As part of our new Content Curator series, we present to you part two of our interview with Mike Payne of TheCoolist. (Read Part I here.) For those who like to be on the cutting-edge of trends or for bloggers who are interested in learning about how others have found success, we hope that you'll find these interviews valuable.
TheCoolist is a web magazine built on a community of active readers and writers who submit the content featured on TheCoolist.com. TheCoolist features news about design, gadgets, the environment, entertainment, architecture and men's fashion.
What's a typical day for you like?
In the morning, I'll spend an hour or two reading hundreds of blogs. I don't do RSS, I visit each blog itself because I like to feel the fabric of each publication. I'll grab content ideas that I feel are special and save them for later, when I write. I'll then spend some time finding new ideas that the web hasn't covered yet, items that are far from saturation. I'll then work on both groups of ideas to develop a day's content. Some days, I'll spend two hours and come up with nothing to cover– specifically because I will not reach just to find something to talk about. The content drives me, not the other way around. I'll then spend the rest of my day working on prospective advertisers, on feature content, on new publications and working with freelancers who are involved in the network I operate.
Based on what you've seen become popular or most viral, what trends do you see happening?
Individually, trends like projection mapping are about to hit critical mass. I wrote a feature about projection mapping a few months ago and have seen the coverage of that art form explode since then. I see app stores going beyond the mobile device market and hitting the automobile market as well. I think urban gardening is still in its infancy. I like to think about which cars produced today will become the lusty classics of tomorrow (I've got a feature on this forthcoming, actually). I'd like to think that prefab homes, rescued pets, flex fuel cars and tech-enhanced clothing are the things of the future, but I'm afraid they aren't catching on the way they should. I just covered a list of 2010's best architecture on TheCoolist, and was thrilled to note that much of the works involved were deeply focused on sustainable practices. I think that trend isn't going to fade at any point in the near future.
What's been your biggest achievement so far?
Cracking your first million pageviews in a month is solid, but an achievement that is quickly dwarfed by continued growth. Your first month of five-figure ad revenue is also completely exciting, and you certainly hope it'll be dwarfed in the future as well! But I'd have to say my favorite achievements have little to do with numbers, traffic or money, and more about the amazing things you learn in this job. I know more about architecture, about the environment, about fashion, about design and more than I did before the 18 months that TheCoolist has been running. The learning is what feels so great– I am just so lucky to be able to study these amazing aspects of human creation and earn a living doing it. My greatest achievements on TheCoolist are usually those that involve learning or exploring new things that I wouldn't have been able to explore otherwise.
What's been your toughest challenge?
Getting started was quite rough. It was a trial-by-fire situation, where I left my last job before TheCoolist was ready to cover its own bills let alone mine. I'm fortunate that things grew as quickly as they did, but the first year was not easy in terms of a social lifestyle.
Where are you taking TheCoolist from here?
TheCoolist is pregnant. It's about to give birth to a few children that will focus more specifically on channels that TheCoolist covers. I've worked to arrange some really special writers whose work I love to read and that will be helping me create the voice of these new websites. I'll have more and interesting news about this in the future, but for now know that fans of TheCoolist will find a greater depth of focus on their favorite topics on their own dedicated channels. I'm pumped!
Who do you see as today's online trendsetters or influencers?
I think Jean Aw at NotCot is a driving force in the coverage of cool in which I also operate. I have taken a lot of inspiration from her in the development of TheCoolist, and shared that appreciation often, and publicly, on TheCoolist. I think you and the people at MyModernMet have done amazing things taking the socially-driven curation of cool and made it accessible to many. I think David Basulto and the crew at ArchDaily/PlataformaArquitectura have re-invented the way people learn about and experience architecture online.
I feel that, most of all, the people at Tumblr and WordPress are driving the next generation of publications and discussions about the trends of tomorrow. Without their work, there would be so many voices without access to a public readership. I'm grateful for what they've done for me, and that so many people can instantly share a voice about something we may not know about otherwise. I spend my days trying to find more of them to add to my inspiration that allows me to attempt to create something special under my own channel, TheCoolist.com.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us, Mike. I'm sure others will be inspired by your story.
Remember to bookmark for TheCoolist, everyone!