Here’s how my digital media career started and yes, this is a true story, full of the best sort of serendipity.

It was 1994, I was a newspaper journalist (for The Independent) in the UK and three things happened around the same time that fired my imagination:

I happened to be in a library and used a terminal connected to Stanford University, in the USA, using a dial-up modem. Using a program I was logged directly onto a server at the campus – over 6000 miles away. There was a list of files (this was pre the WWW – and there was no graphical user interface, certainly no pictures or color – just grayscale) and I chose a recipe (the irony abounds, I barely cook to this day). And no, I can’t remember what the recipe was for. I held my breath the entire time. This was magic. It was as if I could reach out and touch a computer in sunny California from where I stood in London on a cold, rainy day. Pure magic.

The second thing that happened was I saw the new IBM computers being installed at the newspaper office where i worked. These were a distinct improvement on the dos system with a flashing square cursor that required commands, most of which I always forgot and had to consult the manual. I started to play around with Aski-art (using punctuation marks to create pictures) – and around this time I got my first email account and used email and emoticons to express different levels of feeling around simple text – the meta-language I had studied at university suddenly had a practical application. I began to think about communicating via this new medium.

Then I was invited to a party, in Notting Hill, under the arches, in a very cool neighborhood. It was one of those parties I had dreamed about when I was growing up outside Brighton. Lots of people in black clothing who had spent a year in Berlin, painted and now did something cool in graphic design or fashion or photography. A friend of a friend showed me a silver circle and said “this is my agency”. It was a CD-Rom. Her partner had transferred pictures and text and even a map and effectively revolutionized her industry. No longer did she have to send out messengers on bikes to deliver portfolios. She could just send on of these cool CD-Roms. I took one and went into the newspaper the next day. I was writing about fashion at the time and the fashion editor looked horrified as i walked up and said “this is a great story!” She didn’t agree. Not one to give up, I walked around to the other side of the newspaper where all the men in news, sport, business – and a new section that had started that week called Network+ had desks. I pitched the editor of Network+ and he commissioned me to write 850 words by the next morning. Gleefully I went back to my desk and worked on it for hours. It was my first digital piece. I went on to write about digital for the next few years, becoming a columnist for The Independent (with a column called “Wired Woman” much to my friends’ amusement), Screen International, International Broadcast and TV World.

Those three events happened within a few weeks of each other – and they changed my life entirely – setting me out on a new path which I continue to this day.

Some of the highlights of my digital media career include:

1997 – 1998: media director (digital/print): Common Purpose: this was such an interesting job where I took everything I’d learned as a journalist and columnist and put it into real life application – so exciting. My team and I moved from creating print materials to CD-Roms to learning HTML and launching the first websites for their UK and international operations. We also launched a 2-D virtual world using the very early stages of avatar-based chat software called The Palace.

1999 – 2001: digital strategist, Hearst UK: built 22 online ventures including the first sites for Cosmopolitan, Harpers & Queen (before it became Harper’s BAZAAR), Company, Esquire, Good Housekeeping and more, including early e-commerce collaborations with Boden and the original business planning to launch Women.com in the UK (before it was sold to iVillage).

2001 – 2006: I spent five years in California directing a range of digital projects, including online, 3-D animation, motion capture and mobile applications for clients including New Line Cinema20th Century Fox and Neven Vision (now part of Google’s mobile operations). Working on The Devil Wears Prada was a definite highlight (and I got to see the preview on the studio lot where Truman Capote used to watch screenings with Marilyn Monroe). At the boutique agency, 8 Edge, we built the websites for the international launch of the movie as well as an online scavenger game. I wrote the game as well as the print Runway magazine that was used in the press materials.

2006 – 2009: director, mobile: Hearst Magazines USA (Hearst Digital Media): 9 mobile sites and apps for brands including Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Redbook and Good Housekeeping. Cosmo Mobile won a Webby and the Hearst Digital Media (mobile) group was nominated for a global MMA award. I was voted one of the “Top 21 Social Media Superstars” by Min Online and became a non-executive director for the UK Trade & Investment’s USA Council. We also struck deals with Tier-1 Carriers, VZW, at&t, Sprint, formed a partnership with Nokia’s ad network and ran 40 mobile ad programs for clients including Unilever, 20th Century Fox, P&G, Paramount, JCPenney, Macy’s, Toyota, Range Rover and MSN and launched mobile video channels on Verizon’s VCAST. I am a Founder member of IAB Mobile Committee and spoke widely at conferences: O’Reilly, Nasdaq/British Consulate event, Magazine Publishers of America, MMA, IAB, Mobile Advertising (SF), ASME and 4As.

This was the promo video we made, in collaboration with Sisu (http://sisumedia.com) when I was head of mobile for Hearst Magazines USA. This was in 2006 – pre-iPhone – and had the tagline (which came to me at 4AM like all good lines of copy 😉 “I had no idea my phone could do that!”

 

click here to hear Aleks Krotoski’s interview with me for The Guardian’s Tech Weekly show.

and here I am being interviewed by Lynne D Johnson at the BlogHer conference in 2008.

2009+: Hearst Magazines International: Building the digital vision and leading on strategy and execution across Hearst Magazines International (HMI), a unit of Hearst Magazines, which publishes almost 300 editions for distribution in nearly 100 countries including Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR, Esquire and, with the acquisition of the Hachette business, ELLE in several countries, including China, Russia and Italy. Awards won by the HMI group since 09 include:

EPPY (Editor & Publisher) | Best National Magazine-Affiliated Website | Spain Media Magazines/Harper’s BAZAAR Espana, Asian Publishing Award (APA) } Best Use of Screen Tablet Platform – Cosmopolitan China, Marketing Mix Digital Media Publishers Award | Best Content Offering: Woman | Cosmopolitan South Africa, Advertising Age | Media Vanguard Award | Cosmopolitan International Digital Strategy

I decided to leave Hearst in Feb 2013 to pursue a more hands-on digital and creative life on the Other Coast. I now have my own consulting business, was on the advisory board of Buy My Closet (now sold), a fashion start-up, and have individual clients in Los Angeles for whom I advise on social media strategy and more.

Here are the highlights of my 1st year in business:

* Judge for the international SheSays Awards to celebrate creative work in the advertising industry

* Guest Speaker at Bloom Retreats (Deia, Mallorca, April 2014) for Lynne Franks’ Creative Leadership event

* Advisory Board: BuyMyCloset.com

* International judge, Bookmarks Awards, South Africa

* 6-month consulting engagement on a content-led site for an international publisher and a 24/7 global radio station. Hired to interview all key decision makers, do content strategy, community concept and ecommerce direction, write RFP, source potential agency list, oversee agency selection, support through production and QA stages.

* Advised on ecommerce strategy for fashion/beauty television pilot (UK)

* The Digital Check Up: private consulting clients for social media in Hollywood and Europe

* Digital Advisor to Producers of Susan Seidelman’s movie The Hot Flashes

* Foreign Correspondent: ELLE China, Esquire Mexico, Harper’s Bazaar Australia, Red, Good Housekeeping UK and O, The Oprah Magazine (South Africa)

* Ghostwriter in Hollywood for keynote speakers

* Production Notes Writer for cult/horror movie release by director Eli Roth

* Published author: How To Stay Sane In A Crazy World (Hay House 2014)

In Nov 2013, I was hono(u)red to be the International Publisher Judge for the Bookmarks [digital awards] in South Africa – in Nov 2013

there’s a video of the judges here (the whole video is great but if you want to see my bit it starts on 06:31 mins)

bookmarkssophs2

bookmarkssophs3

From 2011 – 2014 I also wrote as the character “g l o r i a” at teamgloria.com

Here’s what I’m doing now – as a digital consultant. 

_______________________________

contact: sophsstuart(at)gmail(dot)com

5 thoughts on “digital (back story)

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