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But about 2 percent of the articles (submitted) get posted to the site, and they're all very relevant to teens, not just about celebrities--things like managing popularity in high school.
There seems to be an absence of that kind of material.
Cook: All the teen magazines like Teen People and Elle Girl, for instance, even stopped doing their print publications because there was no longer a market. Their online publications aren't really going through because very established print media companies aren't used to doing it in online, and so we are actually ahead of those. Personally, I find a lot of the teen magazines only focus on celebrities, which kind of bothers me because I don't care what Angelina Jolie is doing this week. That doesn't affect me in any way.
The (most popular) articles that are on My Mag get about 3,000 comments a day. The other ones average around 1,000.
So from that perspective, what do you think the future of media is?
Cook: I think that people will realize that user-generated content doesn't have to be like, bad. A lot of older companies and print publications hear "user-generated content" and they're kind of like scared because they don't trust what people will come up with. But I think that's the only way you can really stay in tune with what your members want, with what your readers want. So I think other media companies will realize that that's kind of the key to staying relevant. You have to post what your members want by actually seeing what they write.
Does that mean you plan to start publishing original content alongside your user-generated content?
Cook: Yeah, like once in a while, I'll write a feature article.
What was the last one you wrote?
Cook: It was about why popularity doesn't matter in terms of high school, knowing that I've not been very popular in high school myself.
What about MyYearbook? That had to boost your image.
Cook: I was very well-known, but I wasn't necessarily in the popular group. I was the class entrepreneur, so I was mentioned in the class president speech, valedictorian speech and all the class advisory speeches so everyone knows who I am, but I'm not that popular. I have a few close friends, but I don't have much time for parties and stuff because I'm always working.
Cook: Forty hours a week or more sometimes. In the summer, I work about 60 hours a week. During the school year, it ranges between 25 to 40 hours depending on the week. In college, I plan to still be working pretty much as I had been in high school because I think I actually can miss a lot more college classes than I could high school classes.
Aren't you tempted to skip college?
Cook: I could, because I do have a very solid job. But the thing is, I don't want to quit something before I even see what it's like.
Is MyYearbook the first of many companies you want to start?
Cook: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn't necessarily know it would be an Internet company, but I definitely don't think that MyYearbook is the last thing I'll start. Say in 10 years, I don't think I'll able to settle down and work a normal job. I've gotten rather used to being the boss. It's very fun running your own company.
I saw you speak at the Mashup 2007 conference with several other teen Internet entrepreneurs on stage and I was wondering how you thought you were different from your peers?
Cook: Well, obviously we're all driven. But I noticed one of the questions, I remember I made everyone laugh, they asked me how I balanced school and working. I said I spent a lot less time on school, and I noticed other kids on the panel would (sacrifice their work for school). I always put MyYearbook first, no matter what. I didn't study for any of finals this year or midterms, Also MyYearbook is bigger, so I have 30 employees working in the office.
So did your grades suffer at all?
Cook: I think they turned out pretty well. I had a 4.0 when I graduated. Junior-senior year my grades dropped, but not by that much. I never found school that difficult, and I would just find ways to multitask so I didn't have to do certain things. For instance, all senior year, I never asked for or picked up my government policy books. Instead I just downloaded the chapters, because they had them on podcast, onto my iPod and listened to them in the car on the way to the office.
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