If you own any mainstream social media account, you know that Odyssey is everywhere. Someone posted an Odyssey article, someone posted a complaint about Odyssey or someone posted a defense in support of the site.
I acknowledge all opinions on the Odyssey, even if I don’t know from where their feelings originate.
But I want to tell you a few things about writing for Odyssey (as if I haven’t done that enough already) and writing for a democratized digital media platform.
Most writers for Odyssey submit a piece weekly, meaning new content must be thought of each week and then expressed on a blank screen. It’s difficult, intimidating, frustrating and overwhelming to think of something to write about when hundreds of other writers on the same site have thought of the same. I confess that there a number of pieces of which I don’t feel satisfied or proud, and for those the writing process was more a matter of reaching the deadline than bringing something fresh to the table. Sure, I can write that open letter to any given person, place or thing in my life, but how do I make it my own? How do I make it so that it will not come off as just another annoying open letter? Who is my audience going to be? And most importantly, how much do I care about pageviews?
Don’t get me wrong, pageviews are fantastic. They bring Odyssey the bacon and in return writers who publish those popular pieces are rewarded. That’s where the democratization fits. It has its perks, but the concept is a double edged sword. For one thing, it’s nice to receive some incentivized motivation. It’s a reminder that your voice matters. On the other hand it creates a competition where, if you don’t write what you know is popular and trending, you can bet your published piece to not reach those anticipated pageviews, and you wouldn’t want to let down your team of writers, would you? There are only so many ways I can cater to my online audience. The pressure adds to the difficulty of thinking of article ideas.
Articles. That’s a word that some don’t like to associate with Odyssey. Articles are supposed to provide thought-provoking, news worthy pieces. The argument boils down to “Odyssey is not journalism.” Ironically enough, if you Google “Odyssey isn’t journalism” the first four results that come up are Odyssey articles talking about the kind of content their own website serves. Those writers wonder about the integrity of its content and if it is worth putting out there.
I mean, nobody said the Odyssey was journalism.
Well, maybe not The New York Times journalism you’re thinking of, but it doesn’t need to be. Odyssey’s about page (that you have to sign in for to read) states “The monopoly of the minds is over.” Any person who writes for Odyssey is given the opportunity to write ultimately anything they want. Millennial liberals, conservatives, feminists, media theorists, scientific researchers, critics are all welcome in the melting pot of Odyssey content. This means that some pieces can contains elements of what one might consider to be “journalistic content” while others can be poems, personal pieces, short stories, or emotional rants. The site isn’t one to believe that too many cooks ruin the stew.
So, call them articles, or pieces, entries, or think-pieces, or posts, or something along the lines of a blog. The title will not change what Odyssey aims to achieve.
I love writing, and I am grateful for the platform Odyssey gives me to express my thoughts, but I confess that it’s tough to think of something that my audience will like, and that Odyssey will notice.