching a Kickstarter campaign today, I would use Facebook promoted posts to launch and sustain my campaign. Remember, people won’t give the first time they see the campaign. But after several viewings, they will probably do it.

The Email Campaign

Another important part of your campaign will be email. You MUST have an email campaign in which you send out multiple emails. I used Mailchimp to develop a nice looking email campaign.

1)   Send your email to your closest friends and acquaintances.  I sent an email to about 350 people. I sent the email twice to this list, but looking back I think I could have sent out one more email.

The Blogger Outreach and PR Campaign

This is something that I really wish I invested more time and energy into. I reached out to a few bloggers to blog about my campaign and they did as you can see here, and here. I think that their blog posts helped to raise awareness of the campaign but I can’t determine if it led to pledges. But with your fundraiser, you need awareness because on average, a person will not take action until they have seen something seven times.

It wasn’t until I did a guest post for Racialicious that I saw how reaching someone’s audience could help my campaign. It was only until then that I really saw my kickstarter go viral. I started to see new people that I didn’t know before pledge to the campaign.

The Final Product

After four months of researching, writing and fundraising for the book, I finally published it last week. Thank you to all of my Kickstarter funders, many of whom belong to the NABJ for helping me reach my 2012 dream.

Multicultural London

After five months of hard work (with the Olympic and Paralympic Games thrown in there), I finally published my book, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Multicultural London

Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist, Webinar

UPDATED – Creating Multimedia Stories With Meograph – The Recording

By Benét J. Wilson, chair, NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force & social media/eNewsletters editor, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

Editor’s note: the Digital Journalism Task Force is working on programming that will take us right to the annual convention. To that end, we’d appreciate it if you could take this quick 5-question survey to let us know what you want. Thanks!!

UPDATE, 4/25, 11:15 A.M. Due to technical difficulties, we are unable to upload the recording of this webinar.  The problem has been fixed, and we shouldn’t have any issues with future webinars.  We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you’ll join us for free programming in the future.

On Tuesday, we did a webinar with Misha Leybovitch, the founder and CEO of Meograph, a four-dimensional multimedia storytelling tool. The tool helps journalists combine video, audio, pictures, text, links, maps and timelines that can be embedded on websites or shared via social media. Leybovitch  demonstrated how easy it is for journalists to take their stories to the next level using Meograph.

UPDATE – please look at these links to Meographs created by different news organizations.


Posted in Education, Entrepreneur, Innovation, journalism

Digital Journalism Task Force Holds #DJTFCHAT on Entrepreneurial Journalism

By Ameena Rasheed, NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force Intern

DJTF Secretary Kiratiana Freelon held a DJTFCHAT last night on  The HOW, WHAT, WHY and WHEN of Journalism Entrepreneurship.

Her guests were:

Click here to see the Storify of the event.

Posted in Education, Entrepreneur, multimedia journalist

Why I Donated To The For Journalism Kickstarter — And Why You Should Too!

By Benét J. Wilson, chair, NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force & social media/enewsletters editor, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

Back at the beginning of 2013, the International Journalists’ Network website did a post entitled “Three skills journalists should learn in 2013.”  I’m not sure if they did this on purpose, but number one on the list is coding.  IJE says we need to learn to code in order to “spruce up a blog or to conceptualize remarkable projects.”

So when my friend and fellow Online News Association board member, USC professor Robert Hernandez, told me about a new Kickstarter to fund the For Journalism: Data Journalism For All project, created to teach journalists how to code different languages, I was hooked.

I believe in helping to fund good journalism projects, and For Journalism is the third Kickstarter I’ve supported.  The first was a project to help DJTF Secretary Kiratiana Freelon’s “Kiratiana’s Travel Guide To Multicultural London,” which helped fund her travel to cover the Summer Olympics and write her book.  You can read Kiratiana’s blog post about doing a Kickstarter program here.  The second was to keep Laura Amico’s DC Homicide Watch blog alive after she won a Nieman Fellowship.

Every dollar counts with the For Journalism Kickstarter, which ends on March 11.   Donations range from a low of $5 to a high of $10,000.  I donated $45, which will allow me to take Michelle Minkoff’s charting and visualization course.  So I encourage you to throw some dollars to this worthy project. Depending on how you donate, not only do you help a worthy project, but you can even take the courses!

Posted in Conferences & Conventions

Storified!! #NABJ12PREP Chat Part II – Ask ANY Question

By Benét J. Wilson, NABJ Program Chair, NABJ DJTF chair & freelance aviation/travel journalist and blogger

We did it again, thanks to popular demand.  This time, we let YOU ask the questions about the upcoming NABJ Annual Convention & Career Fair, and we had a great group of folks generous enough to give you the answers.  Click here for a Storify of the Twitter Chat.  And BIG ups to DJTF Secretary Kiratiana Freelon for producing this second chat!!

See you in New Orleans!!

Posted in Conferences & Conventions

Digital Journalism Task Force Twitter Chat: “How to Prepare for the NABJ Convention”

By Benét J. Wilson, NABJ Program Chair, NABJ DJTF chair & freelance aviation/travel journalist and blogge

On May 21, we had a lively discussion on what to do to prepare for this year’s NABJ Annual Convention and Career Fair, coming up on June 20.  Click HERE to see the full discussion on Storify.  Thanks much to DJTF Secretary Kiratiana Freelon for creating and running our Twitter Chat.

And you can keep up with all the action on my NABJ 2012 convention Tumblr.  And a gentle reminder — pre-registration has been extended to May 25, so you have yet another chance to get a $380 rate, HERE.  It will jump to $550 on May 26, so take advantage of this extension.  And I’ll see you in New Orleans!!

Posted in Conferences & Conventions

NABJ Twitter Chat “How to Prepare for the NABJ Conference” – Monday, May 21 8pm EST–9pm EST

You’ve bought your registration, booked a flight and hotel and are well on your way to the 2012 NABJ Conference in New Orleans. But that’s just the beginning.

The last thing you want to do is show up at the conference without goals or without a plan. And you definitely need one.

The question that should be running in your head right now is “How do I prepare for the NABJ Conference?”

On May 21, from 8pm EST to 9pm EST, the NABJ Digital Journalist Task Force will help you answer that question.

The NABJ Digital Journalists Taskforce is hosting a twitter chat on Monday, May 21 from 8pm EST to 9pm EST on the topic, How to Prepare for the NABJ Conference.

A Twitter chat (or tweet chat) is an online discussion using twitter, so every post is a tweet. Because it’s on Twitter, its open to everyone with a Twitter account. Anyone can participate, or just listen in to learn more about the topic.

Under the hashtag #nabj12prep, the @NABJDigital twitter handle will tweet out nine questions that our “panelists” will answer in 140 characters.  To insure a successful twitter chat full of information, we have invited several panelists who are “experts” in the NABJ conference and can speak on their experience in 140 characters.

Bob Butler @bobbutler7– Bob Butler is a reporter at KCBS radio and Vice President of the Broadcast. He always offers advice to first time NABJ Conference attendees and is a tireless advocate of getting more minorities into broadcast.

Kelley Carter @kelleylcarter – Kelley Carter is a longtime NABJ Conference attendee, having first attended the NABJ conference as college student. She now serves as the President of the Entertainment taskforce and can often be seen on television talking about entertainment.

Dr. Sybril Bennett @drsyb – Sybril Bennett, Ph.D. is an associate professor of journalism and the Executive Director of the New Century Journalism program at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Last year she served as the program chair for the NABJ Philadelphia conference.

 Serbino Sandifer-Walker @sswalker – As a multimedia journalism professor at Texas Southern University, Sandifer-Walker has developed new social media tools for journalists, including the #twitternewschat, and the social media correspondents daily.

Ingrid Sturgis @isturgis– Ingrid Sturgis is an assistant professor of new media in the Howard University  Journalism department. She recently published the book, Are Traditional Media Dead? Can Journalism Survive in the Digital World?

Marissa A. Evans @marissaaevans – Marissa Evans is president of the Marquette University student NABJ Chapter. She’s an alum of the San Diego Union Tribune, Star Tribune, New York Student Journalism program and this year will be a Chips Quinn Scholar for The Washington Post metro desk.

In addition to these esteemed NABJ members, we’ll also have DJTF board members Melanie Eversley (@melanieeversley), Benet Wilson (@avqueenbenet and 2012 NABJ Conference Program Chair), Kiratiana Freelon (@kiratiana), Andrew Humphrey (@andrewhumphrey), and Tracie Powell (@tmpowell) on the chat as well.

To participate in the twitter chat, do the following:

1)    Use a twitter platform like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck that will allow you to manage multiple twitter streams.

2)    Create a twitter search stream for #nabj12prep.

3)    Create another twitter stream for the @NABJDigital  stream.  This is where all the questions will come from.

4)    Answer the questions, retweet and reply to the panelists (or anything you find that is good) but ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use the hashtag – #NABJ12prep

Happy Twitter Chatting!!

Posted in Entrepreneur, Social Media

Interview with Ananda Leeke of The Digital Sisterhood Project

By Kiratiana Freelon, DJTF, Author, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris 
The digital footprint of Ananda Leeke touches everything—video, talkshows, blogs, twitter chats—and she touches everything with a purpose. She doesn’t use these tools just to promote herself. She uses them to help people and to create strong digital communities. In the last year, she has launched multiple online projects related to The Digital Sisterhood Network, and the Feminism Online Network. She also uses her influence to help non-profit organizations in Washington, D.C. and abroad.  In the interview below, Ananda, a woman with six titles, talks about how she manages to do everything and what she’s doing the rest of the year.

ND: What do you do?

AL: I like to call myself woman with six titles. It has been a challenge to wrap my head around everything I do – author, artist, coach, yoga teacher and innerpreneur (someone who has the will to do what is within himself and treats it as a business).

As a yoga teacher, I practice and I teach it online and offline. As a coach, I am a creativity coach. I work with entrepreneurs and creative professionals in helping them develop what is the game plan in what they want to do with their business. In that coaching process a lot of my clients have not developed a liking for social media. I also help them incorporate social media tools that will help them.

ND: What do you consider your biggest success digitally?

AL: Right now The Digital Sisterhood Network is my biggest success. It is coming from a place deeper than me. This is not about me and my promotion of a novel or book. This is about “Digital Sisterhood.” Digital Sisterhood is the feminine currency women use to create relationship wealth through the connections they make, conversations they have, communities they build, causes they support, collaborative partnerships they establish, and commerce they engage in with women they meet online and offline.

This is morphing into a digital movement. This thing called digital sisterhood is now a movement of self-care, self-discovery and social justice for women in social media.

The Digital Sisterhood Network includes ten projects and initiatives that serve women in social media. See below:

1) Digital Sisterhood Wednesdays give women in social media a weekly opportunity to build and strengthen their communities. Each week women are encouraged to celebrate and promote their digital sisters by using the #FF (Friday Follow) format. They are also encouraged to tweet about their digital sisters’ businesses, wisdom, creativity, blogs, Facebook pages, causes, videos, and web sites. In addition, monthly tweetchats are held.

2) Digital Sisterhood Monthly Tweetchats give women in social media an opportunity to chat about issues, interests, and causes they support.

3) Digital Sisterhood Month, an annual month-long celebration held in December, gives women in social media an opportunity to celebrate their connections, conversations, communities, collaborative partnerships, and commerce.

4) Digital Sisterhood Network is a web site that houses Digital Sisterhood’s projects and initiatives.

5) Digital Sisterhood Blogger-in-Residence Program serves a woman living with health opportunities (transformed the word challenges into opportunities) in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.The Blogger-in-Residence for 2011-2012 is lifestyle bloggerKamaria T. Richmond.

6) Digital Sisterhood Radio features interviews with women in social media and people who self-identify as feminists and womanists. The Stroke Diva Fabulous Show hosted by Blogger-in-Residence Kamaria T. Richmond also airs on Digital Sisterhood Radio.

7) Digital Sisterhood Legacy Campaign invites women in social media and technology to help one woman or girl in their life or community who needs assistance in understanding, accessing, and using social media, the Internet, and/or technology.   By sharing what they know, women in social media and technology will create an individual and collective digital sisterhood legacy that increases the number of social media, Internet, and technology savvy women and girls.

8) Digital Sisterhood Unplugged! is a self-care initiative that encourages women in social media to step away from their technology and social media tools and unplug for an hour, half-day, full day, weekend, week, month or longer so they can take a break and recharge themselves. This year the Digital Sisterhood Network is observing Digital Sisterhood Unplugged Sundays on the third Sunday of each month beginning in April.

9) Feminism Online Project celebrates the rainbow chorus of feminist voices in the digital world through the Digital Sisterhood Network web site, Talkshoe radio show, Twitter page, and Tweetchats.  Through these efforts, a diverse group of feminist voices are profiled and a range of feminist issues are discussed.  The Project runs from March to May.

10) Digital Sisterhood@DC She Writers Meet Up is a community building initiative that sponsors quarterly meet ups for Washington, DC area women writers at Teaism (Penn Quarter location), a woman-owned cafe. is an online community for women writers with more than 35 She Writers Meet Up communities in the USA and beyond.

ND: So tell us about thethe Blogger in Residence program. Why did you start this?

AL: Since March, Kamaria Richmond has used her Cinchcast audio blog, Twitter account, and Facebook page to share her lifestyleblogging adventures.

I was inspired by Kamaria Richmond’s desire to learn about social media and the many conversations we had about her health challenges.  I developed the program to serve Kamaria.

Kamaria has also hosted her Stroke Diva Fabulous show on Digital Sisterhood Radio each month.  Her next show airs on May 1 from 7:30 pm ET to 8:15 pm ET. These social media tools are helping her explore whatever is on her mind. She was a former buyer at Nordstrom and in 2004 she had a stroke. She had to learn how to read, write, walk and talk.  Click on the link to learn more about Kamaria:

Her web sites are below.

Talkshoe radio show:

ND: Social justice is also a very important part of your mission. What organizations do you support and how do you support them?

AL: As the Heart of Haiti blogger ambassador, I traveled with a team of bloggers to Port-au-Prince, Haiti in February.  During that trip, we visited KOFAVIV, an organization that supports women and girls who have been victims of violence.  I am currently exploring ways to support KOFAVIV later this year. Click on the link to read about my visit to KOFAVIV:

Prior to my Haiti trip, I made a financial commitment to support FONKOZE, the largest microfinance organization that helps women in Haiti.  So far they have served more than 45,000 borrowers. I set up a Crowdrise fundraising page. Later this year I will actively seek funding for this organization.

ND: And you do yoga to help support this?

AL: When I do the online yoga, I am asking them to donate to FONKOZE. I don’t charge anything for the live streaming show so I am asking them to support my Crowdrise page.

The other organization I decided to support is The WOMEN’s COLLECTIVE, staffed by women living with HIV/AIDS. I have been connected with them since 2002. I also set up a Crowdrise page for the agency and will actively seek funding for this organization later this year.

ND: You also focus on Feminism. Tell us about it.

In March, I launched a project called The Feminism Online Projectwhich celebrates the rainbow chorus of feminist voices in the digital world through the Digital Sisterhood Network web site, radio show, Twitter page, and Tweetchats.  These efforts will take place through May.  Through these efforts, a diverse group of feminist voices are profiled and a range of feminist issues are discussed.  They will be included as research for my book Digital Sisterhood, a memoir (December 2011).

ND: Two years ago, when I first joined twitter and other digital platforms, I noticed that you were everywhere! How do you decide when you want to tackle a new digital platform?

AL: I LOVE the Internet. I loved it when I logged on for the first time in 1995. I am fascinated by the tools that have come out I try them out. I try to find things that are easy for me. The audio and video are easy for me.

ND: How do you manage all of it?

I try to find things that are easy to use. So with the Kickstarter fundraiser, I decided to try it. That was something I saw other people using. They are big risk takers. You just try it once. If it doesn’t work, then you keep moving.

ND: Were you ever afraid of any the tools you are using now?

AL: I was afraid of the smart phone. I just got a smart phone in 2009. I was afraid of the touch screen with the iPhone because I like to type and feel things. But I got an iPad for Christmas. I am really starting to enjoy that touch piece of it. I don’t tweet out in public because I am afraid I am going to miss what is happening. I am a live blogger if I can do an audio blog. I want to focus. I still don’t know how to use to get the photos from my phone on to the web. I’m still kind of old school because I don’t use all of my phone the way that I should.

ND: If there a person who was afraid of trying new things like video blogging or audio blogging, what one piece of advice you would give them?

AL: Pick one tool and use it. If they have a great voice, try audio blogging. A lot of people do NOT read. Most journalists that I have met have great voices. Many of them are great on video. Again, people don’t read. They could also host an Ustream TV show. They can have a conversation online. If you take photos, it’s just a live version of you. When they do that, they can add a link to their article. People want to know who you are. That makes a big difference.

ND: The NABJ Community would love to support you. What can we do?

AL: 1)  They can tweet #DigitalSisterhood every Wednesday. Every Wednesday, we tweet our favorite digital sister and/or organizations that correspond to campaigns, causes, and national events. That follows the FOLLOW Friday format. #digitalsisterhood

2)   They can participate in the upcoming tweetchats by checking the event schedule for May, June or later this summer:

3)   They can listen to the digital sisterhood radio show. Click on the link:

4)   If they have digital sisterhood stories, click on the link to share them:


Posted in Conferences & Conventions, Education, journalism, Social Media

SXSW Panel: 100% Viable, 1% Visible – Minority New Media Entrepreneurs, By Kiratiana Freelon

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

Back on Feb. 18, I did a profile of travel blogger Kiratiana Freelon.  Tomorrow is the first day of the annual South By Southwest Interactive conference, and Freelon is one of a handful of minority presenters at this year’s event.

The interactive part of SXSW has quickly become THE place to come to hear the latest in digital/social/new and multimedia.  A virtual who’s who from influential companies and media organizations are at SXSW, participating on panels, offering exhibits and hosting evening functions. Below we chat about her SXSW presentation.  I also have links below that will help attendees navigate SXSW.

NABJDigital: you have a panel at SXSW: 100% Viable, 1% Visible – Minority New Media Entrepreneurs.  Why did you feel it was important to present this topic?

Kiratiana Freelon: for the past year and a half, I have been heavily involved in this digital and new media world. That means I’ve been going to interactive conferences, blogging conferences, and development conferences and just creating stuff on my own. I’m so enamored with people who create new digital applications and technologies, but when I go to even slightly more techie conferences, the number of minorities dramatically dips.

Yes we can blog. We tweet our behinds off. But why aren’t we creating more new media companies? Is it because young people don’t even THINK to develop something in the digital space?

But I always wonder: why aren’t there more black or Latino new media entrepreneurs? So I want to use this panel to call attention to this issue (as already has) and have a call to action. What social media has taught me is that big things happen when you can get a lot of people together for a cause. Getting more minorities to be entrepreneurs is a cause that I think will move a lot of people.

Why can’t I create a photo sharing application? Why can’t I create a new way to look at a travel guide on your phone? I may not have the developer chops but I have the creativity, passion and will. That’s why I’m turning my book, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris, into a mobile application. Mark my word, it will be available by July 14, 2011 of THIS YEAR.

ND: Who will appear on the panel with you?

KF: That’s a really good question. Even though I applied for the presentation to be a panel, I am actually giving a Future15 talk, which is a 12.5 minute presentation. I will be one of four Future15 presenters that will talk about diversity. That basically means my stuff has to be TIGHT. It also puts a lot more pressure on me as well.

ND: SXSW has been called out in past years for not having enough diversity.  How do you think they’re doing in trying to bring more diversity to the conference?

KF: Well I definitely think it was good to include my panel in the mix! From my experience of only a year, I think they are doing a good job. I know that this year, they are having affinity meetups and one includes a black technology meetup. There are other many other panels that are being led by people of color as well. I think the representation of minority panels is good this year because we all just took control of our destiny and knew that they best way to get into the conference is lead a panel.

But I STILL think black people and NABJ people in particular need to do a better job at attending conferences like these and pitching panels. There should be at least 50 people who belong to NABJ at the SXSW Interactive. There should be NABJ people leading panels.  It shouldn’t just be black bloggers and tech heads.  If done ahead of time, you can do SXSW with $1,000. It’s not cheap but you have to look at it like an investment.

ND: If a person of color asks you why they should attend SXSW, what would you tell them?

KF: It will change your life. Last year, I was unemployed and I had just returned from the Vancouver Olympic Games when I realized that I needed and wanted to go to SXSW Interactive. I paid more than $2,000 of my own money to attend the conference and it was worth every penny. That $2,000 did the following for me:

1) Allowed me to interact with the leaders of social media and got me up to speed on who the big dogs were.

2) When I left SXSW, I had a good idea of what were going to be the “hot” interactive technologies for the next year (location-based social media, cause social media (a la Pepsi refresh).

3) Allowed me to personally interact with people of color who are leaders in the field. When I arrived at SXSW last year, I was nobody. After going to a couple of panels that featured people of color, I was able to connect with leaders like blogger Gina McCauley (What About Our Daughters) and comedian/techie Baratunde.

4) Soon after attending SXSW, I really started to follow social media and digital media more closely. I knew what publications to read. I knew what people to follow.

This year I am going to have more of a targeted approach and focus on entrepreneurship and mobile technologies.

SXSW Interactive Links

Posted in multimedia journalist, Social Media

NABJDigital Profiles Travel Blogger Kiratiana Freelon, Part 1

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

Kiratiana Freelon is a travel blogger who is carving out her own path with her writing.  I “met” her via Twitter, where there’s a very active community of black travel bloggers and tweeters.


Kiratiana Freelon

Right before graduating from Harvard in 2002, Freelon landed a $20,000 fellowship around the world. She decided to create a series of travel guides to destinations in the African Diaspora—destinations like West Africa, Paris, London, Brazil, and the Caribbean. She took the $20,000 trip around the world in 2002 and 2003.


On April 6, 2010, Freelon received the first physical copy of her first travel guidebook: Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris. In conjunction with the book, she decided to start a travel blog: Kiratiana Travels: Let a Black Girl Show You the World. Her goal? To inspire people to travel and live abroad.  She is also the editor of, American Airlines’ website that offers travel insights from an African-American perspective.  Freelon spoke to NABJDigital on how she got started and advice for those who want to do the same.

NABJDigital: What is your journalism/writing background?

Kiratiana Freelon: I’ve been writing since forever, but the only “real” journalism job I had was for 1.5 years at a local community newspaper in Chicago, the Hyde Park Herald.  Coming out of high school, I just knew I was going to be a broadcast journalist. I had completed the Northwestern Journalism High School Institute and I was headed to Harvard for college. There, I wrote for the Harvard Crimson and wrote and edited a book called The Black Guide to Life at Harvard.

ND: How did you begin blogging?

KF: I first heard of this idea of blogging in 2002 when I was graduating from college. I only knew of one person who had a blog. So when I moved to Paris, I KNEW that I wanted to share my experiences with people by blogging. Back in the day when I traveled around the world, I would just do email updates. So I started a blog called Black Girl in Paris, which I updated while I was living in Paris from 2005 to 2006.

ND: How did you come up with the Black Girl In Paris blog?

KF: Well there was already a book called Black Girl in Paris. The title just FIT me. I was literally a Black Girl in Paris and I was there to discover the black culture of Paris.

ND: How did you end up writing the Black Atlas blog for American Airlines?

KF: The opportunity became open at the perfect time for me. I had just published my book, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris. I was also establishing myself through social media by tweeting, blogging and attending conferences like SXSW and Blogging While Brown. When the position opened as editor, I had the right background for the job and a friend thought it would be a perfect fit. It’s an interesting position in which I get to write, interact with bloggers and manage social media.

ND: What advice would you give to others who might want to begin blogging?

KF: The first advice is to decide what you want to blog about. If you have passion for a subject material, then start stalking ALL the blogs on that specific subject. When I knew I wanted to be a travel blogger, I started reading TONS of travel blogs. Look to see how they are designed and what types of widgets they have.

This is going to come off as rather snobbish but DO NOT use Blogspot to begin blogging. Yes, Blogspot is an easy platform to just start blogging, but it usually doesn’t project a professional image. It’s pretty easy to find a nice clean WordPress blogging theme. Check out for some great online tutorials on installing WordPress yourself.

Additionally, blogging is all about community. Find the people in your niche and SUPPORT them and they will start supporting you. It can be as simple as retweeting them, or profiling them.