Natasha Younge: Taking Hollywood to the Shorty Awards

Last year Natasha Younge’s The Younge Hollywood Blast was the first Paper.li ever to be nominated for the equivalent of the “Twitter Oscars”: a Shorty Award. (Not familiar with the Shorty Awards? They are, in short, an awards event that honors the top short-form content creators on Twitter.) 

The Younge Hollywood Blast blew past print giants like TVGuideMagazine, Billboard and Entertainment Weekly to secure a place in the global top 10 as Best Magazine in Social Media in the news and media category.

This year her Paper.li has been nominated again for the 2013 Shorty Awards. But instead of sitting alongside traditional print magazines under the established “Brand” category, Natasha and her community are breaking away and spearheading their own category that better represents pure digital publications…

Last year was a huge success for you and “The Younge Hollywood Blast” at the Shorty Awards. Tell us what the past 12 months have looked like?

It’s been an exciting year for both myself and the publication.  I started a Facebook community around the paper to provide a “hub” to help me organize the submissions.  The group has grown steadily and has become a place where people can share their news.  It’s also become an environment where business-to-business referrals happen – vendors have mentioned that they are gaining more Facebook traffic after engaging with the community.  This makes me very excited, and is exactly what I intended!

As for me, I have taken more control over my acting career and this past year has  been part of that transition.  I created a new web series online that follows my weekly journey as an aspiring professional actress and comedienne called “N.Yo Updates” on YouTube.  In fact, season two is starting later this month!

But through my consistent self-promotion, I have gained increasing exposure to the industry people I most want to meet and work with: independent film makers, directors, and writers.  I have even started to receive interview offers for acting work, which is directly linked to my consistent work on my digital publication and my self-made publicity through my Vlog.

In addition to my Vlog, I spent six months filming material for my new theatrical (dramatic) acting reel. I shot a complete scene, like a short film, each month at my acting studio, The New Collective.  Over the summer, I took a class in Stand Up Comedy and gave my first performance at The Ice House in Pasadena last August!  Stand Up Comedy is an outrageously scary, but fun outlet for me, and it’s definitely becoming a new tool in my bag of tricks as an entertainer.  I’ve set some exciting goals around that for the year ahead! Stay tuned!

Your Fan-base has nominated your paper for the category digital media for this year’s awards. Why the change from Digital Magazine to Digital Media?

Although it was an honor to be recognized in an established category and place so well as an unknown publication, #magazine encompasses printed magazines mainly.   There are digital publications in that category, but I don’t feel that it fits the direction “The Younge Hollywood Blast” is headed.  We will never be a print publication.  We exist entirely in the digital medium.

This year, we are expanding our reach into internet radio with our continued collaborative partnership with an established production team, Chillin Broadcasting ( who is also nominated for the Shorty’s this year as well! ).  They produce a weekly segment containing articles from the Blast that airs on ITMI Radio and on YouTube! So we are truly becoming a MEDIA entity, not just a magazine.

That said, I am happy to say that we introduced this new category this year with the hope that more organizations will join us. I believe it is important to recognize this category within the Shorty Awards. There is a growing industry of Digital Media organizations who should be recognized by the larger community.

How did last year’s nomination and publicity help get the word out around emerging talent?

Well, I’m not sure that it spread the word about emerging talent as yet, but it certainly helped more emerging talent find us!  They have slowly started arriving at the community and are using the space in the way which I intended.  This is not “the news.”  This is their space, and I want them to feel welcome. Through their support, the brand has started to take hold.  “The Younge Hollywood Blast” is just a banner that I hope with even more publicity will be associated with top-notch emerging talent, because there is a ton out there just seeking an outlet and a platform for exposure.

What changes have you seen in digital media in the past 12 months to support your profession and professionals?

I have observed that more actors have taken to the internet air waves via podcasts on sites like BlogTalkRadio.  Increasing numbers of actors are finding the power in creating their own Vlogs on YouTube to help their fan base gain a more personal connection with them.  Also, they are not waiting to get an interview with The New York Times anymore.  They are reaching out to smaller independent digital media publishers to get themselves, and their projects noticed.  And like me, even creating media outlets like “The Younge Hollywood Blast” to raise visibility for themselves, and others!

Natasha Younge - headshot 2012There is definitely a slight power shift taking place between established media organizations and those independent media sources who have been developing a stronger digital footprint.  As some printed magazines and newspapers are scaling back and shutting down their presses to seek ways to expand in the digital realm, they are finding that a switch may not be as simple as putting a brand page up on Facebook. Everything that gets spread via social media is based on trust and connection.  They have been so unattainable and out-of-reach for so long, that they will need to change their entire approach in order to compete with seemingly much smaller and less traditionally established media sources.  An interesting, and I suppose humbling realization – but very exciting times for independent media.

You have a built an incredibly active community across multiple platforms. Explain a bit about how you are using Facebook and Paper.li to build digital bridges for actors and actresses around the world.

Our Facebook community plays a vital role to the running of this publication.  We have a team of on-going contributors, a monthly featured contributor, and the members themselves, who submit their news and under the banner of “The Younge Hollywood Blast” to get seen and noticed.  The overall goal is raise visibility for the new, unknown, and “emerging” artists.  Emerging might mean they’ve been practicing their craft, but have yet to garner any media publicity for themselves as yet.

Becoming a member of the community is as easy as liking the page on Facebook.  After that, members may post anything they wish to promote once per week.  In this way, every one gets a chance to be seen and heard by the community.  Despite the name “newspaper” to start, I always envisioned that this Blast is more like an arena for new talent to take charge of promoting themselves.  By engaging in that process more directly (creating their own press releases, blog articles, etc.), they are shifting into the driver’s seat, no longer waiting for attention from larger media outlets to feel validated in their respective professions.  We can provide that for ourselves with powerful tools like Paper.li.

Although, the majority currently use the space for self-promotion, some individuals find articles of interest and share them with the community as well!  Using a weekly schedule of topics, I then Buffer them into the weekly social media feeds.

Of course, because I am an actress as well, I have a special place for my colleagues.  I’ve created a photo album ( Featured Talent & Creatives ) that will hopefully become more of a resource as other members of the community cast future projects.  I also want in turn for those actors to start engaging with the entertainment community in a new way.  We don’t need to “ask” for work any more.  We can create our own projects and come to the table as collaborators, and professional colleagues, thereby dismantling the hierarchical “Old Hollywood” model.

The Shorty Awards take place in New York. Win, or lose, you tell me your going. Why?

Haha!  I actually was talking some big talk in my Facebook comment, but I am beginning to like the sound of that!  I think it would provide a wonderful boost to the visibility of this publication and its’ overall mission.  And it honestly, it sounds exciting to me.  I need to step away from my laptop and get some city air – it can’t be any worse than the air in LA!

All jokes aside, I think it’s important to challenge myself constantly and keep making bigger goals.  This paper has no profit currently, and I have no idea how I’ll be able to afford such a trip right now, but I do believe that if it is a worthy cause, a way will be found.  And I do believe emerging talent is vital to the continued growth of our industry – and I’d love to champion that across the United States – and the world!

 

The Shorty Awards will be announced April 8th, 2013 in New York. Tweet The Younge Hollywood Blast to the top! Place your vote today!

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  • Natasha Younge

    Thanks for the kind words, Susan! I absolutely love the journey, otherwise I would not be able to continue – the encouragement is so appreciated!

  • Natasha Younge

    Thanks Victor – absolutely, follow the yellow brick road. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/natashayounge Natasha Younge™

    Daniel, what encouraging words! Thanks for taking the time to read this, and share your thoughts.

  • http://twitter.com/natashayounge Natasha Younge™

    Kelly, thank you so much! Things are starting to get really interesting now…

  • http://twitter.com/natashayounge Natasha Younge™

    Thanks so much, Gerald. The work continues…

  • http://www.facebook.com/danieljude.gennis Daniel Jude Gennis

    This is a really interesting and informative article and an inspiration to anyone trying to get ahead in this business. As a UK-based Actor of Colour, like many of my peers, I am finding it increasingly difficult to get any kind of exposure in the UK, despite having a strong background in stage and films. This is the case for every actor irrespective of their ethnicity but I am glad that your interview in this article and your sterling work across the digital media is showing actors and creatives, just how they can take control of their careers and open doors for themselves, rather than waiting for those doors to be opened for them.

  • http://twitter.com/KDHungerford Kelly Hungerford

    Natasha, you and your community are doing all the hard work. You work tirelessly to give emerging talent a voice and platform to grow, connect and thrive. Kudos to you! And good luck!

  • http://twitter.com/natashayounge Natasha Younge™

    Things are really getting exciting this year. I can not thank Paper.li enough for their support of my community building endeavors!