Friday, December 9, 2011

Help Save Sea Turtles

At Compass Media, we love sea turtles - so much so that we adopted the sea turtle to represent our brand (find out why). Now you can help save them too, if you live in the state of Alabama. 

We helped "Share the Beach" design this beautiful new specialty license plate so that you can show your support for the protection of sea turtles and help raise vital funding for the program; but we need your help! To make it happen, the Alabama Motor Vehicle Division must receive 1,000 commitments from supporters, like you, who will purchase the plate. 

Please go to your Alabama Motor Vehicle Division office and ask for the "Share the Beach" specialty license plate commitment form today! Please note that you will be required to pay the $50 donation at the time you submit the form. Once there are 1,000 commitments, the tags will be produced and you'll be notified! Before you know it, you'll be driving around with one of the coolest license plates ever made.

Please help by spreading the word through your networks, too! To learn more about the process, visit this Facebook page  or contact the Alabama Motor Vehicle Division

Thank you,

Team Turtle
Compass Media, Inc.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How Travel Companies Use Social Media Well

We read a great article this week about how some travel industry companies are using social media the right way to support their brands. Carnival Cruise Lines is a great example. They have been working for some time to grow their Facebook presence. In fact, Carnival's television ads stopped mentioning the company's website long ago - instead, they push consumers to Facebook.

But it is not merely Carnival's focus on growing it's Facebook page that earns it a gold star for social media smarts. It is what Carnival does with it's fans on Facebook.

By engaging with consumers directly, and framing the conversation, Carnival is helping consumers generate positive comments and reviews. 

This is vitally important in a world where companies have no control over customer reviews placed all over the Internet. No company is perfect, and all make mistakes. Unfortunately, consumers are not nearly as likely to post reviews when they are happy as they are when they are mad. What better way for a company to combat this quirk of human nature than to engage with happy and excited customers and invite their feedback?

In the example shown above, Carnival asks customers following the company on Facebook to share what port they'd recommend to their friends, and why. It generated 479 "Likes," 752 comments, and 20 shares - ensuring that literally thousands (perhaps tens-of-thousands) of new people connected to Carnival's  fans were exposed to Carnival's brand in a positive way.

Friday, October 21, 2011

iPhone Camera Upgrades You May Not Know You Have

If you recently downloaded the new iOS5 software for your iPhone you got several upgrades to your iPhone camera that you may not even be aware you have. Check out this presentation on Mashable to see for yourself!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Facebook's "New Class of Apps"

Facebook announced major changes to its platform last week, changes that will have a very big impact on how businesses engage with customers online. 

Increasingly in this new paradigm, your brand will be discovered – and new customers acquired – not by your advertising efforts, but by consumers who merely observe what brands their friends choose to engage with.

With the new structure of Open Graph, Facebook has created a platform for what it calls “frictionless sharing” – no longer will consumers have to actively share your brand – all they need to do is use your brand and their friends will know it.

If you have the right app.

To be successful in this new paradigm, your app has to do more. It has to provide a valuable or entertaining service that is consistent with your brand – and that your customers want to use and make a part of their life.

Facebook is calling for a "new class of apps" that consumers will make a part of their personal Facebook page - and their lifestyle-- and use frequently. But the space consumers will be willing to give apps on their pages will be limited, so competition among brands will be fierce. 

"The more engaging your app is," Facebook says, "the more people will discover it."

At Compass Media, we are already well into the development of several such apps, based on our proven track record of identifying high-impact opportunities and building engaging apps that leverage viral sharing and capture opt-in customer data.

Let us know what we can do to help you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DMAI e-News: Holy Cr@p! Co-op Marketing and the Social Media Revolution

Here is the text of an article written by Compass Media's Scott Crider. Scott, our Vice President of Interactive Media, wrote this article for yesterday's Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) e-Newsletter (published 9/26/11).

Scott will also be speaking on this topic at DMAI's DestinationManagement & Marketing Institute in Tunica, MS on Nov. 7-9. 

We hope to see you there!

Holy Cr@p! Co-op Marketing and the Social Media Revolution

Social Media is the hot topic, but has it really opened up quantifiable new opportunities for destination marketers? The short answer to this question is “yes.” The longer answer is, well, longer.

First, some perspective.

Facebook is nothing less than a stunning force in marketing. Founded just 7 years ago in a college dorm room, the site now boasts over 750 million active users worldwide (Source: Wikipedia). In the U.S., the site is projected to boast over 150 million users next year (that’s almost half of all Americans!).

And it’s not all kids.

Are you ready for this jaw-dropper? That means 93% of adult U.S. Internet users are on Facebook (Source: Hubspot).

Not only that, but U.S. consumers aren’t just dabbling around Facebook occasionally. They’re devouring it daily. A study last year showed that half of all Facebook users admitted they check it every day, often multiple times. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average user spends more than 11 hours per month on the site.

That makes Facebook the biggest “time sink” on the Internet. 

According to eMarketer, Facebook continues to entrench itself into consumer’s daily lives through diversification. No longer is the site primarily for keeping up with who is in a relationship with whom. What started as a “play” social network, eMarketer says, “has evolved into an all-purpose destination that is beginning to replace e-mail, instant messaging, video-sharing, gaming, and other activities that were otherwise scattered across unconnected venues.”

Considering these stats, it’s no wonder that around 80% of all businesses have by now created a Facebook page. In fact, a brand new Duke University survey of 249 U.S. Chief Marketing Officers indicated that, on average, they plan to dramatically increase use of social media over the next five years.

At the same time, though, marketing executives remain confused by social media. Many now have performance indicators built around social media metrics (such as growing Facebook “Likes”) but have little idea how to do so in a way that is strategically sound and deliver a discernable return on the investment.

The Duke University survey seems to agree, saying marketers “admitted they have a ways to go toward integrating social media in their strategy.” On a scale of 1-7, with one being “not integrated at all” almost one-quarter of marketing executives selected “one” to describe how well their company's social media is integrated with the firm's overall strategy.

Back to the original question: Has social media really opened up quantifiable new opportunities for destination marketers? You bet it has. And if you get creative, the opportunities can be enormous.

Let’s talk about an emerging trend in co-op marketing.

Virtually all media companies - television stations, radio stations, newspaper and magazine publishers - now have Facebook pages. They are challenged to continually grow “Likes” and provide innovative, fresh content that engages their audiences. Furthermore, they struggle to integrate their Facebook pages with their main programming and content. 

DMOs can help media companies solve their “Facebook problem,” as one TV executive I know refers to it, and receive tens-of-thousands of dollars worth of free advertising and hundreds – even thousands – of new, targeted, drive market leads in exchange.


Media companies have hundreds of thousands of viewers, listeners, and readers (even millions, depending on the market). DMO’s have destinations that offer consumers attractive travel opportunities. By using Facebook to tie the two together, amazing results can be achieved.

I know of one case study about a DMO/TV Station/Facebook co-op marketing partnership in which the TV station experienced:

-40% increase in Facebook fans
-325% increase in consumer engagement (comments and shares)
-50% increase in monthly active users

While the DMO received:

-506 TV spots
-30 live on-air promotions (news and morning shows)
-25,000 Web impressions
-Over 800 highly targeted leads
-1,200% ROI (total advertising & lead value)

It’s a true win-win situation. And this occurred in a small market in which the TV station’s Facebook page had less than 3,000 “Likes” to begin with. In a large market, where TV stations frequently have 50,000 or more “Likers” to begin with, and much more expensive advertising rates, a DMO could receive many, many thousands of high quality leads and many, many thousands of dollars worth of advertising for a very low investment. 

In a word: ROI. I’m talking ridiculous, over-the-top, downright gaudy ROI.

The key element in this co-op marketing opportunity is a Facebook app designed to process sweepstakes entries. There are several companies around the U.S. that create and license Facebook apps, and some [like Compass Media *] even provide campaign management and technical support.

Using an app, and some creativity and ingenuity, your DMO can be an early beneficiary of this emerging trend. Put together a win-win co-op promotion with a media partner in a key market, and you’ll gain your destination a huge amount of exposure, tons of high-quality leads, and – best of all - a remarkable return on investment.

*Note: This link did not appear in the DMAI e-News edition of this article.

Scott Crider is Vice President, Interactive Media – Compass Media, Inc. in Gulf Shores, AL, and can be reached at or +1.251.967.7548

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to Get Facebook Timeline NOW

Here at Compass Media, we keep up with the latest trends, and we like to share them with you. Mashable has a great tutorial telling you how you can get the new Facebook "Timeline" feature now. Check it out HERE.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

24th Annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup Sept. 17

“Get the Trash Out of the Splash” on Sept. 17!

Think about it—all spring and summer long, the Gulf Coast and all her wonders have been giving and giving…seafood, sunshine, good times and memories…Don’t you think it’s time to give a little back?

The 24th Annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup from 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 17 is your opportunity! This Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources tradition on the third Saturday of September helps make sure we stay “Alabama the Beautiful.”
In the past 23 years, 61,513 clean-up volunteers have removed 1,169,844 pounds of trash from 3,917 miles of coast.

With cooler weather, it’s the perfect time to bring family, friends, work and other groups together to “pay it forward”! Summer 2011 has been a record-breaking tourism season, but the flip-side is some have left more on the beaches than just footprints.

So here’s the starting point to get involved:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Intercept Marketing With Google's Daily Deals

Facebook recently scaled back its efforts in the daily deals phenomenon that Groupon has been so successful with. But Google seems to be pushing ahead full speed. It’s thought that the biggest problem Facebook faced was that it takes a considerable local sales effort to generate the necessary deals “inventory” to make the model work for consumers.

Can Google make it work? They recently bought deals and coupons aggregator “The Dealmap” and started promoting Google Offers on their homepage. This first test, in New York, is said to be leading to more deal roll-outs in more cities soon.

If they’re successful, Google will tap into a lucrative market. Opus Research estimates that the “deals” market generated at least $3 billion this year in the U.S.

At Compass Media, we're watching this closely because it could become a very important local marketing channel in the near future – ideal for intercept marketing for the travel and tourism-related services industry.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Alabama Chef Wins Great American Seafood Cook-Off

Chef Jim Smith and Assistant Heather Hannah
Compass Media CEO J Gary Ellis was in New Orleans yesterday for seafood promotion planning meetings and had the opportunity to attend the Great American Seafood Cook-Off where he got to see Alabama Chef Jim Smith win the national competition! 

Chef Smith, who is currently executive chef for the Alabama Governor’s Mansion, edged out top chefs from around the U.S. to become “King of American Seafood.” 

"It was really great to see an Alabama Chef win," Ellis said. "We at Compass Media congratulate Chef Smith on this achievement. It makes us all proud to be fellow Alabamians and a part of Gulf seafood promotion." 

The dish Chef Smith prepared included a variety of late summer Alabama bounty: sous vide shrimp and marinated blue crab with garam masala scented yellow squash purée, farmers market lady peas, and bacon-peach relish with spinach basil oil.

A graduate of Johnson and Whales, prior to his current assignment as governor Robert Bentley's Executive Chef, Chef Smith worked at Dyron's Low Country, Hot and Hot, and Bottega, all Birmingham-based restaurants.                                       

Friday, August 5, 2011

Google Launches Hotel Finder "Experiment"

This week, Google launched a what it calls its "Hotel Finder experiment." You can read the full story about on the Google Search Blog, but we provide an excerpt below. Let us know what you think it means for your business.
Here's how the Hotel Finder experiment was introduced:

"Finding the right hotel can make or break your vacation," Google said,  "so with this in mind, we’re introducing Hotel Finder, a new experimental search tool specifically designed to help you find that perfect hotel."
  • Figure out where to stay: To help you figure out where the action is, Hotel Finder shines a "tourist spotlight" on the most visited areas of U.S. cities.
  • Get a good deal: In the “Compared to typical” section, you can see how each hotel’s price compares to its historical average, so you can tell if it’s good value for your stay.
  • Compare fast: When you select a hotel in Hotel Finder, we show you a collage of images, Google Places reviews, and key information right within the list.
  • Keep a shortlist: As you flip through the results, add the hotels you like to a shortlist to easily keep track of the ones that interest you.
When you’re ready to book a hotel, you’ll find a selection of booking options from a range of available partners or directly from the hotel.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Google Plus: One Month In

In just one month Google+ has gained an estimated 20 Million users, becoming the fastest growing social network in history. The service is easy to use, intuitive, and fills a need that other social networks so far have not -- on Google+ you can put your contacts into "circles" and share only what you want to with each circle.

I blogged last week that its my belief that Google+ is more a threat to Twitter and LinkedIN than it is to Facebook and I still feel that way. Facebook has reached critical mass with 750 Million users. Facebook is not going to go away, even if Google+ becomes phenomenally successful. There are just too many people on it for businesses to give up on their pages, and even individuals who would like to abandon Facebook will find that it remains the only place to stay in touch with some of the people they care about.

Its my belief that Google+ has an opportunity to build a more "mature" social network. By that, I mean a social network that accomodates the needs of people over the age of 22. People who have entered the workforce, have familes, and are building and maintaining careers.

In other words, I think Google+ has the opportunity to capture people for the last 4/5ths of their lives.

If Google+ can avoid some of the middle-school cheesiness that exists on Facebook ("relationship status," "interested in," "poking," and "John just answered a question about you" apps) while providing the same (or better) ability for individuals to connect and communicate with friends, family, clients, associates, industry professionals, and potential employers, it can become the social network people move to when they grow up and need to present a more professional, grown up image.

Likewise, if Google+ will focus on creating the ability for businesses to easily and securely connect and transact with all those more mature people who have resources, it could be very powerful.

On the other hand, if Google+ decides to mimic the features that originally made Facebook popular with college students, and compete for that audience, I think it faces a steep uphill battle.

About the author: Scott Crider is Vice President of Interactive Media at Compass Media, Inc. in Gulf Shores, AL and a longtime social media professional. You can find him on Google+ at 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Google+ First Look: Nevermind Facebook, its Twitter and LinkedIn That Have Reason to Worry

After a week of kicking the tires on Google+, here are my thoughts. While it seems everyone is focused on talking about whether or not Google+ is a "Facebook killer" my experience thus far leads me to believe that Twitter and LinkedIn have much more reason to worry than Facebook does - at least for now.

Don't get drawn into the hype that Google+ can "kill" Facebook. It won't kill Facebook anymore than PCs killed Mac. They coexist and each of those products has found its equilibrium. The same will happen with Facebook and Google+. A certain type of people will be attracted to each platform, and businessess will (or should) utilize those platforms in ways that best serve the customers they engage with there.

Yes, Google has the power to make business pages on Google+ extremely valuable extremely quickly through the way it scores content and sharing through Google+ and applies it to search results. But it remains to be seen if these pages will be more valuable than business pages on Facebook.

I think Twitter and LinkedIn, however, face a different challenge. Let's talk about Twitter first.

The fact is, in the days since I started playing around with Google+, the time I spend with Twitter has dropped dramatically. Why? With almost no effort on my part I began to find the people I follow on Twitter - and their content - on Google+. Not only that, but Google+ functions a lot like Twitter (it has public and private "streams," and you can re-share worthwhile content with other groups of people in your network.

Its also easier to share content on Google+ and it lacks the whole "I follow you/do you follow me?" dynamic that just feels ridiculous on Twitter.

LinkedIn has a different problem. Yes, like Twitter, its easier to share content on Google+ than on LinkedIn, but the real challenge I think LinkedIn is going to face is, as Google + grows, there really isn't going to be much reason to maintain family, friend, and professional networks in three or more different social silos.

Google+ has an elegant categorization system that lets you drop individuals from your networks into "circles" you create - and to communicate exactly the information you want to communicate (and only the information you want to communicate) with each circle. And no one knows what circle (or circles) you put them in (or if you did or didn't).

On Google+ you don't suffer the awkwardness of an unwelcome invitation to connect on LinkedIn. You don't experience the feeling of obligation to follow someone back on Twitter. And there is no sting of being "unfriended" or the awkwardness of a boss's friend request on Facebook.

Which brings us back to Facebook. I think Facebook will do more than survive Google+, I think it will continue to flouish. If I had to guess right now, I'd say Facebook will continue to be the most popular social network among high school and college-aged "kids" while Google+ will hold more appeal to everyone else (sounds a bit like Mac vs. PC, doesn't it?).

I think both Facebook and Google+ will both be large enough that businesses will be compelled to maintain a presense in both. But based on what I've experienced up to this point, I don't see much reason anyone would continue to cultivate separate networks in Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter has just 56 million active users out of a total number of 175 million users - most of whom aren't worth following anyway. LinkedIn just reached 100 million users, but admits that few of them are active.

Google+ plus already reached 10 million users in just three weeks - and it hasn't even officially launched yet. In all likliehood, the number of active Google+ users will soon far outpace Twitter and LinkedIn combined.

Given that, I think a lot of people are going to boil the social sites they visit frequently down to two: Facebook (because its still huge and you have to) and Google+ (because its growing, its important to SEO, and it makes your life easier by reducing the amount of network maintenance you have to do).

I've already begun offering Google+ invites to my Twitter and LinkedIn networks.

About the author: Scott Crider is Vice President of Interactive Media at Compass Media, Inc. in Gulf Shores, AL and a longtime social media professional. You can find him on Google+ at 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thank you for scanning our QR code! Welcome to the official blog of Compass Media, Inc.

Compass Media is a place where deep knowledge of Southern U.S. leisure tourism meets 21st century interactive technology. Powered by creativity, engaging content, and technology innovation, we start with traditional destination marketing techniques, and then integrate the latest interactive marketing strategies to create engaging experiences that connect places with people.

From custom publishing and promotions to web design and mobile sites to Facebook apps and online marketing, Compass Media is the destination marketing partner that gets results.

Let Compass Media point you in the right direction. Click here to get our Compass Points e-newsletter today.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Will Google+ Go the Way of Google Wave?

Google launched a new social network competitor to Facebook this week called Google+. At first glance Google+ is designed in an unabashedly Facebook-like fashion. It offers basically all of the functionality of Facebook, too, plus several notable extras.

In fact, as noted by Mashable, Google+ has enough extra features that “it’s easy to get confused about what Google+ is.” That comment reminded me of the now defunct “Google Wave” online collaboration tool. I was invited to be an early tester of Google Wave and I actually found it to be a brilliantly thought-out tool. It was very time-consuming to learn how to use effectively, however, and failed to find an audience.

To help introduce Google+ and some of its core features, Google created several videos (see below). The videos are helpful but also troubling, I’d think, for Google’s developers. They continue to build products that are impressive, but not intuitive enough to use without laborious instruction.

Did you have to watch videos to figure out how to use Facebook? No.

All that said, there are a couple of Google+ features I think could be pretty exciting:

“Circles,” which lets you easily organize your contacts into different groups so that you don’t share everything with everybody, and “Hangouts,” which lets you jump into video chats right from your Google+ page.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sea Turtle Rescued This Week

Loggerhead helped back into the Gulf by Share The Beach
volunteers. Note the transmitter that had been previously
 attached to her shell.
Sam Greene, a member of Compass Media's Sea Turtle Patrol Team, was present for a sea turtle rescue this week. Early on Tuesday morning, members of Alabama's Share The Beach sea turtle protection program discovered a large Loggerhead sea turtle on the beach. She had made a nest sometime during the night, but had become disoriented and could not find her way back to the water.

Sam was on the scene and took several great pictures as volunteers helped her back into the Gulf.

"She crawled a long way on the beach and over the dunes, Sam said, "but Mother and nest are just fine now thanks to Share the Beach."

Photo by Sam Greene 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Compass Media Sea Turtle Patrol: Turtle Tracks Found

Turtle Patrol Team Member Morgan Robinson
Morgan Robinson, a member of Compass Media's Sea Turtle Patrol Team, got to see her first turtle tracks early Thursday morning. As she finished walking her section of beach, she joined other Share the Beach volunteers who had just found the tracks east of Morgan's patrol area (pictured below).

"This was a false crawl," Morgan said, "But it was still exciting to see my first real tracks."

Sea turtles often check out more than one area of the beach before choosing their nesting sites. This one is expected to return somewhere nearby, and the Compass Media Turtle Patrol Team  hopes she chooses our section of the beach!

Barbara, the Share the Beach
volunteer who found the track,
with Everette, Section Leader
For comparison, the picture above shows Morgan (on left) standing in front of the track, while the picture on the right shows the track marked in yellow.

A better view of the track can be seen in the the photo to the right, showing Share the Beach volunteer Barbara standing with Section Leader Everette at the top of the track.

Stay tuned for more turtle news!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gulf Coast: Clean Beaches, Great Food, Amazing Fishing

The team here at Compass Media stumbled onto this article today by travel writer John Rosenthal. He writes about his recent trip to the Gulf coast and it confirms what we see here every day, as residents of Gulf Shores, AL.


"The good news for 2011," Rosenthal says, "is that...on beaches from Naples to Biloxi, the only oil visitors will see is in a Hawaiian Tropic bottle." He also quotes Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a professor of Coastal Sciences at Florida International University who is also known as "Dr. Beach" for his annual rankings of the world's top beaches. "It’s remarkable," he says. "Everything has evaporated or been eaten by the bacteria-eating organisms."


Seafood is also clean, safe, and abundant. According to Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science and a member of the National Oil Spill Commission, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have subjected Gulf seafood to numerous tests since the spill.

“It’s the safest, most rigorously tested seafood you can buy,” said Boesch, who said he eats not only fish from the Gulf, but also shrimp, clams, crabs and oysters. “I made a special point of eating half a dozen raw oysters on my last visit,” he said. 


If you like to fish, there may never be a better time in your lifetime to book a Gulf fishing trip. Throughout the Gulf, fishing reports are extremely positive with fishermen experiencing lots of action and often catching their limits of large fish within the first hour of fishing.

"The suspension of fishing activity in 2010 caused populations to come back even stronger in 2011," said Daryl Carpenter, President of a charter fishing association.

A Great Time to Go Back

I saw it with my own eyes, Rosenthal writes. "The Gulf is a perfectly safe place to vacation."

It's time to go back to the Gulf. There are great deals on beautiful condos, clean beaches, great seafood, and amazing fishing.

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Compass Media Turtle Team Reports First Seaturtle Sighting

Photo by Orange Beach Fishing Charters
UPDATE 5/20/11! See below.

The Compass Media Turtle Patrol has been diligently walking our sections of the beach in the early mornings for the last couple of weeks without locating evidence of any seaturtle nests yet. There have been no reports of nesting activity by any of the other Share the Beach participants, either. 

But we know the turtles are moving in because of this sighting (pictured) shared this week by Orange Beach Fishing Charters on Facebook. 

Thanks for sharing this awesome pic! The turtles are moving nearer to shore and we expect to have nests soon.

Stay tuned for more news and pics.

UPDATE 5/20/11: We just received word that the first official seaturtle nest of the season has been confirmed by Share the Beach's team in Ft. Morgan, AL. Way to go Ft. Morgan!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Facebook Ads on Wall: FAIL?

Facebook "instant ads" FAIL?

We've know for a while that Facebook has been testing what it calls "instant ads" - a system that theoretically serves up contextually targeted ads based on user-provided content for status updates and wall posts.

For example, if a User posts "I think I'll order pizza for dinner” as a status update, a Domino’s ad could be instantly served- up to that User.

Setting aside for a moment whether or not Facebook Users' will accept this new intrusion into their online ecosystem, we'd have to agree that such a capability will have high appeal to advertisers.

If it works.

This morning, after one of our associates posted a "Happy Birthday" message on his spouse's wall, she was treated to an ad for a HDMI -to- DVI Video Cable from Staples.

Either Facebook's contextual targeting is off - which is not good - or it somehow knows that she might actually need just such a cable - which is scary.

What do you think?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Warm Response to 'Prairie Love' Film by Compass Media's Dusty Bias

Gulf Shores, Ala. – It’s ironic that Compass Media associate Dusty Bias traveled to the frigid plains of the Midwest to film his movie, “Prairie Love,” a dark comedy focusing on two guys in a slow old station wagon.

After all, it was watching the wild car chases of “Smokey and the Bandit” as a child that helped him “escape” North Dakota for the warm South.
Now working in Gulf Shores, Ala., Bias unveiled “Prairie Love,” his first feature film, at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It clicked with audiences and several critics, garnering comparisons to a Wes Anderson or Coen Brothers flick.

“The whole goal going in was to keep it simple as possible, but with depth in the meaning of the actions we take as people,” he said. “I’ve always been drawn to protagonists who are flawed, and antagonists you root for, and you’re not sure if what is happening is the right thing, or the wrong thing.”

“Prairie Love” continues to receive exposure at film festivals and in publications such as indieWIRE and The Hollywood Reporter and negotiations are under way for distribution.

“Constantly teetering on the brink of absurdity, Prairie Love is saved by a quirky sensibility, perceptive scripting and a painterly style,” writes the Hollywood Reporter’s Justin Lowe, adding it is “a gratifying departure from overly predictable indie dramas.”

The early buzz is encouraging, Bias said, but still only represents an “open door” to fulfilling his dream.

“It feels like you’ve been drafted – not No. 1 but in the third or second round. Now it’s about playing the game,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to get the attention of a base of critics, filmmakers and distributors … Now I have to make the best of it.”

Growing up in Minot, N.D., Bias was often transported elsewhere through his love of movies.

“I was fascinated with the art of filmmaking and being able to escape,” he said.
He said while other kids watched cartoons, he watched a VHS tape of “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Smokey and the Bandit II” and “Caddyshack” almost every day. At 19, he went to film school at Montana State University.

Bias has worked in the Coast360 studio of Compass Media for nearly a year. In 2009, after directing several short films and contributing to feature-length movies, Bias rounded up just enough funding, equipment and actors to begin filming in Minot.
In his script, a vagrant (Jeremy Clark) driving the desolate snow-covered plains stops to help a nearly frozen local man (Garth Blomberg), who was on his way to pick up his pen-pal girlfriend (Holly Lynn Ellis), whom he has never met, from prison. The drifter sees an opportunity to change his lonely existence …

Prairie Love trailer from Dusty Bias on Vimeo.
The title, a phrase Bias coined, refers to homesteaders migrating West who coupled up when stranded on the plains.

In keeping with the minimalist theme, the movie has a cast of three, all of them Bias’ friends from high school or college. Problems came from the difficult “fourth character” – the worst winter in North Dakota since 1936, with temperatures consistently at -55 degrees Fahrenheit with 30 mph winds.

Bias said Blomberg joined the production a few days before filming, and didn’t know a scene would require him to run on a frozen highway wearing only underwear.

Next is the Newport Beach Film Festival April 30, where “Prairie Love” will be a Saturday Night Spotlight; showings at the Atlanta Film Festival on May 1 and 5; and the Santa Cruz Film Festival, which will feature it as an Opening Night Film on May 5.

“It’s a little boost. It keeps you believing,” Bias said.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sand Sculpture Surprise

One of the great things about working at Compass Media and living in Gulf Shores is the little surprises one often finds when walking on the beach. Take a look at these really cool sand sculptures some anonymous artist left behind when he or she headed home from Gulf Shores recently. These things were life-sized.

Its hard to imagine how many hours went into these sculptures - especially considering they won't survive the next high tide - but it certainly did not go unappreciated. We saw several delighted people posing for pictures with these amazing, impromptu works of art.

Over the course of a few days last week we saw sculptures of dolphins, sharks, sea turtles (our favorite), plus Egyptian pyramids and amazing castles - all of which looked to be the work of the same talented artist.

Thank you, whoever you are. And come back soon!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Compass Media and Sea Turtles

The Compass Media team was out in force at the first meeting of Alabama's "Share the Beach" sea turtle conservation organization last night. There appeared to be well over 200 people from Gulf Shores and surrounding areas there, all eager to prepare for this year's "turtle season."

Nesting season begins next month, and we'll be part of the teams who walk the beaches at sunrise to look for turtle tracks - the trails left in the sand by female turtles when they crawl up onto the beach to dig their nests and lay their clutches of eggs. The nest sites are then marked and fenced off with stakes to keep people from accidentally walking over them.

Then, we watch and wait for 60-75 days - making sure coyotes and other predators don't dig up the nests.

We'll be sharing news, pictures and video of this process along the way, so stay tuned!

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Website Design by Compass Media

“Good-looking, with solid character...”

No it’s not online dating, but the new, where recent changes and improvements are not just cosmetic. Launched by Compass Media last week, the re-designed site is a user-friendly and information-packed tool for helping you not just pick places in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Foley to stay, dine, explore and enjoy, but actually get there on a budget.

More and more-detailed listings with integrated Google Earth maps help you literally “find” that perfect restaurant, attraction and accommodation for a fun-filled day with the family, or romantic dinner for two, complete with links to advertisers' commercials and coupons. Check out an example here.

The “Video on Demand” link takes you to a variety of our video programming, including a link to the Coast360 YouTube channel. And save hundreds of dollars with online and text coupons.

If you want to dine in tonight, there are new recipes in our “Let’s Eat” section focusing on adventurous or traditional ways to enjoy our area’s succulent seafood, whether caught or bought.

The events calendar is now bursting with places to go and things to do, with a seven-day events calendar on every page and a more detailed and searchable calendar on the events page. If you have relatives visiting from out of town, or want to steer your friends to your latest discovery, share your favorites on Facebook and Twitter via the “Featured Locations” link.

Brains and beauty, content and cool blend better than ever on the new, designed to give you the complete picture – through television (check out Channel 14!), video, print, websites and social media – of the good life on the Gulf Coast.