Taylor Rao and Jack Carpenter of Two Buttons Deep. Photo by Michael Hallisey / The Spot 518
It’s no secret younger audiences consume news coverage through different channels like Two Buttons Deep. But, even after a year after its launch, there are still people who don’t know what it means to be two buttons deep.
News gathering long served the purpose of answering the simple yet key questions of who, what, when, where and why. The Five W’s — and sometimes “how” — addressed the information needed to inform audiences, but that way of presentation has since grown stale. Nearly 40 years after CNN went to 24-hour news coverage, people now consume news at 40 megabytes per second on tablets and cellphones.
The proliferation and popularity of social media has enabled everyone to answer The Five W’s. Think of Arab Spring in 2010, when news outlets across the globe depended upon videos and texts from everyday citizens to reveal what was happening in North Africa and the Middle East. That same information, however, was already on Twitter for everyone to see.
Information no longer flows through CNN, and newspapers rebrand themselves amidst the threat of going the way of a dial-up internet service. Now, the operative term to inform has moved on, or at least paired with, the transitive verb to engage.
“At a time when the internet seems to be mostly an echo chamber of negativity, Two Buttons Deep can bring some levity and happiness to your social media feed,” said Vic Christopher, of Clark House Hospitality in Troy. The then-upstart media outlet hitched a ride with Christopher for the Capital District’s momentous first Uber ride last June. “They understand what viewers want, which is short, entertaining and local content.”
Two Buttons Deep co-founder and producer, Jack Carpenter says content continues to be king. He has a knack for knowing what catches your attention. He developed a YouTube channel in his first year of high school. By the time he graduated in 2011, he had garnered a million viewers.
A high school business project nearly landed Carpenter in trouble with Kentucky Fried Chicken. He and a classmate produced a mock commercial involving a puppy (not actually) being tossed from a moving car after taking a bite out of their chicken. When the posted video went viral months later, animal activists attacked the Colonel. When the food chain approached the high school, Carpenter
took the video down.
Flash forward six years later, Carpenter and fellow Shenendehowa alumna Taylor Rao founded Two Buttons Deep, calling the Ignite U NY shared office space in Troy their home base. Together, they are teamed with a handful of staffers who focus on what news they think people want to talk about.
“There’s no type of innovative media outlet up here,” said Carpenter. “Everyday, we’re coming up with ideas. Our tagline is “Stuff Worth Talking About.” We talk in the morning with all of our writers and we just find things in upstate New York that we think people will want to talk about.”
Such content includes articles on upstate happenings, often times accompanied by a two-minute video with a humorous and personal slant. Earlier this month, Rao tackled the contentious drama between RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson and her alumni. An email from one of the school’s lecturers stoked the fire after it allegedly accused its former students for holding back donations because she was a short, black woman. Rao, who stands five-feet tall, proceeded to ask RPI students if height truly was an issue. Other headlines on the news and entertainment website include national topics: “One of Us: Teen Olympian Overslept, Lost His Coat, Dropped an F-Bomb on Live TV And Won USA Our First Gold Medal” and “This Student Snapchatted Today While An Active Shooter Shot At Him Because That’s The World We Live in (VIDEO).”
“Our idea, in general, is that every piece of news that you consume on the local level is “who, what, when, where, and why.” And, what Two Buttons Deep does is go out to events, we interview people, and we cover the “Wow” and “What the F?” said Rao.
Rao is a journalism graduate from Ithaca College. She has interned and continues to freelance at the Albany Times Union, where she impressed Kristi Gustafson Barlette. The features writer has called Rao her “top former intern.” She comes across as thoughtful, yet sassy and free-spirited in front of the camera, none so as evident as her “Nobody asked me, but…” segments. In short clips she shares her opinions on trivial subjects while showcasing a local hotspot. She is an avid news consumer, a frequent reader of The New York Times, local and international news, but she understands that’s a rare quality among her peers.
“The people around here, the 20-something demographic, is not consuming [traditional media] content,” she said. As the team’s editor in chief, she doesn’t see Two Buttons Deep as anyone’s first destination for news. However, she said, it will continue to be the place to go for a personal take on trending events.
“That’s been the biggest transformation,” said Carpenter, “that people are starting to recognize us and they know a little bit more about what we do.” The business venture has yet to generate enough income to support its staff. But, with its growing popularity that could change.
“Jack Carpenter and Two Buttons Deep are on to something good,” said comedian and entertainer Greg Aidala. “I can say that I admire his passion to bring awareness to the professional talent in the 518… and he’s got a good head of hair.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.