“People need to know they can trust what you put out there” – Ricardo Khayatte
Ricardo Khayatte has an eclectic background. “In another life, I was a musician,” he said with a smile as he recalled his musical past. From an early age, Khayatte has been embedded in the local music scene performing with various bands, producing, and songwriting while having the unique privilege of being surrounded by great producers like Humberto Gatica, Mauricio Guerrero and even Canadian songwriting icons like Jim Vallance and Eddie Schwartz.
After high school, Khayatte moved to Boston to study songwriting at Berklee School of Music and then continued in the music industry writing for artists and performing in an alt-country folk band called The Reckoners. When he returned to Vancouver in 2005, Khayatte launched his first company, IndieMV Media Group, in the hopes that he could figure out a way to provide independent artists with innovative monetization solutions for their art that truly made a difference. “I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog and still believe that independent artists are key to a thriving music industry.”
Khayatte wanted to expose people to the underground arts scene happening in Vancouver and as a result, he started Vancouver Weekly, which has grown to become one of Vancouver’s top digital publications. “When I first started Vancouver Weekly, it was a small blog filled with my own writing. In a matter of months, I had 50 contributors who were out reviewing theatre, film, and music in the city and as it progressed further and our numbers grew — long-form features, profiles, and even cultural and social commentary emerged within the publication.”
Khayatte credits the quick uptake to the quality Vancouver Weekly’s team of writers has produced as well to the strong relationships in and amongst the creative communities in the city. “We like to support and work closely with festivals, music venues, theatre companies, and arts organizations in Vancouver — hopefully, we can continue to give locals and those visiting Vancouver, an alternative perspective on what is going on in and around the city.”
Vancouver Weekly has become a training ground for aspiring writers and budding journalists. It has also become a community of, and for, writers. It’s a bit of an incubator in a way and gives writers the opportunity to learn from each other, to explore style and tone, and to develop relationships that will see them through the next step in their career. “So many of our writers and contributors go on to work for major publications and come back to say that they not only got their training here, they also got to immerse themselves in what was happening in Vancouver at that time.”
While Vancouver Weekly remains a digital publication, Khayatte holds on to the idea that it may one day translate into a print publication. “There’s something romantic about print, especially as a writer. Digital is often about instant gratification – you skim stories and access things immediately. With print, you absorb the information differently. Both have their advantages, and both are needed.”
Like with most arts endeavours, funding is Vancouver Weekly’s biggest challenge. Khayatte sat on the board for MagsBC and saw just how hard it is to find support for both print and digital publications. “We aren’t just competing against local publishers – there are more and more US publications infiltrating our market, and we need to think about what the Canadian voice is going to be moving forward.”
As new media journalism continues to shift, Khayatte continues to seek innovative business models and unique narrative themes to bring to the public. He is launching a variety of new media projects this year, including a new social audio app called Sayy.it that he co-founded with a team of engineers Kiky Tangerine, Patrick Sears, and Barry Steyn.
“The goal behind Sayy.it is to bring together the world’s most influential thinkers onto a social audio platform that sparks unique discussions on a number of topics from environmental sustainability to mental health, technology and business, and of course, a genre that will always be close to my heart, the arts.” — Ricardo Khayatte