A viral article titled “I Am A Female And I Am So Over Feminists” by Gina Davis at the University of South Florida took off with thousands of shares after the Women’s Marches last year. It gained traction on a student run-website called The Odyssey.
The Odyssey platform, aimed at millennials, was founded in June 2009 by Indiana University students Evan Burns and Adrian France. Their mission, listed on the site, aims to “democratize content, giving people the opportunity to share what’s most important to them and their communities.”
What started as a weekly platform for on-campus issues has transformed into an impactful, social platform that now has over 15,000 content creators.
Writers can create essentially anything they want with the possibility of reaching massive audiences, much like Davis did with her feminism piece.
Jenna Collins, editor-in-chief of DePaul University’s Odyssey community (one of 12,000), said Odyssey articles always popped up on her social media pages, but she didn’t know it was something she could join.
“I honestly didn’t even really know it was a thing I could be a part of until I found out that one of the founders posted in our university’s class page about it,” Collins said. “It’s something so awesome and yet almost anyone can be a part of it.”
Since becoming editor-in-chief, she’s been able to communicate with content creators, content strategists and even creators from communities across the country.
“I think the most unique thing about it is because The Odyssey is such an open platform, I’ve been able to work with so many different people from different backgrounds and levels of expertise,” Collins said.
Patrick Elliot, a DePaul student and weekly Odyssey creator, said he continues to write for them because The Odyssey helps him build a voice.
“People from across the country build this platform with so many intellectually diverse views,” Elliot said. “It’s the most accessible way for students to genuinely expose their voice.”
Tyler Lyman, content strategist based out of The Odyssey’s New York City headquarters, said content creators and readers are drawn to the platform because it gives them an opportunity to write and read content that is relevant to them.
“It’s just young kids that are really telling their stories and their truths,” Lyman said. “We don’t fool ourselves in trying to believe that we are a New York Times or The Atlantic or anything that’s trying to have political weight. However, these stories matter and the ability to actually speak them and be really front-facing about them and have them out in the world is huge.”
The flexibility the platform allows means stories aren’t always serious, and often gain a bad rep, but that’s part of what The Odyssey is. Lyman said it’s a social platform and doesn’t claim to be journalism. Some of the critique the articles receive are pointing out that the content is not “news,” which stems from a misunderstanding that the site is actually a social platform.
The platform generates content from various categories from politics and relationships to astrology. Since the site generates so much content, Lyman said visitors can usually find any specific thing they’re looking for.
“Type in anything and I guarantee you’ll find at least one article about that thing you typed in and that’s like a fun game that we like to play,” Lyman said.
Lyman said in an era where media companies are monopolized, it’s important for the younger generations to express what’s important to them.
“It’s cool for us to kind of be able to inject our own opinions and be able to say, ‘hey there are more than just the major media players out there,’” Lyman said. “There are actual people experiencing the world.”