From outsiders to insiders to completely dismantling that wall of separation, Nerd News made the transition from fans to reporters with their endless of knowledge of nerd culture and meeting celebrities in coffee shops.
Nerd News writes about computers, technology, superheroes, video games and other nerdy things. They also do a hilarious weekly podcast.
We spoke at Grand Rapids Comic-Con about covering conventions, celebrities, and trying to make the Nerd-News.com their 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. jobs.
When it comes to covering comic conventions, news sources know it's not easy. The rush of the event, the crowds of people, the ever-changing schedules. But Nerd News remained calm and collected throughout our interview at Grand Rapids Comic-Con the weekend of October 18.
"[The con] is going very well. We got quite a bit of content," said founder of Nerd News Rob Boggan. "We got to dress up twice yesterday."
Nerd News is three-people operation. Rob Boggan dressed as Tyreese from The Walking Dead, Matt Petriella, dressed as a vault dweller from Fallout, and Maria Boggan, the costume expert was the Silent Hill nurse.
"Old school" Maria said.
"But still very popular," Rob said.
Their roles in the group differ.
Maria makes costumes and does make up, which she has been doing for about five years. Matt Petriella is the celebrity/TV encyclopedia/video game nerd of the group, and Rob is the mastermind that created it all.
The group’s first comic-con was Detroit Fanfare a few years ago.
"It was a really small con, similar to this one,” Rob said. “From there we got bit by the con bug. We went to Motor City Comic-Con and now we'll usually do four or five cons a year over the US."
The biggest con they’ve been to is ToRobto Fan Expo.
"Wall-to-wall people, it was pretty massive. It can be overwhelming at times,” Rob said.
People come out to cons for the cosplay, art, but especially the celebrity guests. Matt is one of those people.
“I’m a celebrity whore so I love meeting celebrities," he said. "I started a collection of old school cartridge games, like Nintendo and Super Nintendo. I'll buy them from movies that celebrities are in and I'll have them sign those. It’s my own special collection.”
So far, he has a cartage signed by Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Michael Rooker, and Cerina Vincent.
"She's my favorite one,” he said.
Every news source’s goal is to meet with these celebrities and interview them, but trying to organize a schedule for a con is like trying to get a cat to take a bath.
"With celebrities, either you miss scheduling or they're too busy or you end up running into something,” Rob said. “My worst fear is wanting to talk to a celebrity and actually getting to talk to them and them being a jerk. That sucks sometimes."
He said preparation is the hardest thing, as well as getting people to open up during interviews.
"I'm more outgoing so I don’t mind talking to people, it's getting people to open up to talk back,” he said. “I don’t mean any harm by saying this, but most people wear a costume so they don't have to be themselves. It's easier to walk around and pose for photos and open up for a few minutes. You show up, you take pictures and you have fun.”
Nerd News was founded it 2009 by Rob and two other men who are no longer in the picture (meaning no longer in the group, not dead).
What inspired them to start a site about nerd culture?
"We just wanted to talk about things we were into,” Rob said. He built up a following and recruited his lovely wife, Maria. Matt joined after and combined, the trio can answer any question about anything nerd related.
“We got a perfect little team,” Rob said.
Matt has a background is audio and video engineering, Maria takes care of the costumes, and Rob does the talking, as well as being the editor-in-chief of Nerd News.
"With her being able to do costumes, and him being all about doing interviews and being able to open up and have the tech side of things, between the three of us we have the skills we need to run a team like this,” Matt said.
Rob said it’s “incredible” they’re able to turn out the content they do.
“The stuff that we do is usually delegated to teams of five and ten but we've been able to make some pretty good stuff about it,” he said.
How do they work the con as media?
"The biggest thing is finding the right people to reach out to. You have to find some PR company who will evaluate you and find out what you do,” Rob explained. "You really just have to have the content there. If the content is there and they see that you'll usually be able to get in."
The group doesn’t always get interviews the typical way, which is coordinating with the celebrity and the handler at the event and setting up a time.
Matt said they often get interviews because they talked to someone random who turns out to be a video game developer or a celebrity’s relative.
"Once you're here, everything can be totally different when we leave," Maria said.
“The most important thing is networking for sure,” Matt said. “You'll meet people at this con who you'll be able to meet up at a bigger con. It's about making connections and getting to know people.”
The biggest person they interviewed was Susan Cummings when they spoke with her at Wizard World in Chicago.
Cummings has developed the Doctor Who legacy games for mobile platforms, as well as many other popular games.
"When we got to interview her, we found out she was act a big staple in video games,” Matt said. “She helped found Rockstar games, which does ‘Grand Theft Auto.’ She helped found 2K games. She sold ‘Borderlands’ to Rockster on a verbal pitch. Getting to talk to her was awesome."
Rob’s favorite person he’s interview was Chad Coleman at Motor City Comic-Con.
“That was completely unexpected," he said.
They also run into celebrities without meaning to.
“I wear glasses and I can't see farther than four feet in of me without them,” Rob said. “We went to Chicago and I was dressed at Mr. T. I was walking up the hallway without my glasses, and I hear somebody scream 'I pity the fool' from up the hallway. I'm just like ‘ahh, yeah yeah.’ We get back to where we’re going and they're like ‘you have no idea who it was.’ It was Bruce Campbell.”
Matt said if you can't afford to meet a celebrity, you'll sometimes run into them. He’s met Bruce Campbell, Cerina Vincent, and William Katt, just by chance.
“That’s the beauty of the things, though. You run into and rub elbows with people who you otherwise would not have the opportunity to even speak to,” Rob said.
Maria’s favorite celebrity to talk to was Norman Reedus. Matt’s was Sean Patrick Flanery.
What are their favorite parts of conventions?
Matt said his was meeting a certain celebrity.
“The first con I went to was Wizard World in Columbus. It was slow, but Sean Patrick Flanery was there. I was talking to his son. We're probably a good 50, 60 feet away from his booth and he's got a line of people.”
Sean Patrick Flanery looked over to them and yelled 'How’s it going brother?’ Matt met him after and said he was the coolest guy.
For his favorite moment, Rob said he had to get mushy for a second.
"I was born and raised up in Flint. There's not a lot to do there, there isn't a ton of positivity. Just being able to get out and do these things is my favorite part,” he said. “I get to travel with my wife and my best friend. That’s my favorite thing. We get to talk to people, we get to take photos, we get to have fun. We do it for fun. Just being able to go to cons and kiss babies and meet people."
“You kiss babies?” Matt asked.
“Not yet, but it'll happen,” Rob replied.
Their goal is to make this, covering conventions and talking to cosplayers and celebrities, their regular 9-5 jobs.
In real life, Maria is a first-grade teacher, Rob is a sales consultant, and Matt is a district manager for Disc Replay.
"One day this will be real life, this will be our job,” Rob said. "It's really refreshing to take a break from the 9-5 and to be able to pursue a passion. Eventually this will be the 9-5."
Rob actually started Nerd News because growing up as a nerd, there weren’t a lot of people who shared his interests.
"I got made fun of, I got shoved into lockers, I got teased because I as nerd, because I liked pro-wrestling, because I liked video games. There’s a ton of sites out there that do that but I don't see a lot who represent the normal side of the culture,” he said.
Nerd News is all about talking about products from a reliable, consumerist standpoint. They’ll tell you if a product is worth your time and money.
“Everyone is an insider, and we’re all outsiders looking in. That’s why I wanted to start the site to let people know this is a thing you can do. If you're into dressing up, or pro-wrestling, there are things that you can do to satisfy those hobbies and those habits,” Rob said.
Maria said covering cons and writing about nerd stuff is something they do in their free time regardless, so they might as well share it with people.
“You don’t really realize how many other people are doing the same thing you're doing or what you’re passionate about. We get people interested in different types of things which drives our nerdiness through the roof and we get to bring that to everybody else,” Maria said
Nerd News: @NerdNewsShow
Rob Boggan: @robbiedeezle
Maria Boggan: @Red1maria
Matthew Petriella: @MattPetriella
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