This Is Odyssey

This Is Odyssey

What you didn't know about this startup platform.
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All across the country, the millennial generation is penning its’ thoughts. Whether it be about an injustice in the community, a view on the upcoming presidential election, or even just “20 Thoughts While Watching Netflix” with a few .gif images wedged in, Odyssey Online is voicing the opinions of the next generation.

From the comfort of their dorm rooms (with a bulk of writers being college students), they are creating a slew of articles with titles like: “The Honeybee Crisis,” or, “What’s The Truth About Vaping?,” or, “Why Cruz And Kasich Backing Out Is Bad For Women,” that pop into your Facebook news feed. Odyssey hands over the storytelling conch shell to the millennial generation to report the news, share personal anecdotes, or rally up some laughs with a .gif-heavy listicle.

Started in 2009 by then Indiana University student Evan Burns, and now current CEO, Burns wanted his campus newspaper and other local news outlets at Indiana University to cover more Greek life events. He launched his own print Greek life-centric newspaper (deriving the name Odyssey from the Greek system) and tailored his publication to bring alive the issues college students want to read and write about that were not covered in the school newspaper.

After proving to be a success on his campus, Burns allowed other large universities, such as San Diego State University, University of South Carolina and University of Alabama, to establish their own print chapters.

In 2014, in order to boost circulation, Burns saw an opportunity to develop Odyssey further by going completely digital. After receiving a hefty amount of funding, he hired web engineers to launch an online platform completely native to Odyssey, says managing editor Hilarey Wojtowicz. From there, Odyssey’s community pool began to snowball exponentially, having only 90 communities in 2014 to approximately 1,000 communities nationwide today. With 11,000 articles being published every week and over 30 million unique monthly users, the platform quickly made a name for itself.

While many traditional companies, websites and publishers follow the top down model, where editors assign articles to writers, Odyssey follows the bottom-up model, granting writers the freedom to write about whatever may be tumbleweeding through their mind.

While over 600 Odyssey chapters are based on college campuses, the remaining chapters are geographic communities where aspiring storytellers aged 18-28, not necessarily enrolled in a college or university program, are invited to come draft their thoughts.

For example, if a chapter was launched in Ewing, New Jersey, where The College of New Jersey already has an existing chapter, high school students, post-graduates and other locals in the area would be able to join the geographic community.

Friday night marks the deadline for writers. After submission to the content management system, named MUSE, each article goes through three rounds of editing before going live on either Monday or Tuesday of the following week. The chapter’s local Editor-in-Chief is the first edit, then a freelance copy editor, focusing on AP style, grammar, spelling, punctuation and format, makes the necessary revisions in round two. Finally, articles continue to a Managing Editor’s screen. It's the ME who performs the final sweep - examining content, headlines, dismissing any vulgar terminology or bullying/violence insinuations and overall, checking that each piece is up to brand guidelines before hitting publish.

While there is a very structured editorial process, the majority of the articles published weekly are the writer's words, untouched, as editors do not want to misconstrue the writer’s voice, and focus mainly on copy editing tasks rather than changing words around.

According to Business Insider, Odyssey has raised over $25 million from its investors, and is referred to as “a college newspaper on steroids.” -- not too shabby for a startup. As of right now, Odyssey profits on advertising, sponsored content and traffic-based revenue, as well as earnings from the number of page views and clicks. However, as the company grows, they intend to return more money to its writers, who are currently unpaid.

Odyssey offers a writer incentive program. The author of the most-shared article on social media in his or her community each week is rewarded $20, encouraging writers to publish engaging content in order to garner more page views.

Writers also reap the other benefits of being a contributor. A worthy resume entry, writing clips, knowledge of how to use a content management system and having an array of accessible resources and mentors available to them, such as the Odyssey managing team.

Other similar online platforms, such as HerCampus (also unpaid), with 300 college campus chapters worldwide and 9,000 contributors, according to its website, differ from Odyssey by catering only to females. HerCampus also requires its writers to hold an editorial position to gain access to the content managing system.

Odyssey users receive the experience of uploading their article to the content management system, choosing a headline and cover photo, choosing the slug the article gets filed under and inputting keywords to make their article more accessible on search engines. This setup teaches contributors the ins-and-outs of content management, an invaluable skill in the media and publishing industries.

HerCampus writers do not gain this kind of experience - rather they simply email their work to editors who perform behind-the-scenes magic before an article goes live on the site. Not to mention, HerCampus follows a top-down model, assigning its writers articles.

Platforms such as HerCampus may have writers join for a few weeks, whereas Odyssey thrives on consistency.

To keep a constant stable of writers working for the publication, Odyssey takes a triple-strike approach. When writers fail to submit their weekly article without a valid excuse, they receive a strike - and just like in baseball, three strikes and you’re out.

Also, just recently, Odyssey 2.0 was rolled out, revamping a user’s experience by allowing writers to not only be a creator on the back end of the site, but also be a user on the front end. The new “follow” feature allows writers to follow topics or other writers and fully engage with the content. Because so many articles are published each week, the ability to find select writers and topics makes the platform more personalized for readers following their interests, whether they are published by a writer in their own chapter or across the country.

Odyssey has also allowed their content creators to put the pen down and pick the recorder up, launching a podcast option for writers to create and publish, which is now available on iTunes.

While Odyssey adds on more options to renovate its platform, the contributors continue to bask in this millennial-style platform tailored particularly towards them.

This is Odyssey.

Cover Image Credit: Odyssey

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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Educate Yourself And Spread Facts, Not Bias

Do you know the truth? Or are you allowing rumors to cloud your judgement of the political arena?

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In our society, the government has grown to be a capitalistic effort. Payout, backroom deals, we are unaware of many actions those that represent us take behind closed doors. The transparency we think we see is unrealistic and just not the way that politics actually work. In the entire world, governance has become essential to the survival and future of society. No two governments are the same, and they are essentially ever changing as many people of power change constantly.

This being said influence from these individuals rule the political sphere. Whether it be a local councilperson, senator, governor, or even the president.IN the U.S. our daily lives and wellbeing rest in the hands of the few. Some of these politicians are honest and work genuinely for the people. However, agenda frequently takes over the arena and leaves the decisions of our livelihood to the gains of politicians.

Our generation has the lowest voter turnout, leaving the decisions that we do have to older generations. Some of those hold ideologies that are not relevant nor acceptable to the climate we live in today. This is not a call to action but more of a thought. As someone who was incredibly uninvolved in politics, I wanted to look at why I lacked the care that other people my age held so passionately. I believe it starts with my distaste of conflict, which many people my age also agree with. Politics can lead to confrontation and negative conversation.

Therefore, who would want to make friendships and interactions awkward with an avoidable subject. I found myself straying from these conversations and becoming uncomfortable when friends assert opinions that I do not agree with. However, in taking classes where this environment hinges the change in industries I study. I was forced to form some type of opinion in the matter.

From here I decided to change the lens on how I looked at politics. Instead of shying away, I really listened to what my professors felt about it and their assertions. I then did my own research, looking into the history of matters that my peers and professors talked about. Educating myself on what the facts were, versus believing in rumors that I heard through the grapevine.

I started engaging friends in a positive manner, as opposing opinions are valuable in a holistic situational viewpoint. I became comfortable in the discomfort of politics and worked to learn what may be in store for our world. My point for this is to educate yourself on genuine fact. Do not assert opinions based on information that your friend or even a professor gives you, keep your knowledge on the subject relevant.

You never know when legislation may come out that seriously effects your way of life. Most importantly, knowledge is power and power is what those that leave us in ignorance have over us.

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