What brought you to online media and what were your initial intentions when you got started?
Art: Ever since I can remember I’ve always had a profound love for music; like an obsession. I always knew everything about everyone in the business, like the latest single, the latest video, the next album, the inspiration behind each record, I mean… I was crazy even back in the day. Then one day, I decided it would be fun to share all that. And here I am.
Ronald: Superstar status! *throws hands up as if I see my name in bright lights* When I first started my blog, I had intentions of being the next Freddy O or Necole Bitchie. However, I discovered real quick that I would appreciate being a niche blogger more. Fame wouldn’t be all that great if the gay community hated Ronald Matters.
Dio: Online media has served as an outlet for me: my thoughts, worries and aspirations [it] has been used as a release. I was initially intrigued by the B. Scott character; he inspired me to put it all “on the table.”
Chike: My friend, now boss, Steven Knight, brought me to online media… [He] asked me to be a part of the project. There was no way that I could have said “no” to that.
J.Says: I wanted somewhere to express sometimes lengthy opinions, inform and start a dialogue with new people, especially Beyonce` fans, because I didn’t know any other dedicated fanatics.
Art: The goal was always to have the best music blog “for me”; every little piece of it, from the…design, the way of writing, color schemes, everything. The only rule is that if I like it, then it’s ok. The goal was, is and will always be to make something I like. Something I think is fun.
Chike: Now I see my dream unfolding in front of my eyes. I see the prize, so to speak, and that makes me push even harder to achieve my goals.
Dio: I wouldn’t say that I ever had any goals as an online personality. It is merely a self-therapeutic platform.
Ronald: After a while in the game, you’d be a fool to say your goals haven’t been modified in some kind of way.
What do you know now that you wish you would've known in the beginning?
Dio: I wish I would have realized then that being an online personality would make my past and present public knowledge. I’m much more reserved in “real life”.
Chike: I learned that people are really willing to hear what you have to say as long as you present yourself appropriately. After all, it is about who you know. Right?
Art: A lot about coding and HTML, website design, writing, social media, I mean… It’s a whole world of new stuff that would have been very useful to know at the beginning.
Ronald: Content is king, always will be. Promotion is the queen. Nothing else matters. Nobody cares about your blog design; hopefully it’s minimalistic so the content can shine and won’t load forever on my slow a** phone. Learn the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) basics up front. It sounds confusing, but you will appreciate it later…and start that Google AdSense account.
Art: I really don’t care much about that, because I think people don’t care about it, really. The main focus of my site is music and my love for it. I mean, I do talk about who I am and my image is public, but I rather have people putting attention on the blog rather than on me, you know?
Chike: My image is not too far off of who I am. I am just being me. I follow the old adage “Be yourself.” It does get a bit difficult in separating the business me from the personal me. I am still learning how to do that.
Dio: One way that I have kept reasonable distance between my audience and I was the creation of the personality and alternative name, “DiO”. I also try not to make too many intimate relationships with viewers. It’s good to maintain a bit of mystery, especially when you’ve publicized so much of your life.
Ronald: I’m an open book. Being able to openly talk about sex, family drama and interpersonal issues - especially from the gay point of view - is what draws people to RonaldMatters.com and my YouTube channel. You truly never know who you may help. The times when I have been the most revealing is what gets the most comments and emails of thanks and inspiration.
Has being a relatively public figure affected your personal life or how people interact with you?
Art: Well, I think that a lot of people pay more attention to me than they normally would if they didn’t know I have a popular blog, but is really not a big deal. It ain’t like I’m frickin’ Lady Gaga!
Dio: Yes, especially my dating life. Often when I’m interested in someone they are already aware of who I am, which puts me in a weird predicament because my online personality is not necessarily who I always am. As I said before, I’m much more reserved in person than on Youtube. When I meet people they expect me to be over-the-top.
Ronald: The stalkers, baybehhhh! When I tell you they are in the UK, Africa, Australia and even Antarctica! That aside, I love seeing my supporters in person. It’s still fresh and new to me. Recently, I was with my friend at the annual [Memphis] festival just strolling along when a young boy started screaming “OMG! There goes Ronald Matters!” over and over again. My friend, who didn’t expect this, goes, “Umm… I think you have a fan.” It was so sweet. We took a few photos for his Instagram and Twitter and we talked for a brief moment. That was one of my favorite moments from 2012.
Chike: My friends and family treat me exactly the same. However, people that only know me through my work do treat me celebrity-ish. It has its moments, but I am not one to take myself too seriously.
J.Says: People in my life are sometimes worried I’m going to “Taylor Swift” them and write an article about them. I don’t do that. If I’m going to quote them or mention a discussion loosely, I get permission. Sometimes, my mother’s friends run back to her and say “Did you know she wrote about this?”
How do you manage your time and create balance between your online and daily life?
Ronald: Bloggers generally shy away from weekend updates unless there’s a big event. After 7pm is usually off limits, too.
Art: That’s a hard thing to do and I’m still struggling with that. Sometimes I wish I had more time to do everything I love doing. The blog is my child and I know that I need to take care of it and just be there on a daily basis, but at times, it’s hard. Now, I’ve just come to the conclusion that I have to publish something every day, even if it’s only one post. Otherwise, time just flies.
Dio: I have yet to completely master balance between online and daily life. I go through periods of being fully involved online and not at all.
Chike: I honestly would say that this is the hardest one for me. I still have a “day job”. I also have a career in the medical field that keeps me pretty busy. The juggling of it all has proven quite interesting to say the least. Just when I think things are becoming impossible, something happens to make everything go over without a hitch. That is what confirms to me that I am on the right path.
What do you think has made you or your brand successful?
Art: I like to think that the way I write, the design, the stuff I talk about and the people I talk about are the key ingredients to the success of my blog.
Ronald: Being me, Ronald Matters, is the key ingredient to anything I put my hands on. If I can’t be me while doing it then it won’t be fun.
Dio: I have heard from many people that I say things that the average person will not. I also remain true to myself on Youtube. I stick to what I know and I steer away from topics that I am not fully involved in. The things that I discuss on Youtube are mostly testimonial.
Chike: The success of “The Steven Knight Show” as definitely helped my brand tremendously. That project is/was a great jumping board for me. The fact that I base my movement on relationships and becoming interpersonal with people definitely helps. I try to leave people that I encounter with a warm feeling. Almost like… I am family.
Ronald: No. That’s crazy.
Dio: Personally, I have not, but I know other online personalities who have.
Art: At first, I wouldn’t talk about artists I didn’t really love or about scandals, because the main focus is the music. Then, I learned that music fans at times want to know how the people they don’t like are doing; if they are succeeding or failing and sometimes, some of us end up changing our mind about certain things, artists and genres.
Chike: Fortunately, I am in positions with both “The Steven Knight Show” and “Conversations with Chike Evans” that allow for me to call most of the shots. That is a great luxury…to not have to compromise. I am very thankful for it. I have not had to compromise too much, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the work. When I lay my head to pillow, I have to feel good about myself. If not, I would definitely have problems with that.
J.Says: I’ve been pushed to be more sensationalist or gossipy to get more hits, but I never want to post unless I have something of substance to offer. In some cases, I’ve been more diplomatic in my writing in an attempt to not piss people off, so when it doesn’t work, it’s particularly irritating. I’ve gotten a lot of criticism about my Beyonce` section; I’ve been accused of over-analyzing and being negative and told I need to change it. It’s called “Seriously, Beyonce`, WTH?!” not “Seriously Beyonce`, You’re Amazing.” Everyone already knows I adore her. That section is about constructive criticism; that’s not going to change. I just don’t post the latest music, I discuss it.
What are the pros and cons of building an internet brand?
Art: [Con] Time. Time. Precious time. You will need a LOT of that. You will have to invest all your creativity on it. You really have to go all in; otherwise, it just won’t work. As for the pros, once you get big, it feels good to know people like to read what you write and the fact that you can make money out of it; it’s just amazing. I just loved--like you have no idea-the first check I got from my blog, even though it wasn’t that much. It was because of something I created. It’s just the best feeling in the world.
Ronald: Pros, you’re popular. Cons, you’re popular. Friends and potential dates are all scared they’ll end up being talked about in a video or blog post.
Chike: 1 great pro is that the entire world has access to you. The con is that the entire world has access to you. The gavel swings both ways on this one. Putting yourself out there and creating new fans and followers is great. Sometimes you can also have hate mongers that will be like a heckler in the audience except, this is the world wide web and it is all around the world as well.
Dio: The biggest con to building an internet brand is being misinterpreted and also making yourself very vulnerable to criticism and hate-there’s tons of hate online.
J.Says: 1 pro is that if your work is recognized, it can lead to new opportunities. The biggest con for me is that sometimes, you can get caught up in the “numbers” and trying to cater to your audience so much to where it isn’t fun anymore and you forget why you got started.
Have you ever wanted to quit? If, so, why?
Dio: More times than I can remember. Sometimes I look back at some of my work and think to myself “I sound like an idiot” or “I look a mess”; it also goes back to the time-management issue.
Art: Quit? Never. I have taken some time off from time to time, but I’m back now.
Chike: Never crossed my mind once, I am having too much fun!
Ronald: I take breaks from time to time. I just enrolled back into college full-time and need time to adjust, but quitting never crosses my mind because I feel like this is part of my calling.
J.Says: I’ve wanted to quit thousands of times. It’s frustrating when you don’t always see fruit from your labor.
Chike: 1 particular time I was having a conversation with Rosanne Barr on Twitter. We were discussing the Trayvon Martin incident and, as you know, our conversation was public to the world. A person that did not agree with our points of view chimed in and said some very negative things about the both of us. This person then became a stalker and exuded great negativity on a consistent basis. I had to report them to Twitter and consequently block them from all of my social media outlets. It was insane!
Art: I suppose I have read some mean tweets and emails, but I really don’t pay attention to that. I rather focus on the positive.
Ronald: There is always going to be somebody saying you’re exploiting a stereotype or have a certain opinion because you’re a “stan” (hardcore fan of a celebrity). Child, bye. I argue sometimes for fun, but if it gets too serious and the attacks become personal, I back away.
Dio: All the time, I receive tons of hate mail. In order to be an online personality, it is imperative that one have tough skin. I don’t let it get to me. At the end of each day I don’t lose a wink of sleep.
J.Says: I definitely have and my approach is to kill people with kindness or just not read comments.
Any regrets or moments you aren’t proud of?
Art: I truly regret not putting more time into [the site] a few months ago.
Chike: I was interviewing an actor on camera and I severely mispronounced his name. I was mortified. I normally do very well with that sort of stuff. What makes it so bad, it was someone that I admire greatly.
Ronald: I don’t do regrets. If I did it, I own it.
Dio: I don’t understand the concept of regret. Why become obsessed with things you can’t change?
J.Says: Nothing huge, just with layout. When I look back, I can’t believe I thought some things were a good idea.
What have you learned, either personally or business-wise?
Art: I have learned that there is a business man inside of me. I never, ever imagined that something I created could be successful; just in my wildest dreams I pictured earning money from writing about music. It’s just crazy. I treasure my creativity way more.
Chike: Even more so than before, relationships are everything. Be a great keeper and guard your reputation. In this business it precedes you. People will have an idea of who you are before you even get a chance to meet them. Be a person of your word and communication to the highest power is crucial.
Ronald: Knowing what I will and won’t tolerate is always changing. Things aren’t always peachy keen in the blogging business, but I won’t quit because this is something I am passionate about.
Dio: I consider myself and “indi- online personality,” mainly because people recognize me far and wide; however, I’m not a massive online personality like B. Scott or Kingsley. I don’t discuss pop culture, which puts me in a separate lane.
J.Says: I’ve learned a ton about branding, web-design and marketing.
What’s your advice for those seeking to do something similar to you?
Art: Find what you love to talk about. I mean, you have to eat, breath, think and love it! Otherwise, you will end up getting bored and it just won’t work. Look for a specific niche of the market that may fit with your interests and go for it. Be ready to spend a lot of time perfecting it, but get ready to smile once you see it gets big. It will all be worth it.
Ronald: Be yourself. If you’re boring, there are other boring people out there in the world who will love you. Start now. Don’t wait until a specific date or until you get such-and-such done. Nobody cares about your excuses. Have a life outside of what you do. You can’t continue to inspire others if you aren’t living life and have experiences to draw from.
Dio: Do the things that make you happy. Don’t compromise. Don’t pay attention to the numbers. Don’t compare yourself.
Chike: Be diligent, forthright, mentally open, focused, driven and personable. All of those will be vital skills as you start growing and meeting new people who can help influence and cultivate your career. Lastly, make everyone feels special because everyone is special.