Thursday, November 24, 2016

While we are seeing consolidation in the media industry with recent changes made by the corporate bean counters at Rogers Media, TVA Publications, Post Media and Toronto Star. it is not all doom and gloom in the publishing industry in Canada as we see a new crop of winners at this year COPAs held at the sold out event at the Double Tree Hilton in Toronto on November 7. 
Some of the new rising stars include Independent media brands National Observer from Vancouver and Planet F Magazine in Montreal a French language family magazine. Vice Canada another new winner is a partnership with Rogers Media that includes a cable TV station. This month’s blog will showcase the gold medal entries from these rising stars in the digital media scene in Canada.

National Observer
National Observer is an independent media outlet that focuses on climate, political and finance news and is published in English and French. It has a team of award-winning journalists that are based all over Canada and delivers ground breaking news and investigative reports about those in power. The National Observer won 3 Gold and 1 Silver this year including Independent Publisher of the year. This Vancouver base publication has traffic of over 500K visitors per month on their website with 32% in Ontario, 31% in BC, 14% in Alberta and 7% in Quebec



Sandy Garossino’s biting columns have attracted over one million unique visits to National Observer in the last 12 months. The former Crown prosecutor pulls no punches as she calls the powerful to account for exploitation and manipulation, and exposes links between big money, stardom and a culture of irresponsibility that often comes with both.

In SHAMELESS, Garossino exposes questionable tax subsidies afforded to wealthy parents of private school students — a real slap in the face, she writes, for average taxpayers as budget cuts force public school closures across the country. Her column, YELLOW STAIN, further calls out Postmedia for wrapping a yellow paper endorsement around its publications across Canada. Her stinging analysis of the Ghomeshi trial, which attracted a knockout 240,000 page views, was a unique synthesis of legal, feminist, journalistic, and political perspectives.

In conclusion, Garossino leverages her legal expertise, personal experience, and addictive style of snarky writing to boldly go where no other columnists have gone. Each of her contributions winds up a smash-hit, and many have landed her spots as a commentator on TV programs and radio shows across Canada.


Sandy Garossino Associate Editor, columnist

Planète F Magazine

Planète F is Quebec based french language wesbite that has over 15,000 visitors. You won't find cupcakes recipes or ideas for Halloween costumes as it  takes a different approach for parents that addresses controversial issues, to stimulate discussion and debate on social issues that affects the family. The web based magazine is not about parenting, it’s about parenthood and this approach was recognized as Planète F Magazine won  2 gold and 2 silver at tis year’s COPA’s including Best Article.


Work-life balance is the topic of the 21st century for families. If fathers become more involved with children, mothers are more active in the labor market. But institutions still expect a traditional model where the mother is at home. In this case, we used social networks to involve people with questions about their family situation. This file was presented to the National Assembly during a parliamentary committee on equality between women and men that include a dossier of 9 articles on parental equality.

La conciliation travail-famille est LE sujet du 21e siècle pour les familles. Si les pères s'impliquent davantage auprès des enfants, les mères sont plus présentes sur le marché du travail. Mais les institutions s'attendent encore à un modèle traditionnel où la mère est à la maison. Et si l'égalité était une question culturelle... Dans ce dossier, nous avons utilisé les réseaux sociaux pour faire participer les gens avec des questions sur leur situation familiale. Ce dossier a été présenté à l'Assemblée nationale lors d'une commission parlementaire sur l'égalité entre les femmes et les hommes. Un dossier de 9 articles sur l'égalité des parents.


Mariève Paradis, Editor, Publisher
Bruno Geoffroy, Marilyse Hamelin, Sarah Poulin-Chartrand, Writers

Vice News Canada

VICE News Canada produces youth (18-34) oriented content to a Canadian audience, in both official languages, reaching 30 million readers a month worldwide with a large USA readership.  VICE's provocative content is available across multiple platforms including, digital verticals, mobile apps, television, print and a suite of YouTube channels. Vice News Canada won gold for Best Continuing Coverage of a story at this year’s COPA’s beating out some of the big guys.


Through immersive reporting, VICE News Canada looked at the problem of rampant boil water advisories on First Nations across Canada. In a two-part documentary, we visited two First Nations reserves, Shoal Lake 40 and Neskantaga, each with longstanding boil water advisories. During a VICE Canada-hosted town hall ahead of election day, VICE News Canada pinned Prime Minister-to-be Justin Trudeau to a promise of ending boil water advisories within five years—a promise he had not previously made.

We examined what the federal government would need to do to solve the issue, and looked at how a new program is empowering young Indigenous people to end boil water advisories on their reserves.


Hilary Beaumont Staff Reporter
Allya Davidson. Producer
Natalie Alcoba. Managing Editor
Rachel Browne Staff Reporter
Ksenia Yurganova Associate Producer

(BTW the calling of the communities as First Nations is an appropriate description versus calling them Indigenous, which I feel is derogatory. These are people and are not a type of floral and not deserving of a scientific description. This has to change and is not politically correct in my opinion)


Tuesday, October 04, 2016
This is my sixth year writing my tech blog for Masthead, my goodness how time flies. If it wasn't for all the congratulations I received on Linkedin I would have let this moment pass me by. It has been four years since (click here to read this archived post) I wrote a post on all the tech terms that are being used in the industry to bring you up to date. I even invented one myself, so you heard it here first.
Ad tech firms are the digital ad companies that have been created since the dotcom boom of the late 90’s. These firms include Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ad Networks and Native Advertising. Some of these companies started as tech firms but are now in the advertising business as they sell display ads on their ad networks. These companies are tech/media hybrids and they typically deploy free user generated content as part of their model. Yahoo however generates original content on their website. Some of the industry is in a state of denial, as they do not consider themselves as media companies, but tech firms, so they can avoid taking responsibility for the content on their websites.
Native advertising is built around the concept of advertorial content matching the editorial environment of the website. The premise is that people prefer articles over ads and thus will have a higher click-rate. The problem with this logic is it assumes the reader can be fooled with these ads as editorial content, which shows the ignorance of the ad tech community on how media and advertising work together. The need for authenticity and third party creditability has been a criticism of the industry through the growing use of tabloid style content to get people’s attention.
Click bait is the use of tabloid style headlines to get people to click on a link and is used on websites like This is tabloid-style journalism, where stories can be posted with no fact checking criteria and border on sensationalism. create a parody of this type of journalism as you can see below.  The 7 places you can vomit in the Jungle is a funny one. 
Bots are web robots that do a single task repetitively at computer speed. This can be in the form of a SEO web spiders that index content on a website, a web scraper that copies content from websites, and clicks bots, which are designed to click on ads as part of an ad fraud model. The next generation of bots will have artificial intelligence as part of their model and they are being marketed as customer service bots that can handle pizza orders online for example and enable companies to a have an automated 24/7 sales support presence.
These websites are designed to harvest ad dollars from the ad networks by generating traffic to the website using click bait. This is a brilliant idea as the web design is to maximize the number of clicks and ad impressions for each story posted. When I clicked on the story below I had to click on it 30 times to read the whole article and each time I clicked 5 ads show up. So to read the single story you are exposed to 150 ads plus the layout is set up for accidental clicks on the ads to boost response. The fraudulent ones use automated traffic/click generating techniques to scam the system. A growing problem according to industry sources in the tech community to fool the security protocols thinking there is real people, IP addresses (computer ID) are being stolen and used in the black market.
Click farms was a market response to the growing belief that Facebook likes and Twitter followers were early indicators of purchase intent of products and services as it generated a positive online profile. This belief led to the growth of companies that will provide fake social media identities to customers to generate likes and followers. The companies’ use tools like identity generators and cell phone Sim cards to by-pass security protocols. It has been ball parked that 10-20% of social media accounts are fake. The companies that provide this service are located in jurisdictions outside of USA law enforcement. This perhaps explains how some politicians gained 100,000 Twitter followers in a weekend.
Finally, I thought I'd create my own word to describe my approach on how content marketing will work in the future. It is called Bobber Marketing, just like fishing (I did not want use a farm one) where you cast a bobber in the water and wait for the fish to bite. The bobber is an article. This content must have something useful to say or it will just be click bait and can’t be too salesy or it will turn off readers. The number of times the article is read will reflect the responsiveness of the article and awareness benchmarks. 
To learn more about what is in store for the digital world going forward you might want to attend our State of Digital Seminar we are producing as part of the COPA’s festivities. The seminar will be a panel format that will include Google (Ad tech), Indie 88 (Publishing), Nielson, (Analytics) and Calexis Advertising (Advertisers) to provide a broad perspective on the future of digital and what works. The event will also be a webcast for people that cannot attend it live. It will be on Nov 7 at 4pm EST.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
As a news junkie that gets all his news and sports info on his smartphone, I noticed that tabloid style headlines have been creeping into the news cycle and are getting  my attention. What use to be the domain of grocery cart checkouts has now spread like wildfire on the internet to get the attention of the reader. These are being used in native advertising ad networks to generate traffic to ad farms. Ad farms are websites that use these ads as click bait so they can deliver 10+ ad impressions in one page view that they get paid for by ad networks, generating a 30% ROI in some cases.  Some of these ad farms are legitimate and some are not and participate in ad fraud by using automating traffic generating techniques.

This is tabloid journalism today envisioned by the ad tech community to make money and has been packaged as content marketing. A lot of this content is scraped off other websites so they get it for free, or some are just fake content. We will talk about this in a later blog as I could not resist the urge to have some fun with my own version of tabloid journalism in this posting and take a fun poke at American politics and their use of shock publicity tactics that is part of today’s news cycle.
10 Reason Why I admire Donald Trump

1. Donald is senior citizen at age 70 and is still going for it—it being the biggest job in the world. He is an inspiration to all the under-employed baby boomers out there.  But his campaign team should keep a nametag on him in case he forgets his name as Alzheimer’s disease can show up in people Donald’s age at any moment. There are other things that they will need keep handy, like Viagra to keep his libido working to keep up with is young wife and adult diapers for those long meetings for those frequent trips to the loo. I can see the ad now “Trump Self Cleaning Adult Diapers” that last for 4 hours.

2. Donald’s days as a TV celebrity has taught him all the tricks of Hollywood to generate free publicity with tabloid style comments to control the news cycle.
I heard Justin Bieber’s publicist is secretly working on the campaign. At least he did not get arrested at the Mexican border or was caught smoking pot yet. Perhaps, all the fights were staged at is campaign rally to generate Hollywood style publicity, he is a master showman.

3. Donald is not afraid to use the sex card and has a hot younger wife
. Donald’s wife’s nude picture was splashed on the front pages of the New York Post for the world to see during the campaign. My guess Donald secretly sent them to change the news cycle that day to him away from his opponents as we all know sex and scandal sells.  

4. He is a self–made billionaire (so he says), but he did start with a few million of Dad’s money. What is there is not to like about him? He his the epitome of the American dream including all his warts. This guy has done it all, successful businessman, real estate magnate, best selling author, Hollywood celebrity and his name is an over-exposed brand.

5. Critics say Donald does not like immigrants, but he hires a lot of them at his construction sites, casinos and hotels around the world, as they are a cheap source of labour, just like any good capitalist. So you can say he is an old fashion American when it come to new immigrants as he travels by private jet to manage his empire.

6. Donald likes to put his foot in his mouth to generate free publicity and has been accused of being a redneck.
But in Canada we have the same person of the same cloth and he is a national icon and he is another Donald, that’s right our own Don Cherry. Imagine Don Cherry being Trump’s campaign manager. There would be a tidal wave of inflammatory remarks as there are a lot people in America that like the Donald.

7. Donald is a smoke and mirrors salesperson from his early days as a developer (read his book the Art of the Deal and you will learn a few) and is using that same approach today in a political campaign, which is driving some naive people nuts. The world is full of snake oil salesmen with hidden agendas, who better to keep you safe, as you know you can’t out-con a con artist.

8. Critics claim that Donald is a bad businessman and as he has gone bankrupt a few times. I think this is good thing as Donald knows all the backroom shenanigans of the financial sector and knows how to handle adversity. Who better to keep Wall Street in check than somebody that knows all the tricks and done a few himself to get a deal done. I bet he could have prevented the real estate bust in 2008 as he would have kept all the players honest.

9. Donald appears frugal and is running a campaign with spending at least as possible using his own money
. I guess this is a good thing to have, versus a spendthrift politician with a big war chest, who spends foolishly with other’s people money to win. Conspiracy rumours has it that though, there are secret multiple offshore accounts that is funding his PAC activities via Russia and his pal Putin.

10. Donald is fearless, has thick skin, receding hairline, can’t see his feet and is a big bully.
Who is better to fight for America than a scrappy, street-smart man who is not afraid in telling his version of the truth versus sanitized press releases and cover-ups. Who do you want in your corner to challenge the powerful NRA to keeps guns off the streets in America and Canada, as other administrations are a bunch of wimps.

Now these are my 10 reasons, why I like Donald Trump for President, but is the world ready for Donald Trump as President of the USA? Expect more fear mongering and a couple more scandals by Nov 8 when we will find out who wins the most powerful job in the world.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Publishers and marketers have to deal with all the non-human traffic (bots) on their websites that act a like a real person for the long-term sustainability of the medium.The first evidence of this was the “ Comment Bots” that invaded any website with a comments feature with fake comments or product pitches. It has been estimated that 51.5% of traffic on the Internet are by humans with Good bots at 19.5% and Bad bots at 29% in the 2015 Global Bot Traffic Report, published by Imperva Incapsula, an Internet security company. The reports boast that this is the first time human traffic was higher than bot traffic, which suggests that bot traffic was more than 50% in the past, which is a red flag, especially if your are in the business of selling or buying ad impressions.


A bot is a web robot on the internet that does a specific task that is completed faster than humans can do manually and is done repetitively at computer speed. The Good Bots (White Hats) can be a web spider that comes by and indexes all your content for the search engines or a web scrapper that takes your content and republishes it on their website like shopping comparison sites. It has been estimated by Imperva Incapsula that Google Bots visit a website 187 times a day and account for 60% of all search engine spider traffic.


The Bad Bots (Black Hats) can be one that generates fake traffic and links on websites as part of a click fraud business model or they can be sniffers/spiders looking for security gaps (old code) to loot credit card numbers or email addresses. It appears a lot of this Black Hat activity are scammers in online ad networks and exchanges that have fake websites or legitimate ones that have been hijacked. You can buy millions of bot visitors on the Internet from traffic generating companies disguised as web site testing solutions. Check out this search for “ Traffic Generator Bot,” it was an eye-opener for me.


In the media business all this bot traffic is not good as the expectation is that all web traffic on a site is a real person. You will never get repeat advertising business if the click on your ad was from a computer as it will not generate the expected outcome, which is a sale of your client’s products. How are the web analytics companies dealing with this issue? Google Analytics which most publishers use (because its free), introduced a Bot filter in their analytics software in July, 2014. This filter, which is a checkbox option in the Analytics dashboard, will exclude all hits from IP address on the IAB/ABC International Bots and Spiders List.  This list is available for subscription and includes a White Hat (Good Bots) and Black Hat (Bad Bots) list that can be incorporated into the web analytics software.

comScore, another digital media measurement company, announced in August of the same year that they acquired MdotLabs a software solution that fights against Bad Bots on publishers websites that uses cyber-security methodologies to identify a variety of Black Hat activities including bots, click farms  and traffic generation techniques. This software was incorporated into comScore’s Media Metrix solution. and this solution when used saw a 35% decrease in web traffic. This 35% is almost the same as the 29% Bad Bot traffic estimate stated earlier for validation of the data.

Then, in October 2015, the Media Ratings Council (MRC), an organization for the media measurement industry, released their Invalid Traffic Detection and Filtration Guidelines as part of their mandate to provide standardized industry best practices to root out non-human traffic and to combat ad fraud.  So it seems the controls are in pace in the industry, but as anybody knows in cyber security it is an endless cat and mouse game with no finish line in sight.

Richard Murphy, Sr. VP of Auditing at the BPA suggests the following recommendations for publishers to minimize their exposure to unwanted activity on your website:

1) Know your traffic sources. Most of the invalid traffic comes from sourced or purchased traffic. Organic traffic is generally pretty clean;

2) Know your partners. Use partners you know and trust. There are many links in the online transaction chain and you are only as strong as your weakest link;

3) When possible use certified technology platforms and solutions (MRC, IAB, TAG, CCAB/BPA , AAM). These companies have voluntarily opened up their operations to independent third-party review of industry best practice compliance.

The problem I find with all the web analytics data is I need to sort through all the data that is relevant to achieve the expected marketing outcome of generating sales for my brand and I can sometimes waste my time with irrelevant data. Are Facebook likes and clicks true indicators of campaign performance or should we rely on trusted methods like of managing the response through actual customer contact through a variety of entry points: in-person, on the phone, mail, email, contact forms on the website and social media.

Brian Gillett of Target Audience Management Inc. (TAMI) an audience circulation expert suggests publishers to focus on these metrics - address change requests, email newsletter sign-up, subscriber sign-up and request for more information. All other statistics should be taken as a relative measure as the growing use of privacy software (ad blocking), permission base use of cookies, traffic/click fraud generations techniques and technical flaws are part of the data that goes into the analytics.  Brian also goes on to say that open rates of newsletter is sometimes blocked at the destination due to privacy software or opens are recorded that are not really opens due to technical issues in the tracking software.

Bots are evolving into virtual people now, they no longer do simple repetitive tasks, the tech community is hyping a bot that will have artificial intelligence as part of its make-up. There is a race to create the bot that automates order taking, customer service or conversations through Messaging Bots on smartphones. That’s right the next time you order take-out you will be talking with a Message Bot with artificial intelligence plus machine learning. Facebook in April of this year released a beta version of their Message Bot and now is receiving applications for bot apps for the messaging system. The movement towards a personal one-on-one relationship with customers with mass market scale is happening in the digital world as the technology is coming, but unfortunately it looks like the only real person in this future relationship is you.

Friday, July 08, 2016
This is the final COPA Digital Media spotlight post, and I saved magazines for last. What I have noticed while looking at all the different forms of digital media, is that a lot of them are becoming more magazine-like as they jump on the “Content Marketing” bandwagon, while magazines are trying to be more ad tech-like, which is ironic.

This observation is all part of the digital media convergence that is happening in the market with all media brands crossing over each other in the digital space.During the course of my career I have met a lot of magazine publishers at various conferences across Canada and I picked out some of the niche publishers that go unnoticed nationally, as they cater to specific geographic area, lifestyle segment or hobby. We created a niche content award category for the 2016 COPAs that will give these brands a higher profile in Canada and recognize their talents.


Saltscape is a popular title based in Halifax. The regional lifestyle magazine for the East Coast is known for its  stories on food and drink, homes & cottages, people & culture, healthy living and travel. This integrated brand has a website, paid magazine (print & digital), email newsletter and consumer events as part of their publishing mix. The magazine has a distribution of 425,000, with website traffic of 200,000 visitors per month. Saltscape evokes a sense of community and regional pride that ties in all the provinces on the east coast of Canada.


Avenue is a free monthly urban lifestyle magazine for the city of Calgary. It offers its readers content on city & life, restaurants and food, shopping and attractions and events. To compete with mobile local business search ad companies for Calgary retailers, they have a restaurant search widget on their site. This is supported editorially with a Foodie Guide and Best Restaurants Awards to provide readers info on who are the hottest restaurants in the city. Their digital platform includes all the reader touch points with a website that has traffic of over 250,000 visitors per month, a digital edition of the magazine and email newsletters. There is also an Edmonton edition of Avenue that is co-published by Red Pointe Publishing in Calgary and their partner Odvod Publishing in Edmonton.


The focus of Homes magazine is to cater to Toronto's new homebuyers. It has all the information you will need to start a search for a new home, that includes profiles of new home builders and new projects. Additional content includes design and décor, financial news, and community profiles. The free publication is available in print and digital edition, website and email newsletter that includes new project alerts. The “Search for a Home” widget enables the magazine to be part of the buying process during the home research stage, in addition to providing stories on homes design, communities and builders.


Real Weddings is a regional Bridal magazine in BC that caters to the $4.5 billion wedding industry in Canada. It is estimated the wedding crop each year is 160,000 with the average spend including the honeymoon clocking in at  $30,000. The BC portion is 20-23,000 weddings a year, which translates into a $690 million market.  This niche had to get digital fast as the majority of marriages are between couples 25-35 years old that are digital savvy. The style and form of the website is radically different from other magazine sites as it is more picture oriented and navigation is set-up with a page advance control, that mimics turning a page. There are 27 web pages of content that you can scroll down to see stories on inspiration, style,planning and venues. You can check out their digital edition of the magazine here.


Hobbyist’s titles are a staple of the magazine industry, where a reader can enjoy their passion by reading stories about things they love to do from an authority on the subject. Scrapbook & Cards magazine is for the papercraft hobbyist. What started out as a free print magazine that is published 4x year, now offers paper kits, online seminars, local events, and items for sale on their website. They have effectively leveraged their authority on the topic into additional revenue streams so people new to the hobby can learn, play and socialize. They offer a digital edition of the magazine and email newsletter as part of their content distribution model. 


Cycle Canada is a hobby magazine for the Motorcycle enthusiast. It's a Canadian institution for people that like a little speed and adrenaline as part of their day. The site has information on new and used motorcycles; product news and video test-drive coverage. Like Homes Magazine, Cycle Canada assists people is shopping for a new motorcycle or a used one with their “Product Search” widget on the website. The widget is supported with editorial that talks about all the products in the marketplace. The video inventory is packaged as Cycle TV to bring event coverage and test-drives to their audience. Cycle Canada is a paid magazine published 10x per year in English and French (Moto Journal) and is packaged with free content on their website and an email newsletter.

Kayak, a bilingual history magazine for kids 7-12, offers a mix of fictional short stories, videos, games and contests to learn about Canada’s history. The kids can play on the site with quizzes, puzzles and match games. They have created interactive features with one themed “Bubbleology” that asks readers to submit a caption for photo. The site has a list of 75 Heritage Fairs where history re-enactments are held across Canada. This is a non-profit magazine produced by Canada’s History Society that relies on donations, paid subscriptions, sponsorships and grants to sustain the magazine. Canadian Heritage and Hudson Bay Company are key supporters. You can visit the French version at this link.

All these magazines have evolved like other media from their traditional channel to include a website, digital edition and email newsletter as the optimal digital mix with some free and some paid content. Some have also become more sales oriented with “Product search” widgets or the selling of branded products and services online to create revenue beyond web display ads.  The word on the street is for magazines to be more magazine-like according to the discussion held at Digital Day held by the Ad Club in May. They talked about the importance of “Authentic 3rd Party Content” to attract the reader and the “Return of Engagement” metrics for the marketer. This is a good spot to be in and magazines have a leg up, as they already are a trusted 3rd Party source, with lots of engagement stats.

If you have missed the other COPA Digital Media spotlights you can check them out below. The deadline for entries for the 2016 COPAs has been extended to July 15  and you can enter here.

COPA Digital Media Spotlight
About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the principal of Reflex Media, a media consultancy practice offering media owners digital publishing, event management and ad sales help. His media expertise also include working with ad agencies as a media buyer/planner for tv, radio, print, outdoor, magazine and online. He has been in the advertising and media industry for 25+ years and he has been an instructor/speaker with Centennial College and at magazine conferences across Canada. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

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