Masthead Blogs
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto
The demise of radio as depicted in the 1979 song from the Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star is a great example of what's happening to all traditional media in the digital age. Doom and gloom came to the radio industry when TV was invented, but it is still around and is ranked #2 of all mediums after TV.  This high ranking could be higher if AM/FM tuner apps were available on top selling smartphones. The technology is there, where your headphones can be used as an antennae for the AM/FM tuner.

Why then is Radio Surviving?
The answer - The medium owns the car,  it is free and the ads are entertaining.
The facts supports this case. According to Audience Insights, a market research firm, the AM/FM dial has a 68% share of listening time in the car. The time spent in the car according to the 2015 Media Directors Digest is 127 km per week with radio listenership at 13 hrs./wk. TV by comparison is 21 hrs./wk. The 30-second ad spot is very effective in creating “Theatre of the Mind” with a great jingle or brand story versus other ad formats.


Radio comes in a wide variety of formats including music, news, talk, cultural and sports. Music has formats like Adult Contemporary, Rock, Hits, Jazz, Classical, Dance and each genre appeals to a different slice of today’ consumer. But, there is no medium that can reinvent itself like radio, as they can change their content format over night sometimes. The history of CHUM 1050 AM in Toronto is a classic case, as it started out as a TOP Hits Radio station during AM’s hey day and is now a sports station owned by Bell Media (TSN).

We now live In a world where all media is crisscrossing each other in their content strategy. Radio websites have also crossed over into the magazine, entertainment, sports and news media space, in this age of media convergence.  So let's have look at what stations across the country are doing, as they reinvent themselves as the “reading and listening" medium—based on their content strategies. You can now go to a radio website listen to the tunes and read news and stories that may interest you.

Indie88, a rock station in Toronto has created a website that is more music and entertainment magazine than radio station. They just won “Rock Station of the Year” at the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards. The website allows you to check out new bands that do not get airplay on other music radio formats and also offers content on Canadian artists, music, film, events, local Toronto news and music videos.


The station was launched three years ago and now has 179,000 traditional daily listeners in the Toronto market. On the digital side the website has 425,000 visitors/month, 45,000 App downloads and 40,000 email subscribers. Users are highly engaged spending 27 minutes per website visit with streaming visitors lasting 1 hr and 20 minutes, which number 50,000 per month.

On the social side the station has over 125,000 followers/likes on three platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). The digital audience is rock solid and one that any magazine would be happy to have. The questiojn now is…Are  they still a radio station? Or are they a Music & Entertainment Magazine with a live streaming service of your favourite music?

If we go to cowboy country in Edmonton the Bear 100.3, a Rock station, it takes a different approach, using sex and edgy content like “If you Like Strippers” promo and humorous “guy locker room talk” video content for their male demo. Their approach is leveraging the on-air talent Paul Brown as a talk show host that video broadcasts jokes/skits and on-air interviews. I found them real funny, but I am guy and they remind me of Howard Stern in their type humour.


In Montreal 96.9 CKOI, a French language Hits Radio station has morphed into a content destination hub that offers, music stories, comedy podcasts and a lifestyle magazine that cover topics like news, sports, arts & entertainment, art of living, technology, science & nature. This hub of information rivals any lifestyle magazine that is out there. This site is a truly a read and listen medium for the French market.


Lastly, 680News,  a Toronto news radio station, is now a news aggregator website with  local, national, business, sports, world and entertainment sections from all Rogers titles. A unique feature is a traffic monitor that includes links to traffic cameras for live feeds. This is no different that any newspaper or TV news website for content in the digital age.


There are over 560 radio stations in Canada that are in the digital media scene now and they are producing some great content. Many of them will be recognized at the 2016 COPAs for the first time with the Best Radio Website Award and Best Podcast as the most obvious categories. They can also enter in the News and Consumer categories for content, based on what we see here. In my next COPA Digital Media Spotlight, I will be looking at the changes in the Community News area of content as print and local TV stations converge in this space.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto
One of the competitive advantages of the ad tech community is that they are positioned as the low cost medium with CPMs as low as $1.00 for ad impressions. To achieve this low price, these companies have automated the content publishing (via user generated) and the ad buying process as part of their business model. This is a huge competitive advantage for the ad tech sector versus traditional media organizational structures, who have editorial and sales teams and ad rates in the $10-50 CPMs range. At these rates, it sounds like they are dumping ad inventory in an oversaturated market to get market share.


This huge price advantage suggests further pain for publishers in the competition for on-line ad sales. As one president of a mid-size ad agency told me “ Business sucks, it’s tough to survive in the digital age”. This  observation offers the media industry little comfort in today’s environment. So what are we to do as an industry? We are told that we have to go digital to prosper, but it is tough to compete against the ad tech community as they eat up more share of the ad market each year. So let's take a page out of their playbook, instead of them taking one from ours like the packaging of content marketing and native ads that follows the rules of magazine publishing. Let's see where we can automate tasks.

One of the great benefits of technology is that it can automate repetitive tasks that can save on labour costs and increase staff productivity. I still remember the first wave of automation technologies in the publishing industry during the late 1980’s where typesetters, mechanical layout artists, stats cameras, digital retouching and film were are part of the production process and replaced with an Apple Macintosh computer with desktop publishing software and eventually direct to print technology.  Art Directors in this period of transition needed to update their skills as the coloured marker and pieces of paper was becoming obsolete in the creative process and replaced with a keyboard and mouse.

Technologies used to automate today are robot calls and email broadcasts for mass communication. On websites content is published through a CMS and the use of e-commerce check-outs for online sales. For operations there are CRMs, accounting, design, digital edition/app solutions, database and pre-press digital systems. As publishing operations we always strive to get leaner and there is an automation technology that can help with web content at no cost to publishers.

CNW has a content automation tool/widget that publishers can use as content on their site for free. ‘’The CNW News widgets helps provide current content at no cost for a blog or news site,’’ says Nadine Tousignant, Manager, Media and Audience Relations for CNW. The source content is from press releases and it appears as content on your website based on editorial and geographical criteria. The publisher provides a blank web page link on the site and CNW provides the code for the content automation that fills the page. The news feed will appear on the site as a special section with a five story teaser feed that can appear on the home page.

We tested this technology on the Masthead and the COPA sites and it works well as the widget enables the publisher to automate the process of reviewing press releases that may be relevant for your audience. In our case Masthead will have media news and on the COPA site we used digital news filters. For transparency with the reader  the content  is clearly identified as a news feed from CNW.  To read the content, they are not directed to the CNW website, but it appears on the host’s website with the graphic branding intact. All traffic on the web site generated by the content is tracked by the host web sites reporting system so content integration with current processes is seamless. All content that is distributed on the site is reported back to the issuer and helps raise the profile of the media brand as a secondary benefit.




This solution can help small publishers compete against the ad tech community’s competitive advantage of free content and will only take a few of hours for your web person to set it up. The time saving through this content automation concept surely has some benefits to consider. This type of content automation can only complement the information provided on the website as original and insightful—thought cannot be generated by an algorithm and that costs money. This looks like a win-win situation for publishers; they can get free content for their website and CNW’s clients get better press coverage in this two way relationship.

There will be a growing wave of marketing automation technologies that you will be pitched from companies promising the benefits of data management and integrating the data with your marketing efforts. They will claim that this will handle your leads and sales better versus what you are doing now. The system will monitor all reader entry points like social media, email and web site plus customer data that is processed by an analytics algorithm. The algorithm creates a personalized customer profile that will help improve customer service and lead nurturing at each stage of the sales cycle. Geez this sound like a modern circulation plan, maybe they took this idea from our playbook too.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Covers Sell
Scott Bullock
The spring 2016 issue (Vol 17 #3) of Dirt Trax is scheduled to go on sale April 25.

Art Director Andrew Knor was able to pack in four vehicles and still keep the overall effect clean and uncluttered.

The cover price was raised to $5.99 from $4.99 or 20% last year, resulting in a revenue gain of 24%.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto
The smartphone has change the way society interacts with each other. Who would have predicted that the personal communication device unveiled in the Star Trek series from the 1960’s would become a reality in 2016, but it has.


The increase in functionally and use of smartphones has created a side effect not anticipated by the inventors, just like prescription drugs. It started out in the business community as the "Crackberry" addiction and now has spread to “Smartphone Zombie” status and governments are taking action to ensure the safety of their citizens as it spreads.

How are people addicted to their smartphones? This chart from Catalyst Canada and GroupM Next on the Canadian Mobile Market 2015 shows 22 different ways people are distracted using their smartphone with games, banking/bills, twitter/Facebook , weather and directions as the top five uses. Texting and phone stats was not reported in the study.


A Smartphone Zombie is a person that goes in a trance and does not notice any of their surroundings and their dependency on the smartphone shuts off other senses and rational behaviour. To have some fun on the topic, below is a top 10 list of in-effective habits for smartphone zombies. See if you are one.


The Top 10 In-Effective Habits of Smartphone Zombies 

If you have suffered from three or more of these habits or symptoms, please go to a smartphone addiction counsellor as you are at risk of becoming a zombie—which is a terminal condition as you will be part the living dead.

1. In a crowded room you hear a beep and grab your smartphone in a nervous twitch. This is an early symptom of being a smartphone zombie, diagnosed as the Crackberry addiction.

2. You are constantly checking your smartphone for email wherever you go, even in meetings with real people. Another early warning sign, you will need to go to a life fear management session or get a medical marijuana prescription so you can calm down.

3. When your battery is dead you suffer from anxiety attacks, as people cannot reach you. This is another symptom of the Crackberry addiction; it is best that you not use the smartphone for 48 hours until the anxiety subsides.

4. You hide in a room and text with your friends. You forget how to communicate verbally with friends and family. This “zombie like trance” of non-verbal communication is a  clear sign that you lack any people skills and will lead to a dysfunctional state of mind.

5. When you misplace your smartphone you have a panic attack when you search your house or work looking for the smartphone. If you suffer from these panic attacks you better go see your doctor, as this is unhealthy as this may lead to other medical conditions.

6. Looking at your smartphone while walking and bumping into a person, mailbox or pole. In the UK due to the high number of zombie accidents on pedestrian walkways they plan to have padded poles on all sidewalks and in China they have smartphone lanes where people cannot stand still in.

7. Crossing the street while texting and not noticing it is a red light. This is one of the more dangerous habits as you may only do this once, except in NY where drivers are accustomed to people walking through red lights. Apparently, in Georgia texting and walking or driving is still OK.  Must be the right to free speech thing they like to talk about a lot in the USA.

 8. You sleep with your smartphone in bed as it makes you feel secure. If you tend to have this phobia, you better go to the country or cottage and get some rehab and disconnect for a while. You better get a teddy bear to help with the withdrawal symptoms during your 60 day rehab.

9. Slowing down traffic at a traffic light while checking for a text or email message. You ever notice why a car is standing still at a stop light while its green. Now you know. This can be a cause of driver fury on the roads from these in-attentive drivers.

10. Texting while driving and causing a traffic accident by hitting the car in front of you. It has been estimated that 23% of all car accidents are caused by texting and driving. My guess repeat offenders in the future will have to disconnect their phone before the car can start, just like they do for drinking and driving.

Through a little humour and bad jokes, I want to rekindle the “ technology vs. people“ debate with the use of a smartphones zombie metaphor, as it seems that society is becoming a slave to technology and that is not right. This can happen with publishers if you let technology drive your business process and not the other way around. Publishers should be in control, as technology is not always right, but in fact has a high failure rate.

In the January 2016 issue of Direct Marketing News on CRM technology, Leigh-Ann Clarke states that the failure rate of CRM technologies is estimated at 30-70%, as the design focus is on software rather than the customer. So perhaps, the marketing and advertising opportunities in the mobile world for publishers is overrated, if we assume the same failure rates as a benchmark. But at the same time, 40-50% of web traffic and email newsletter is now mobile so there is an opportunity for publishers, just not as big as was thought. Just a thought to ponder.
Wednesday, March 09, 2016
Covers Sell
Scott Bullock
Harrowsmith’s 2016 Gardening Digest goes on sale March 21, 2016.  This is the 4th year of publication. Coast to Coast will distribute 30,325 copies across Canada.

Publisher Yolanda Thornton says, “Over the last four decades the name Harrowsmith has become synonymous with gardening, country living and how to tread a little more lightly upon the earth. The 2016 edition of Harrowsmith’s Gardening Digest proudly continues that tradition.”

“With a foreword by Chef Michael Smith, this issue features a wealth of information for the experienced or novice gardener alike. Have you ever considered growing some backyard berries? Gardening Editor Mark Cullen gives a primer, while resident Food Editor Joanna Notkin turns the sweet results into an assortment of mouth-watering recipes, ” says the Press Release.

“Along with putting this issue together, we launched a new brand for our tech-savvy readers. Called Harrowsmith Now (, it’s designed for mobile devices and social media, and through it we’re introducing Harrowsmith and our brand values to a new generation of readers,” says Yolanda Thornton, Publisher.

The new cover and the 3 prior covers are show here: