Masters of Cyberspace

The Press hands out its first Houston Web Awards.

Masters of Cyberspace

On a Saturday in early May, Houston's social media universe watched as locals Kyle Nielsen and Cory McIntire scooped every Houston news outlet, relaying the by-the-minute details of a downtown bank robbery gone awry — one that saw the streets around the Metro bus station turn into something out of Michael Mann's caper film Heat.

"I turned on the TV hoping to find something about it, but there was nothing, so I got on my bike and rode over there. I was expecting it to already be over, but instead I found a bunch of cops ducking behind their cars around a parking garage. I was mostly shocked at what a huge operation it was," Nielsen says.

As the mainstream news outfits in town ran basketball highlights and other lazy afternoon network fare, a high drama was unfolding on Twitter. With grainy cellphone pictures and some shaky video, Nielsen and McIntire had proven the power of the "fifth estate" in journalism.

From a downtown bank robbery to a beer fest bust, Kyle Nielsen is Houston's one-man muckraking machine.
Photo by Jeff Myers
From a downtown bank robbery to a beer fest bust, Kyle Nielsen is Houston's one-man muckraking machine.
Andrew Karnavas, a.k.a. AndyRoo, is using his social media contacts to launch a children's music career.
Photo by Jeff Myers
Andrew Karnavas, a.k.a. AndyRoo, is using his social media contacts to launch a children's music career.

Houston social media can be politely divisive, sweetly contentious, beautifully coagulating and rarely dull. Everyone has a function and everyone has a place, from the self-professed foodies salivating restaurant raves onto their smart phones, the hip-hoppers shooting out mass promotional screeds, and proud parents beaming out pictures of their tykes' smiles and giggles, to the hipsters using Instagram to take pictures of everything in sight. Does everything need to look vintage?

This city is a national leader when it comes to a community using its technology for the greater benefit. Back in April, it snapped into action to raise money for one of its own, bartender and friend Linda Salinas, after she was involved in a serious scooter accident in the Heights.

The Houston Web Awards honor the folks who are playing the social media game in Houston correctly, the ones who are helping steer the ship, one Facebook status update and 140-character tweet at a time.

Since we first tackled the Houston social scene for last year's "Twitterverse," the scene has now expanded to include not just Twitter, but also Facebook, Instagram and even Tumblr, the latter two being more exotic and artistic ways to express yourself through social media. Most every facet of life, each movement and occurrence, in the Bayou City is somehow documented from Foursquare check-ins at Minute Maid Park to oversaturated pictures on Instagram of your Moon Tower hot dog against the city skyline. Be sure to check in on Facebook, too.

Nielsen resurfaced a few weeks later to another round of heavy attention when he drew the ire of the inaugural Houston Beer Festival during the lead-up to the June 11 event at Hermann Square Park. He questioned the festival's organizers regarding their charity status and local and Texas-run craft-beer presence. The head of the festival, Timothy Hudson, retaliated by making Nielsen's Twitter handle (@kylejack) the special promotional code for discounted tickets to the debacle.

Some Houstonians are using social media to promote their personal brands, and one of the best at that is musician Andrew Karnavas, who between Facebook and Twitter can get the word out about the four projects he is working on, including a children's music venture, for which he goes by the name AndyRoo. He says there is no real secret to using the Internet to advance his presence, even while so-called social media gurus roam the city.

"Secret? I don't know. Justin Bieber may know. I try to be complimentary and informative. I like it when people are funny," he says.

"Runaway Sun has packed our local shows largely from social media promotion, and I've even booked some of our out-of-state shows via Twitter. Facebook has been a good way to target out-of-state audiences. AndyRoo is piggybacking on my solo project and Runaway Sun audiences/booking contacts, and at the same time it is exposing it to a new audience. It's much easier as an independent artist to build momentum with social media, especially during down time."

This year's Best Twitterer winner, Merritt Beck, runs Manolos and Martinis, and has her own marketing and design firm. For her, social media, be it Facebook or Twitter, has been a lifeline of connections and opportunities.

"Social media is not as impersonal as everyone thinks. It's funny to say out loud, but I've actually made quite a few good friends and business connections through Twitter, and the ongoing conversations I've had continue to benefit me and my businesses," she says.

"Even the simplest mention or shout-out can open the door for mutual forms of reciprocity that could help build your audience online. Social media is the cheapest, and in my personal opinion, the easiest, way to make a name for yourself, if you are doing it correctly," Beck adds.

Juan Alanis is the creator of Juan of Words, his personal blog covering events around Houston, and pop culture at large. It's a very bilingual site, with Alanis dropping in Spanish language phrases when he can or writing some entries entirely in Spanish. In essence, it's a reflection of the population of Houston itself.

"I knew from working for both English and Spanish media outlets that there was a very clear line already "defined" about what it was to be Mexican and what it was to be Mexican-American, or just American, by generations, educations, the whole deal. But that didn't feel like my reality," says Alanis.

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11 comments
yahoo-JLSCRQYX2KV22JH3JPSYIG4AFY
yahoo-JLSCRQYX2KV22JH3JPSYIG4AFY

although your magazine is on line - & for the formost decent to read while traviling you shouldtry web awards every printing day as an online service ,.//www,wleroy91@yahoo,.com

DFXden
DFXden

Thank You Houston Press for your attention to Houston's CYBERSphere and for recognizing our work on the Hugos' Restaurant Website. -Sincerely, DFXden

KelseyDD
KelseyDD

Any awards for KPRC? Their great reporting broke the story that went international: a pit near Houston with dozens of bodies; kids, adults, some mutilated.

Of course they tweeted it without a source, saying they'd cover it on the 5pm news.Turns out it was a call-in from a psychic. Nice work KPRC!

Azure2
Azure2

FYI...

There is NO SUCH thing as a "first annual" event. Annual means yearly- a first ever event is not annual and should NOT be referred to as annual until the second year. Why does everyone make this obvious error? Why is it being made in a newspaper of all places? Is there no proofreading or editing done at the Houston Press?

KelseyDD
KelseyDD

...whatever, go back to Jr. High usage class and complain to your teacher who might give you a gold star. Bet you heard this on the same podcast I listen to...

Azure2
Azure2

Sorry, but this is a very simple thing and I tire of seeing it constantly used incorrectly, especially in "journalism"...RIDICULOUS.

Fidoz
Fidoz

By far the best Television/Movie/Music/Pop Culture Blog is www.ApeDonkey.com then again I'm biased.

Lovethecityofhouston
Lovethecityofhouston

Congrats to all the winners! But I wonder what criteria is used to choose the winners? For example Best Use of Video in Entertainment. Was this based on video quality, number of views, original content, number of videos, creativity? I am a little surprised on how they won using YouTube generated content which anyone can do and does not take much work to paste a url. It's much harder to actually go out and do the actual footwork, edit your own content using thousands of $$$ in equipment and software. More attention should have been paid to originality, creativity and quality in this decision. Here are a few comparisons on original content and the work involved in covering Houston through original video content:

Lawndale Art CenterHouston Center for PhotographyFamous Houston Interior Designer Kelly Gale AmenYao Restaurant and Bar Pick any Houston Event

I do understand it is the first one but let's put a little more thought into this guys.

yeahMyFavorite!
yeahMyFavorite!

Oh boy this will only fuel Kylejack, the shat stirrer!! Ha ha! Don't forget the tweet about Sue Lovall's son smoking pot during his shift at El Real, and yesterday's gut funny tweet about....ready....he tried to get the lic. plate numbers of a USPS (UPS) truck driver for honking at a lady working out on Washingto...Oh the thought! Women insulted everywhere! Thank goodness we have this crime reporter on the beat!!!

Wannabe
Wannabe

hahaha he should get the award for most overexposed and self-congratulatory private citizen

 
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