Interview: MediaTakeOut Founder Fred Mwangaguhunga Talks The State of Urban Media And Why His Site Is Not Bad For Black People

Interview: MediaTakeOut Founder Fred Mwangaguhunga Talks The State of Urban Media And Why His Site Is Not Bad For Black People

So how did MTO change into an urban site?

I was able to see what was going on in the back end and then based on what people were clicking on, I would give them more of that. Why it was the black stories that were getting clicked the most? I don’t know. Maybe it was because they under represented in the blogosphere at the time. Maybe it was cause I emailed all my friends who happened to be black and that’s what they were interested in so that’s why they were clicking. However it happened the urban stories were getting by far the most views.

Why the name MediaTakeOut?

It goes back to the initial idea. It was never intended to be an urban blog, the idea was a takeout menu, so you saw a little bit of urban, a little bit of sports, and you would click on it like you’re picking in a takeout menu. The initial logo was a takeout box.

Can you talk about the layout of the site? It’s a very simple design that gives readers basically everything in one go.

Initially the design was heavily influenced by The Drudge Report. The site was incredibly popular and put as much info in front of your eyes as possible. You have to understand the psychology of your audience. Your audience is at work, looking at 50 different websites, ESPN on one tab YouTube on another tab. Maybe they have 10 minutes to look, or their boss is going to be there soon so they gotta click off and what they really want to do is get as much as they possibly can on one page. This was even bigger when we first started because a lot of times people had slow Internet connections, people still had dial-up we started. The idea was always to give people as much content as we can in that small surface area. If there is a major difference between us and most of the other websites it’s that our number one focus is giving our readers exactly what they want. That’s what MediaTakeOut is about. That’s why it was structured that way. You ask why is something is the top story, It’s because that’s what they want,

Advertisers must not like that approach.

Advertisers do not like MediaTakeOut. Advertisers say what you have to do is change up your ads every six months because then as you change it and move your ads around, miraculously people click on the ads more than they did before. I’m not sure if that’s true. Last month, an advertiser offered us a lot of money if we would put one of those stupid ads you have before the site for a one-week campaign. The answer was no. I don’t want to piss off the millions of people that follow MediaTakeOut. They don’t want to see that garbage. I’m not going to make everyone take an extra step to click

 
The idea was always to give people as much content as we can. If there is a major difference between us and other websites it’s that our focus is giving our readers exactly what they want.
 

How big is your staff?

Four people. When I see people with 10 or 20 bloggers, I’m thinking, What the hell are those guys doing? Everyone does everything including me. I’m out there doing research, making phone calls, talking to people coming up with deadlines, looking at photos every morning.

Take me through a day at MediaTakeOut.

The entire process begins on Monday at about 2 AM. That’s with me getting up and taking a look at all of this stuff that came via email or from whenever I went to bed. you’d be surprised how much information actually comes at night. It takes about a half hour or so to get through all of that. Then you go to the photo agencies. We have agreements with just about every photo agency out there and they all begin to send new photos between the night before or late in the day. The one thing that’s difficult is lets say you got a photo of Ciara, Jennifer Hudson, and Ashanti. No Beyonce, no Rihanna. That’s when the team comes in around 4 AM and usually I have an idea of how many photos I can use and how many stories we’ll need to fill. That’s when we are really are lucky to have this team because they go out and they find stuff on Twitter or something someone emailed us two weeks ago that we didn’t use because we already had someone looking crazy for the day.

You have to figure out stuff that’s gonna work and on a day-to-day basis and people would be surprised how incredibly difficult it is to do but I have really, really great people and they can do it. So betweem 4 and 4:45 we try to find what we’re gonna do. We haven’t talked about layout yet or the jokes we’re gonna use, the headlines, so we do that and we separate it, divvy up all the assignments. Usually, the top two stories are done already the day before so we don’t have to worry about those. My time is then spent looking at headlines making sure everything’s working and then there is a good amount of convo happening among people. Sometimes you get a last minute confirmation about something. It’s really a busy time for everyone to get everything together but like magic lo and behold by about 8:30 AM the entire site comes together and then it’s a matter of making sure we like everything have everything in the right areas.

So you update once a day?

Yes. Well technically, there are some breaking stories that will come in, but for the most part it’s all up there.

What percentage of the stories on your site do you actually vet through actual reporting, fact-checking, being on the phone, etc.

I would say that, because neither I nor any of my staff have ever been professional reporters, I'm not sure what that means. But I can tell you that we look into everything before we publish it. And 99 percent of the time that you read something on MTO, we actually held back a little bit of the story. At the end of the day, we aren't looking to ruin people. Our audience doesn't want that. Our audience doesn't want to be going to a place that is trying to bring down black people. All we are going to do is tell you our business, and keep it moving. If you deny it? We aren't going to fight you on it. If you tell us, Oh, that wasn't you in the club, with that girl, we're not going to deny it, we aren't going to fight you on it. Keep it moving, you save face, do whatever you need to do, and that's that.

Tags: mediatakeout, interviews
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