Horror Journalism on Stage at Hypericon
This past weekend I attended Hypericon, a Nashville based fandom event embracing elements of science fiction, fantasy, anime, and a smidge of horror. I say a “smidge” because most events like this have little to nothing in the way of programming, guests, or fan interaction with the horror community which, in an age where the genre is literally breaking boundaries, records, and even the glass ceiling, seems a bit short sighted. Luckily enough, the programming director for Hypericon feels the same way and reached out to several area horror creators including myself asking for help programming a horror track at the event. Given the opportunity to really share something unique in the genre at a convention devoted to cosplay, fandom, and all things geek, this past Saturday I moderated a panel about Horror Journalism. Joined by writers, podcasters, and media makers from all across Middle Tennessee, we spent a little over an hour interacting with fans and talking about the importance of the ongoing role of journalism and reporting in the horror community.
And what was the first question on everyone’s mind as they entered the panel: What is horror journalism? Horror Journalism is a that branch of entertainment journalism that focuses specifically on the horror and macabre elements of the creative community and the fandoms and art being created within. While most sites, ‘zines, podcasts and other media coverage focuses heavily on the film and gaming aspects of this community, there’s so much more happening in modern horror that needs to be shared and, as the people responsible for spreading the news, we have our work cut out for us. As a fandom, horror is largely ignored by conventions like Hypericon and others in favor of pop sci-fi and fantasy such as Star Wars, Avengers, or Game of Thrones just to name a few. But the mainstream success of films like Get Out and Hereditary is making it much harder to ignore the steadily growing and deeply devoted fans of the genre and everyone is beginning to take notice.
Joined by Matt Kelsey of Zombies In My Blog, Eli Phipps and Kayla Lindsay of Music City Horror Podcast, and Luce Allen and Jimmy “Jim Jam” Eppes of TN Horror News, I got the chance to moderate the conversation. The questions were pretty basic to start with, introductions and the obligatory “why horror?” followed by more topical questions about the importance of reaching an audience and how to stay relevant in the ever changing world of social media. We were also fortunate enough to be joined by Luke and Jacob from Modern Horrors who, while coming in to be part of the audience quickly became unofficial panelists. What we quickly discovered was that, despite the fanatic loyalty of the horror community, their genuine kindness and inclusiveness, staying relevant in the genre is a full time job all on its own.
The more we all talked, the more evident it became that we had two things in common regardless of the medium for getting our messages out there. We all have a deep love for all things scary, even those cringe inducing super low budget B movies. We also have a problem with keeping and growing an audience in the ever more fickle and fluid waves of social media and internet culture. Yeah, if you’re reading this right now and you run any kind of blog, podcast, or channel online you immediately understand the sort of problem I’m talking about here. You have your core audience that always clicks, always interacts, and always offers feedback and reposts. You’ve got your peripheral audience that might fluctuate in and out of your site without any real consistency. Then you have the rest of the audience, in this case the entire horror community beyond the core that each group has.
So, how do you stay relevant and bring in those much sought after clicks that for a monetized site can be the difference between staying in business or being forgotten?
Jumping into new trends in social media and content sharing seems to be the best way. Several sites offer livestreams and game reviews through Twitch while others are upping their presence on Instagram with short videos and interactive stories. A few have even made that leap to Vero, a platform similar to Instagram with fewer content restrictions but, arguably, a less user friendly interface. There’s still Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr but for each platform you have to have either an in depth knowledge of the platform and its demographics or have the ability to hire someone with those skills.
And speaking of skills, Alexa skills could be the future of horror journalism. Amazon’s Alexa and similar devices and apps offer listeners a chance to interact with their media outlets without ever having to pick up a device. The guys from Modern Horrors mentioned something about this during our panel. Ken Artuz of Decay Mag talked to me a while back about his ongoing efforts to tap into this unexplored market as well as the same topics of horror journalism and relevance covered by the panel. Decay Mag is New York based and arguably much larger than any of the outlets that took part in the conversation Saturday but still suffers the same struggles daily as these smaller, independent outlets to stay at the forefront in the changing landscape of entertainment reporting. His views on the issues seemed to mirror those of the panelists proving that, regardless of geography or audience, you’ve got to plug away hard and constantly to keep afloat.
I’ve got a lot more to say about this topic but I’ve already pushed us past the red line with my word count. Hypericon was great as a generalized fandom experience. As for the state and ongoing developments of horror journalism and its relevance with audiences and the industry, there’s a lot to be said still but the core issue is the same as with any media outlet: engaging and keeping hold on an audience. If you’d like me to keep rambling on about this and other topics, be sure to share this article and post in the comments section. Spread the word about creators and reporters alike in the horror community so we can help keep the genre alive and thriving for generations to come.