Graduates / Journalism Jobs

INTERVIEW: Billy Dowling-Reid, Web Publisher and Founder of mediamuppet.com

 During The Job Hunt, mediamuppet.com is one of my primary go-to’s. I’ve mentioned before its busy presence on Twitter every day, the fact that it NEVER posts jobs that are unpaid, and the features they do on helping students get into any media-related career. Mediamuppet.com is constantly expanding its newsfeed with more jobs, paid internships and entry-level positions in the media. With nearly 24,000 followers on Twitter, I’m sure it is helping many other media hopefuls too. I caught up with Billy Dowling-Reid, owner and founder of mediamuppet.com to talk about the website’s success, as well as his take on beginning a career in journalism and the media.
billydowlingreid

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background in the media and what you do now?

Graduating in summer 2008 from an HND Television course in Edinburgh at age 21, I started out professionally in late 2008 as a cameraman doing live events and promotional videos for corporate clients, mixed in with the occasional bout of junior-level work for larger TV production companies such as Endemol. For whatever reason, I decided that working in television was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my professional life, and so made a gradual crossover into online content creation/web publishing and community management.

Some folks I’ve worked for in varying roles include Channel 4, Endemol, STV, ISO Design, countless start-ups and the Scottish Government. These days, I’m far more interested in turning mediamuppet.com into a fulltime gig.

When did you start up mediamuppet.com and what gave you the idea?

The website started out in early 2008 as a very simple message board which film and television students at my then-college – Edinburgh College – could use to network and plan collaborative projects. Back in those early days, the website was completely different from what it is now and was exclusive to Scotland. There wasn’t even a jobs listing section and there were no blogs – it was just a basic online forum.

Back in those early days, the website was completely different from what it is now.

In the years that followed, the forum increased in popularity throughout Scotland. Not only were students using it, but established professionals as well. People were posting job vacancies and looking for collaborators.

In June 2012, I completely overhauled things and relaunched mediamuppet.com to a UK-wide audience who were interested in additional media sectors such as journalism, communications and so on. As far as the inspiration behind the website, it initially seemed like a good way for me to be able to stay ‘in the loop’ with industry peers and opportunities. That was the original thinking from when I was a TV student back in 2008 – probably not all that dissimilar to why Jump4Journalism exists! Nowadays, I keep the website running because I love helping people in any small way that I can.

I have learned a lot in the past few years by working with some of the nation’s most notable media producers, and wish to use my experiences to help people who are in the same position I was in five years ago (a confused student). So, in a lot of ways, I suppose mediamuppet.com could be considered a student success story, as it has stayed with me since my time at college, evolving into quite a popular niche brand in its own right, especially in the last 12 months since the relaunch.

I love that you only tweet about paid jobs, why is this and do you think there are less of them out there for entry level candidates over unpaid internships?

I loathe unpaid internships. The fact that mediamuppet.com does not list unpaid internships is just a personal decision I made early on in the website’s life. Everybody is entitled to a good, fair wage.

I loathe unpaid internships.

There are still far too many unpaid internships floating around out there and this is not helped by the fact that many ‘reputable’ websites happily advertise and endorse them.

How do you think mediamuppet.com has gained so much publicity?

Word of mouth recommendations. I’ve never had the funds available to be able to promote the website properly, yet it gets 400,000 pageviews per month. It’s a simple website which fulfils a simple need and I think people appreciate that.

What does the website give that twitter doesn’t?

 Twitter is like the shop window that entices people to visit your website. It’s a good lead-in, but of course Twitter is limited to 140 characters. You can’t fit a full job description or article into a tweet. Twitter is great for staying in the loop, and many media organisations use it to broadcast their own job vacancies that you are unlikely to hear about anywhere else. I compiled a quick list of media employers who run Twitter and Facebook accounts which exist for the sole purpose of broadcasting job updates:
 Almost every single day. There have been just over 3,000 jobs listed on the website in the past 12 months, averaging out at something like 8 new jobs being posted per day. Many of the employers who use mediamuppet.com will offer feedback with regards to the quality of candidate applications. I then incorporate this feedback into the advice articles.

How do you think current graduates can stand out when trying to break into the media business?

 Statistically, all new entrants into the industry are at a daunting disadvantage. The London-based publisher Random House recently announced that up to 250 candidates apply for each of their internship positions. Skillset research suggests that there are 100 media graduates out there for every 1 entry level media job.

Skillset research suggests that there are 100 media graduates out there for every 1 entry level media job.

I’d certainly think running a blog such as Jump4Journalism is a great way to continue honing your skills while getting your name out there. Blogging showcases a wide range of skills above and beyond mere writing ability, such as marketing abilities, online savvy and self-starter initiative.

Journalism is facing many challenges at the moment with redundancies commonplace. Just yesterday, it was announced that up to 20 jobs are to be cut at the Glasgow-based Herald & Times Group. As journalism struggles to adapt in the digital age, I’d suggest that new entrants widen their skillsets to include PR and marketing skills. Being a good writer/reporter may not be quite enough anymore. It certainly can’t hurt to check out some of the advice articles myself and others in the industry have written on the mediamuppet.com website. Most of these are geared towards suggesting ways for graduates to increase their chances of success.

A lot of it does still come down to luck though and we should all be prepared to receive rejection after rejection when applying for jobs. Everybody I know who is working in their dream job right now had a challenging time getting there. Most people give up far too easily on their dreams. Tenacity and thick skin are required. Anybody who simply gives up at the first hurdle gets no sympathy from anyone.

How can we use social media to expand our online presence?

If you think of yourself as a brand – which you probably should – then social media is something you can use to increase your reach. If you’re running a blog, then create quality content and people will share it. Then, your audience grows. Rinse and repeat. You’ll build a reputation and you might even get offered work as a result. That’s how mediamuppet.com got started after all.

…think of yourself as a brand.

 I’m speaking from experience when I say that building a reputable online presence can really help in opening doors to some pretty exciting opportunities.

Thank you!

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