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.

Don’t Make Me Look

January 28, 2015

by Roger Pynn

Sitting Friday morning in a client meeting and seeing an email pop up on my phone with the subject line “Are you picking me up at the airport?” jolted me into that “oh, no … what have I forgotten?” mode.  Excusing myself by saying “I’m sorry, but I see an urgent message,” I scooted out of the meeting only to read “I’m only ½ kidding.  You don’t need to pick me up at the airport, but you do need to be at the CEO Workshop Tuesday morning.”

So Jim Muehlhausen at Business Model Institute must have thought himself pretty clever.  Made me look.

Well, Jim, you also made me mad … enough to out you for a stupid email marketing practice … enough to ensure I’ll never buy one of your books or seminars.  Your website indicates you’re a CPA with a law degree and in your video you say you’re a lifelong entrepreneur, have written two books and you “started a bunch of businesses.”

What you clearly haven’t learned is that effective marketing involves honest communication and is respectful of the person you are trying to communicate with.

But you’re not alone, Jim.  Inboxes are full of chum that gets past spam as guys like you chop up crappy waste and throw it overboard hoping someone will bite.  Hopefully, however, someone will read this and be reminded that if your workshop was worth anything you’d have invested in honest, thoughtful, tasteful content that made me think you could teach me something.

And Jim … you don’t wait until Friday to make your first attempt to sell people on a Tuesday workshop that would have required me to make a 90-minute drive.  And, by the way … your link to the registration site was broken.  #Fail.

After All

January 8, 2015

by Roger Pynn

Anyone who has visited the Magic Kingdom and ridden one of its most timeless rides remembers the lyrics that ring in your ear for hours:  “it’s a small world; after all … it’s a small, small world.”

The Social Media Era has certainly proven that, but today anyone I’m connected to on LinkedIn must have done a double-take when they saw that Roger Pynn had become connected to Roger Pynn.  Mine is, after all, not a common name … nor is Roger Pynn, the globally recognized physicist, exactly a household moniker.

I’ve known of Roger for years, but when a friend searching for me on LinkedIn came across my “cousin” it was time for a more formal relationship.  He’s had a storied career at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and for the past decade on the faculty of Indiana University as professor of physics.

As I told him, an obviously naïve job applicant once expressed amazement that I was both a PR guy and a physicist.  She clearly wanted to impress me and unfortunately relied on a Google search where he comes up much higher on the totem pole than I do.

The closest I come to his world is that I serve as chair of the Dean’s Advisory Council of the College of Sciences at the University of Central Florida (but only because communication sciences are part of that college).

We’ve decided it is high-time we got to know each other.

Is This the Future?

December 23, 2014

by Roger Pynn

It won’t be lost on ad buyers that Time Inc. proudly marked a milestone in November, announcing that for the first time ever its websites had more unique visitors than readers of its printed publications … Time, People and Sports Illustrated.

Advertising Age reported the news online saying, “This is an important mile marker for Time Inc., which is looking to its websites to help offset declining print revenue,” but noted that declining print advertising “remains a more lucrative business for Time Inc., which can fetch higher ad rates in print than online.”

So the question is, will there be a day in the future when the reverse is true?  Will clicks become more and more valuable?  Or will the attention of digital audiences remain a commodity?  And, if so, where’s the tipping point in the valuation of media companies?


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