When Vamped officially launched on Jan. 20, 2014 (Hogg 2014a) Anthony and I were more focused on curating content and design details, then anticipating what the future would hold for our vampire general interest website.
Last month I was working on archiving for Vamped, when I realized we had ninety-nine published articles. Not bad, considering the timeframe and just the two of us run the site.
I told Anthony the good news and after some brainstorming we decided to commemorate the milestone with a top moments post; like TV shows. Without further ado, let’s check out my top 10 Vamped moments!
#10. A Lesson in Journalistic Integrity
On Aug. 27, 2014 I conducted my first phone interview with the famous Dr. Charles Runels; the inventor of the Vampire Facelift and Facial (Chapman 2014d). I was working on another article about Vampire Facials (Chapman 2014e) when I reached out to Dr. Runels with some questions. After numerous emails he suggested we chat over the phone.
During my research, I discovered Charles received a sanction that restricted his medical license in 2009 and it wasn’t reinstated until 2013. Also there was a FDA investigation in 2004 so naturally I wanted to get his side of the story. During our phone interview Charles was thrown off by my questions and asked if I was trying to hurt his reputation (Chapman 2014d).
Charles originally offered to drive traffic and help publicize the posts using 80 email lists and over 100 websites, but in the end nothing happened.
This interview taught me a valuable lesson about journalism. I included those sensitive questions in my interview, not to be malicious, but to get his side of the story and let him elaborate. Apparently, Charles didn’t appreciate the opportunity. Integrity is extremely important to me and people deserve the real story, not a version of the truth. I found out quickly journalists aren’t always looked upon kindly.
I conducted thorough research, discovered something no one else had reported and in turn sacrificed major publicity for our website to give our readers the truth. Would I do it again? Yes.
#9. Vamped’s First DMCA Claim
On Nov. 18, 2014 we were issued a “Notification of Copyright or DMCA Infringement Complaint” for three photographs I shared and cited from Sean Manchester’s book The Highgate Vampire: The Infernal World of the Undead Unearthed at London’s Famous Highgate Cemetery and Environs (1985) in my article “Seeking Vampires in London” (Chapman 2014e).
We took immediate action and submitted a counter notice of declaration claiming “fair use.” Anthony also wrote a detailed article exposing Manchester’s notorious history of abusing DMCA claims (Hogg 2014c).
A few weeks later Vampires.com re-blogged Anthony’s article (Animmi 2014):
The guys at vamped.org are practically religious in their research and fact checking; I find it hard to believe that they could get on anyone’s bad side, –but alas, they seemed to have stepped in proverbial poo when it comes to writing about the self-proclaimed vampire hunter, 70 year old Sean Manchester, who came down on them like a wrinkly old sack of… bricks, about their use of photos on the website.
This was a defining moment for me because it showed people were reading our articles and we had developed a reputation for being thorough and accurate, something also important to me. This made me feel really good.
Our web host showed how unimportant paying customers are by accusing us of fraudulent behaviour without conducting any sort of investigation. We issued the counter notice on Nov. 19, 2014 and didn’t receive a reply until March 25, 2015 after I sent the following email (Chapman 2015a):
I would like to say I am extremely disappointed in the level of customer service I have received from your company.
I received a DMCA notice on November 18, 2014 telling me I had 24 hours to remove content on my website that you currently host. The content being discussed was a couple of pictures that under fair use I was permitted to post them. You said I had to sign a declaration and remove the content, which I did.
I then submitted a counter claim the next day to your legal department. I have yet to receive ANY response from your company in regards to this counter claim.
I have emailed you numerous times. I have phoned as well and was told my case was in a queue, which I find hard to believe. I even emailed directly [sic] lawyer that works for your company and he said he would look into the matter and NO response from him either.
The level of customer service is appalling and I find it interesting that as a paying customer I mean nothing, yet a random person can issue a DMCA notice against me and you immediately give me an ultimatum. This person is also know for notoriously doing this to people on purpose because he doesn’t want his malicious behaviour exposed.
It has now been almost 4 months and not even a phone call or email from your company in regards to this matter.
I would like someone from your company to contact me back immediately!
I guess my angry, but firm email worked and received a reply the same day (Web Hosting Hub Legal Admin 2015):
If you would like to file a counter suit, you will need to work with your lawyer and the complainant. We do not offer third party legal services for these matters and you will need to handle this directly with your lawyer.
Interesting how the terms and conditions on the hosting’s website described a different action plan to follow. Despite being a journalist, and following the rules, people can still abuse the system and stifle free speech: I sent thirteen emails to our web hosting and called twice in regards to this matter.
#8. Vamped Reaches 100,000 Views
On Dec. 10, 2014 I was pleasantly surprised when checking our stats for Vamped and discovered we had reached 100,000 views. I immediately sent a shout out to our readers on our popular Facebook page.
To commemorate the milestone further I combined a Christmas card video with a thank you to our readers for all the support over the year.
I spent Christmas eve working on this little gem and Anthony was able to publish it in time for Christmas because our YouTube account is set on Australian time, a day ahead.
To me, reaching 100,000 views in only eleven months was amazing. It meant our brand was out there, people were reading our articles and Vamped was no longer the new kid on the block. I felt established and an overwhelming sense of pride. It showed me all the work, time and effort Anthony and I had dedicated to the site was paying off.
#7. Chinese Blood Bags Steered Vamped’s Direction
On July 7, 2014 I was browsing the web for vampire news stories to share on Facebook when I came across blood bag drinks being sold in China. The more I looked, the more media rehash I found on the topic.
Anthony usually helped me with the angle for an article since I was still learning, but he was away so I had to go solo on this one and take the initiative. I knew I was on to something and time was imperative and spent the rest of the day researching.
Being the first article I wrote without guidance from Anthony it was a big deal. I wanted to show him I was learning and all his time and effort was being put to good use.
When I tracked down the location and name of the café I was super excited. No one in the media had covered this. It was a rush and the more information I uncovered, the more excited I became.
I found photos depicting the inside of the café and their menu items; discovered the cafe had upped their prices due to the media hype; and located and translated a Chinese video stating the drinks weren’t new.
I worked my ass off and finished the article in one day. Anthony was able to review it the next day when he got home.
We published my article that day (Chapman 2014b). With Anthony’s help it spun off two more articles; one a week later that discussed how China’s FDA banned the drinks (Chapman 2014c) and another one relating to the production and distribution of the actual blood bags (Hogg 2014b).
To get a Chinese video on these “blood bags” translated, I text the link to a friend that spoke Mandarin. She translated the whole thing while at work and emailed it back to me.
This article was monumental to me because it proved I was learning and might be good at this journalistic racket after all. Anthony told me this article changed the direction of the website. After reading it, he wanted to apply a more investigative journalistic approach to our articles. A warm fuzzy for me.
#6. I Survived a Video Editing Marathon
2014 marked the final season of HBO’s True Blood and Vamped wanted to commemorate the event with a video. Our goal was to release the video before the premier of the show at 8 p.m. on June 22, 2014.
Making a video was uncharted territory for us. Anthony and I had to learn the editing program during the creative process. We didn’t realize how much time writing the script, finding clips and actual editing would actually take.
We started over completely with less than twenty four hours to spare and I stayed up until about 5:30 a.m. on the phone with Anthony editing. We published the video with minutes to spare. As of writing this it has been viewed 16,106 times (Chapman 2014a).
I really enjoyed this project because it forced me out of my comfort zone and to branch out into a new medium. I love challenges and between learning a new editing program, writing the script and only having twenty-four hours we went above and beyond.
I have run a few 10km runs in my day and the feeling of satisfaction after you cross the finish line was the same thing I felt after we uploaded the video.
#5. Interviewing My Friend and Mentor
Compared to other interviews, I found interviewing someone I knew more challenging. For my interview with Anthony, I had to scour the far corners of the web because his online presence, isn’t just limited to his blogs and sites, but countless forums. I didn’t want “fluff” questions either, so I spent hours comparing comments and blog entries until I struck gold.
For the record, the interview was my idea, not his. I found Anthony’s story regarding his online presence, interest in vampires, and research pertaining to the Highgate Vampire case interesting and wanted to share it.
I had fun researching Anthony, trying to find any skeletons in his closet. The experience taught me to look at someone objectively and remove the personal connection from the equation, which I think is a useful skill to master.
I discovered it’s harder than it looks to formulate questions for interviews, but if you look hard enough the responses are eye opening and give you a raw glimpse into your subject’s soul.
As of this writing, the interview has been read 5,213 times in 2015 and it’s the top post of the year so far. Not bad considering it was the first interview I published on Vamped.
#4. My First Interview on Behalf of Vamped
On Feb. 28, 2015 I had my first interview for Vamped on The Collective Awaits, a Blogtalk Radio show to promote our site and our social media presence (Ash 2015).
Though the years I have interviewed hundreds of people for jobs and been interviewed for high profile academic organizations. I thought my extensive experience would put me at ease for a podcast and I was wrong. Despite being supplied with a list of potential questions, I was super nervous.
Anthony soothed my butterflies with a phone call and prepped me for my questions. The concept of being live on the radio contributed to my nervousness.
When I called in, Magenta and I had a quick chat before the show started, which helped ease into the experience. Time flew past and by the end of it I felt comfortable.
Interestingly, on Feb. 28 Anthony had an interview published in The Spectral Times (Banks 2015). What are the odds of us both having an interview on the same day? Make sure to check out “Behind the Curtain: Vamped’s Administrators Interviewed” (Hogg 2015)
I missed out on a family birthday dinner for the interview and when I showed up later I was greeted by a bunch of tipsy people asking if I was famous yet?
For me, this interview kicked off a new section of my journalistic CV, establishing a firmer foothold in the industry. FYI, I will be appearing on Magenta’s show again May 30, 2015 so don’t miss it!
#3. Journalism 101: Research, Read, Write, Repeat
I had no idea my introduction to the Highgate Vampire case in 2013 would result in my most ambitious writing project to date. It even topped writing 150 page business proposals and marketing plans.
With Anthony’s help it took three months to write “5 Reasons Why a Wampyr Didn’t Walk in Highgate Cemetery” and it has taken another three months to finish the sequel, which is in the final editing stages.
Originally I compared both editions of Sean Manchester’s The Highgate Vampire: The Infernal World of the Undead Unearthed at London’s Famous Highgate Cemetery and Environs (1985, 1991). But the more I researched, the further down the rabbit hole I ventured. To me, the case is a giant puzzle that needs solving and I love puzzles, especially challenging ones.
Despite loving a challenge, frustration got to me a few times during the editing stages and I almost threw in the towel, but Anthony wouldn’t let me. That’s what I get for writing a 10,700 word article.
This article was significant to me because the last six months I have basically gone through “Anthony’s Boot Camp for Writers.” Having a business background, writing articles the past year and a half has been a brand new experience for me with a gynormous learning curve. It has taught me invaluable lessons regarding research, citations, inverted pyramids, writing style, and more.
#2. My First Field Assignment
On Aug. 30, 2014 I toured the world famous Highgate Cemetery in London, not only for the aesthetically pleasing graves, but as a continuation of research for the Highgate Vampire case.
My trip to London had two goals: visit the British Library for newspaper articles documenting the case and second get photos of where everything went down in 1970 (Chapman, 2014e). I went with my partner. Our flight landed at 7 a.m. in London. By the time we reached the library it was 10 a.m. and I had slept only about four of the last thirty-six hours so using a microfiche machine was quite challenging.
This field assignment was super important because it was essentially my first one. Not just for Vamped, but ever. Most people don’t realize, but the prep work for this was huge.
We had to cull a list of articles for the library from an eighteen page document and Anthony went through the painstaking process of ordering everything from their online catalogue. In regards to the cemetery, I had to consider logistics such as transportation, opening times, buying tickets, and photographing specific locations on the tour.
I found the planning stages just as exciting as the execution. Being able to see what I researched in the field made the whole journalistic experience a reality for me. As geeky as it sounds, scrolling through the old London newspapers on the microfiche was amazing and getting to experience a small hint of history gone past was irreplaceable.
In March of this year I went on my second field assignment for Vamped and it was a doozy. The article is currently in the works and should be a show stopper. I will be heading back to the British Library again in June in search of some more treasures and trip to Texas this fall is in the works.
#1. When Vampirologist.com Became Vamped.org
Last year Anthony’s old website, Vampirologist.com, was overhauled and Vamped.org was born on Jan. 20, 2014 (Hogg 2014a). This wasn’t an overnight decision and Anthony and I spent weeks writing a creative brief for the site analyzing the competition and target market, doing a SWOT analysis, designing content concepts and website vision.
We combined my marketing and business experience with his journalism and vampirologist expertise. Originally “Vampire Central” was the front runner and only opted to use “Vamped” after IndieJudge’s editor-in-chief, Sufi Mohammed, suggested it.
Due to the time zone differences, a major chunk of the planning for Vamped on my end was done in the morning while on an elliptical machine so I could type and workout.
The birth of the website was a milestone for me on many fronts. It forced me out of my comfort zone as Anthony took me under his wing, patiently teaching me the fine art of writing articles and blogging. It also forced us both to learn all aspects of website design from sitemapping to implementation. I now write or work on website design now on a daily basis, either working with Anthony or on my own projects.
Few people know, I spent most of my life as an art student until in my mid twenties when I randomly lost my inspiration at college; I blame recreational drug use. I used to carry a sketchbook religiously and if I wasn’t drawing I would paint or craft. Growing up most kids did sports and won trophies; I took art classes and won awards and contests.
When Anthony encouraged me to write, for the first time in years I felt inspired, excited and passionate about doing something. The combination of writing, researching, marketing and designing of the site sparked a fire that I thought I lost and I am thankful for it.
My mum’s theory is writing gives me a creative artistic outlet I have been missing since I abandoned my art. What we do on a daily basis has filled a huge void in my soul. Without the launch of Vamped, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I am happy to say instead of a sketch book I carry around a notebook religiously.
Erin Chapman’s incredible contributions to Vamped can never be understated: read “Cemetery Logistics: How I Tracked the Highgate Vampire” (April 4, 2015) for a greater appreciation of her thoroughness and work ethic.