4 May 2017

My Stroll with Glen Mulcahy, Founder, #MojoCon

Sir Cam Photography
Welcome to the first episode of “The Stroll Live” for 2017. Been a while right? After 120 Episodes we sure had to take a break and rebrand to come back bigger and better for you!

Today’s guest, Glen Mulcahy — renowned Mobile Journalist and founder of MojoCon — speaks with me from Ireland. Glen told me about his life and career, the future of journalism and of course what we should look forward to during this year’s MojoCon. RTÉ MojoCon is a leading international media conference focusing on mobile journalism, mobile content creation, mobile photography and new technology all in one event.

Listen to the full podcast or read a summarized transcript below

Ebenezar: MojoCon has grown to become what I love to call, the United-Nations-of-Mobile-Journalism; what inspired you to start this conference?

Glen: I have to tell you, no one has previously referred to MojoCon as the United Nations of Mobile Journalism, but I certainly would like to think that it is one of the first conferences that has focused exclusively on content creation with mobile and consumer technology.

I started to experiment with Mobile myself back in 2007 and by 2011/2012 I had formulated a training program for journalists to show them some of the accessories and apps that were available at that point to allow them to do good quality content with their phone. By 2013, I had started to get booked by international broadcasters to go and do training programs for their staff, and a common theme had started to develop which was, to put a lot of energy into a masterclass that might last for say, 5 days with a group of journalists and at the end of the course, they will all feel empowered and excited by the prospects of being able to tell visual stories by themselves but then weeks later I will get emails from these same journalists saying that the broadcast engineers in their respective stations will not allow content shot with a phone to be broadcast on television because they felt the quality wasn’t good enough.

I used to be a broadcast engineer and I know that there are strict guidelines for what is the technical definition of broadcast quality content. However I am also pragmatic about this and the pragmatism stems from the fact that the business model is under threat; funding models are changing, Government grants are reducing, and the entire industry needs to take a really good look at the core business model. In my humble opinion, mobile is one possible solution which when combined with others could help to redefine the way that news is created, gathered, and shared. It is also much more cost-efficient than traditional broadcast quality solutions. So what inspired me to host MojoCon more than anything else was that I was getting frustrated by the number of trainees who had given me one week of their time to learn these skills and are left disheartened and frustrated by the inability of their respective stations to respond to the opportunity and instead to try and shut it down.

My idea was that we needed to find the organizations around the world that were using Mobile Journalism really effectively; who were pioneering the use of it and weren’t afraid to try things, risk things, and be willing to fail in order to learn and basically to create a forum where those companies and individuals can come together to share that knowledge with other people who were interested.

When I sketched out the initial road map for MojoCon it had 3 elements; Element one was inspiration and this inspiration occurs during the day(s) of plenary sessions where you hear case studies from people all over the world who are using mobile in different ways to create great quality content. The second element is the information or equipment side which is the exhibition and the third element is just a full day of immersive training and learning.

This year’s MojoCon is the third edition. What has the journey being like so far?

Glen: So far the journey has been more like a roller coaster if I tell you the truth because the conference is pretty expensive to run; so every single year we run it there is an entire process of trying to find sponsorship and trying to get tickets into the market to make it feasible to run it and that takes up to 6 months of my entire working year.

RTE runs MojoCon on a Not-for-Profit basis so I don’t benefit personally in any capacity from the conference. I do it because I personally believe in the future of mobile content creation. Will it continue? Well, let’s wait and see how this year goes.

A lot has been said about this year’s conference; what can attendees look forward to at #MojoCon2017?

Glen: I’ve changed up a bit of the structure of the conference this year; every year I send out a feedback form to the exhibitors, speakers, and delegates. I reviewed 2 years of feedback forms and realized that people seem to feel like they are missing out on something during the plenary sessions because they have to choose between Room A1 or Room A2. This year I have decided to stop it. This year we have plenary sessions on Thursday and Friday so you don’t actually have to miss anything out. However, because not every plenary session will appeal to everybody your other option is to go to the exhibition area if there’s a session going on that you’re not interested in.

This year we will also have an actual exhibitor presentation stage and each exhibitor will be given the opportunity to do a 20–25 minutes pitch on their product or service and, something we’ve never done before, we’re going to Livestream that stage to the MojoCon Facebook group so that even if you cannot make it to the conference in person you can at least dip into the part of the conference that involves solutions and accessories.

We will not be livestreaming the main plenary sessions; that is the essence of the conference, that is the reason people pay 500 Euros to attend the actual conference and other Conference Organizers I have spoken to have told me that once you livestream the main sessions, it hinders ticket sales, and unfortunately MojoCon must pay for itself for it to be sustainable going forward — and if it doesn’t pay for itself there’s a strong possibility that it simply might not run again.

We will also be organizing a number of fringe events so that even in the evenings of MojoCon people can have something to be involved in and I don’t mean just for delegates. One of the things that is beautiful about Mojo, as a movement, is that it democratizes the content creation process. MojoCon is for the business community, for professionals, and there is an entire audience of students who cannot afford the conference tickets and I fully appreciate that. We will host evening events with some of our speakers to give a flavor on some of the topics that went on during the main conference.

For the benefit of those who are new to this concept, what exactly is ‘Mobile Journalism’?

Glen: For me Mobile Journalism is slightly generic that what some of the purists will define it as. So, some purists define mobile journalism strictly as content crated solely within the smartphone ecosystem. Must be shot on a smartphone, edited on a smartphone, and shared from a smartphone, and that for them is the definition of Mojo. The way I see it, Mobile journalism is actually a derivative of video journalism and the main essence of video journalism, which dates back to 1995/1996 when video journalism really took off, was that it empowers the individual to be a content creator and mobile journalism is just an extension of that. The only difference in this case is that the tool changes. It’s no longer a 5 or 6,000 Euro Camera it’s a smartphone. Although it can equally be a video-capable-DLSR or a drone or a Gopro or any other consumer device like a 360 camera that can create really interesting shareable content.

The essence of mobile journalism is that it empowers the individual as a visual storyteller and as a content creator. So two different schools of thought on what Mobile Journalism is; both are equally relevant and certainly debatable.

Let’s talk a bit about your early life now. What was growing up like for you and when did you begin to develop an interest in journalism and the media?

Glen: That’s a great question no one has ever asked me that before actually, so my background is driven in no small part by my late dad. He was an engineer and then a manager at Aircom at the time which was the national telecommunication company of Ireland. He was interested in photography from when he was a kid and I guess a little bit of that rubbed off on me and right from my early teens I was interested in creating video and I was really fortunate that he had bought early bolex cameras and later on bought even better cameras so I got to shoot for my early teens and I used to do parades, weddings, and any other thing I could do to make a few more bucks and buy more gear.

From the age of 14/15 I knew I had a passion for photography and video and so when I was coming to the end of secondary school (high school) I knew that I wanted to work in Television so I applied to some of the top media courses in the country and then my art teacher in secondary school asked me to put in arts as my final choice because actually I’m a really decent sketch artist but I’m crap at painting. Anyway, the summary of the story is that I didn’t get any of the courses I applied for in Media production but I got a position on one of the first art courses in the country which featured art installation which is creating art with video. Over the three years of that course with the few ups and downs, I actually spent most of time on the design course because I was very interested in learning how to use the Mac to do design work and to use photoshop and things like that. I eventually graduated with a distinction in Fine Art with specialism in photography and video. I ended up getting a job in television about 6years later, in 1998, as a broadcast engineer and then moved into Management around 2000s where I managed the camera crews and the broadcast resources for the news. By 2001/02 I got involved with the process of bringing video journalism into RTE. Subsequently became a video journalism trainer which like I said led to the adoption of mobile journalism several years later.

For the benefit of the young people who follow The Stroll, I’ll like you to share 3 of the most important values that you feel have contributed in making you who you are today?

Glen: Hmmmm, that’s a really good question. I’m going to go with “Giving” as number one because so much of the happy things that have happened in my life have happened as a result of other people giving me opportunities and so I like to pay that forward and give other people support and opportunities as much as I can.

Second thing is, “I don’t take NO for an answer” easily. So I think one thing that might set me apart from other people is that other people allow themselves to be beat down low really quickly; I’m much more on the line of “there is a way” sometimes it just takes a bit of time to reveal itself to you. So even when someone puts a direct roadblock in front of you remember you can actually go left right and sometimes you can go straight through or over and sometimes you can even go under! Determination is the word to use in describing that.You need to be very clear on what your goals are. You need to be strategic in the process you have put together for how you’re going to realize those goals, and then you need a level of dogged determination to make it happen.

The last one I think is to be “fair” to people and open to people enough to listen to everyone’s argument.

Sir Cam Photography

By 2021, you predict that the Media will be dominated by Mobile and from every indication around us we are sure that prediction is most likely true. How can upcoming media professionals be better positioned to avoid being left behind when this mobile revolution manifests?

Glen: That’s a really interesting question and I hope it kicks off some conversation during the conference. I believe we are well along the path to the evolution of mobile; I believe the traditional media organizations still have not realized or seized the opportunity that Mobile has presented. If I am briefing people who are new media folks — who have just left college and are trying to find a career for themselves in this — my advice will be this; traditionally when people leave college or media school the first thing that they do is that they try to get a job at a local newspaper or a local radio station or maybe even a TV station; those jobs are fast becoming an increasingly rare commodity, but in the evolution of the media business we have also seen the proliferation of successful video bloggers and youtubers or people who have made a name for themselves in the media by sharing one common thread.

If you can find your passion; something that you literally have an absolute obsession with and if you can turn that into part of your business or part of your job you are giving yourself the best possible opportunity for success. You need to remember that, once upon a time, your audience as a content creator was just the community that was served by the platform you’re publishing on. Today that does not apply anymore, your audience is a global audience. No matter how obscure your interest is there is an audience that is interested in that topic and if you’re determined you can find that audience and turn them into a community.

I think you need to rethink your strategy, I also think you need to be passionate about it enough to realize that a regular paycheck may not be the best possible solution for you. I know many people will hear this and say “this is coming from a guy who is working in a traditional media organization, has a fulltime job, and retirement benefits but I would argue that, that model is slowly changing and there would be more on that as we go forward.

Food for the Soul: “Whatever you do, do well…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a)

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