The Space Between the Ads

March 13, 2015

by Roger Pynn

We often tell clients that a modern definition of news could easily be “the stuff that fills the space between the ads” as media are more and more limited in the space they have to devote to news.  I’m growing accustomed to bottom banner ads on section fronts of our newspapers even though my first and perhaps most revered journalism professor told us “it will be a cold day in hell when you see an ad on Page One.”

But now comes CNN to prove our point.  As if those scrolling news updates weren’t annoying enough, Variety reports that the home of Wolf Blitzer and other around-the-clock newsies may be toying with ways of inserting advertiser logos in the bottom-of-the-screen scrolls.

Next up:  intravenous advertising.

Generational Decoding

March 4, 2015

by Roger Pynn

In an AdWeek interview, AT&T’s @CatherineBorda shared what she’s learned about marketing to millennials in her role as director of youth marketing.  Her Secrets to Millennial Marketing:  be transparent, authentic, immediate and versatile.

As I read the article whose subhead promised to decode how millennials use smartphones, I thought “how interesting.  At 65, those are exactly the things I demand if you’re going to market to me.”

Let’s hope all marketers are listening.

Government Cat Herding

March 2, 2015

by Roger Pynn

Remember when the U.S. succumbed to global pressure (and that of the engineering community) to abandon the inch, the foot and the yard?  The rest of the world, went the argument, uses the metric system and we ought to get in line.

It was in 1975 that the Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act.  Although some still claim we are in the process of converting, it may be simply the most stunning example of failed government regulation in our history.

But we may be about to witness something even more doomed to failure than mandated metric conversion.  For those who are saddened by the approval by the Federal Communications Commission’s vote on net neutrality and the havoc it could wreak on the wild west of the Internet, take heart.

Mark Hendrickson, a Forbes contributor and self-described libertarian economist, suggested in a post today that net neutrality has about as much chance of success as the old Soviet price setting bureaucracy.

The Internet has led to the most stunning transformation of communication since Gutenberg invented movable type.  A day doesn’t go by that we don’t see someone invent a new way to take advantage of its open, endless possibilities.  Hopefully net neutrality will prove to be the equivalent of a mandate for the government to herd cats.

Media Crystal Balls

March 2, 2015

by Roger Pynn

I got an invitation today to a webinar titled “Using Big Data to Predict the Biggest Nights in Entertainment.”  It asked, “Can media intelligence forecast a winner?”

We’ve long known that media love what we call “crystal ball stories” and we encourage our clients to give us insights that we can share with media … things our clients know that reporters haven’t heard yet and readers would love to know.

In this era where big data rules, some think that media have gone overboard in trying to predict winners … elections come to mind where people on the West Coast often feel disenfranchised as networks predict winners before their polls are even closed.

But when it comes to entertainment … who will win a Grammy, an Oscar or the Super Bowl, using big data for a prediction seems to be the equivalent of Las Vegas bookies setting the odds.  Let’s face it … it’s fun.

Picking winners has become an art form for our client Electronic Arts, where the “scientists” at EA Tiburon in Maitland use the wealth of data from their best-selling Madden NFL franchise to run simulations of Super Bowl matchups and regularly pick winners.

What’s in your crystal ball?

Back to Basics

February 27, 2015

by Roger Pynn

After 30 years, I think I’ve seen just about everything in our business change.

But as I’ve written here before, the more things change … the more they stay the same.

And that is certainly true of the way to approach a problem.  I was reminded of that today when I’d wrestled with how to present for a client an overview of a strategy designed to get them out of a hole.

First I took an outline approach.  Then a narrative.  Then a graphic.

But in the end, what was missing was a clear statement of the problem … what we used to call the “situation analysis.”  So I wrote Situation Analysis on top of the page and described in three simple paragraphs just what we are dealing with … what the challenge is to the client organization and all of its stakeholders.

The rest becomes a piece of cake.  And it reminded me once more of our favorite quote from that legendary hunter Howard Hill, who sought out big game with just a bow and arrow.  He said:  “Unless you know your game’s feeding, sleeping and daily habits, unless you plan your hunt in great detail and follow your plan with precision, you are not hunting at all … you are just walking in the woods.”

So true.  Unless you can see and understand your target, all you do is futile.  Hence, the title of our blog.

Brian Williams: #Trending or #Toast?

February 11, 2015

by Roger Pynn

Brian Williams is damaged goods and as much as I am a believer in forgiveness and second chances, as a business person I can’t imagine him coming back from six months of unpaid leave.  This morning’s mumblings on CNN even included a suggestion that Williams would be the ideal replacement for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, the “New Day” team laughing about the irony of a real journalist trending for fake journalism and a fake journalist trending for retiring.

There’s a difference between the penalty box in a hockey match and the punishment Williams has been given.  He wasn’t sentenced for a one-time mistake.  He was put on ice for the most fundamental error in his craft.  If you are interested in news, you want the reporting to be honest (and, by the way, there’s only 100 percent when it comes to honesty).

All journalists bear a special responsibility to earn trust.  They operate with special constitutional protection and their audience should expect no less than a total commitment to earning and keeping their trust.

Ask yourself, “Will I ever be 100 percent sure that I can trust what he’s telling me?”

Conflate, Confuse or Abuse?

February 5, 2015

by Roger Pynn

Confession:  I’ve been a big Brian Williams fan.  Notice:  no longer.

I’m big on forgiveness, and didn’t understand other newsies who appeared at first to be patting him on the back for “apologizing.”  Seems to me that what he needs to do is own up far more than to mangle terminology.

Here’s exactly what he said:

“I would not have chosen to make this mistake.  I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”


Williams’ use of the word “conflate” in regard to a story he has told and retold about an experience while covering the war in Iraq and claiming he was in a helicopter that was shot down is more than a stretch.  The truth is he was in another airplane.  He was never in the plane that was fired upon.

If you’ve been shot down in any kind of aircraft, I’d suggest it is a memory etched forever.

If you haven’t, it is a nightmare, a dream or a fantasy.  Telling it over and over again is far more than what he called it.  I’d say he has abused the privilege of telling stories in your living room every night.


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