Orlando Watson: Media, Tech and Civic Engagement Entrepreneurship
Orlando Watson is a Washington, D.C.-based entrepreneur working at the intersection of media, technology, and civic engagement. Inspired by his work with independent business owners and artists, Watson is currently developing a media platform that allows creators to accumulate digital currency in a simple and fun way using their mobile device. The goal of the venture, called Honeycomb, is to help fill gaps in the gig economy.
Prior to starting Honeycomb, Watson served as Executive Director of Think Local First DC, a nonprofit business alliance. From October 2013 to March 2016, he directed the Republican National Committee’s media strategy in communities of color, using data insights to shift the party’s focus toward inclusion and increase favorability among black voters. Prior to this role, Watson advised members of the United States Congress on the media landscape, serving as Communications Director for Congressman Paul Gosar and as Deputy Press Secretary for Senator Rand Paul. Watson began his career as an aide on Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign.
Given that your career started in politics, what got you interested in media?
I’ve seen the ways in which information can empower people and improve their lives depending on how they use that info. One example of this is my own story with how I became involved in politics: I was looking to learn more about the root causes of the economic recession and potential solutions to pull ourselves out of it. The internet and the proliferation of knowledge and resources that were available at my fingertips allowed me to learn more than I could have possibly imagined and changed the course of my life.
Why do you think digital currency can be an interesting revenue model for journalism?
I’ve been fascinated by the digital currency movement and deeply believe that it could change the way that we live, particularly for people who lack financial resources. I see an opportunity to utilize this new technology in a way that not only improves the lives of people but also helps organizations that are cash-strapped.
Although it’s 2018 and we’re 10 years removed from the economic recession, there are millions of people and organizations and industries that feel pushed to the margins. I’m interested in the ways that digital currency can empower them.
I’ve always been around media and have been a news junkie all my life. I care about the future of quality journalism and the role that it plays in a healthy civic society. It’s personal and important to me that we figure out a way for the news industry to sustain itself. The old way of relying heavily on advertising no longer works, so we’ve got nothing to lose by trying something new. I’m willing to take that leap of faith.
Where can people learn more about your project?
I’ll make future announcements on Twitter @OrlandoWatson.
[This is part of a series of peer profiles introducing the 2018 class of Tow-Knight Entrepreneurial Journalism fellows at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.]