Now blogging at

Although I really like, I’ve decided to go back to the WordPress install on my server, at You can find updates there.


Even more kudos!

It’s been a while since my last entry but the theme will be similar. More kudos for our incredibly talented team! The Mercury Awards were recently announced for the USA Corporate and Food Products websites categories:

Hormel Brand: Silver Award winner.

Hormel Brand web site

Jennie-O Turkey Store: Silver Award winner.

Jennie-O web site

Hormel Foods Recipes site: Bronze Award winner.

Hormel Foods Recipes web site

BEP Money Factory site: Bronze Award winner.

Hormel Foods Recipes web site

Hormel Foods site: Honors winner.

Hormel Foods web site

Some Props to the NYT

OK, so in my last entry I was pretty hard on the site and how “slow, plodding and innovation-averse” it — and almost all other similar newspapers — tend to be in an increasingly digital era. Well now I need to give them a few props.

Today, I just found the Times’ “Inside the Playbook” section, where it offers original, 3-D generated videos that break-down certain key plays and strategy in NFL football games. Now those of you who know me, know that I’m a pretty passionate (embarrassingly so, sometimes) Philadelphia Eagles fan, so this was a pretty interesting find for me, personally. See the video grab below:

This is actually a very cool feature. As shown above, it gives step-by-step insight into the strategy employed, as well as a very realistic 3-D rendering of the play itself. The video shown above is the “Explanation” view.

There is also an “Aerial view”:

Aerial view

Aerial view

as well as “Player’s view”:

Players view

Player's view

Most of what I said regarding the site, as well as the rest of the newspaper industry and their sites, still applies. But I wanted to post this because I am very impressed by the use of this interactive technology! Kudos!!!


Steve Jobs Buys Ailing New York Times!

Steve Jobs holding a copy of newly-acquired New York Times

Steve Jobs holding a copy of newly-acquired New York Times

OK, not really. But imagine if you woke up this morning, glanced at the headlines and saw that this HAD happened? If Steve Jobs HAD purchased the New York Times. Now imagine what kind of changes we’d expect to see at the New York Times (or insert any large, ailing newspaper). One thing is for sure, we would cease to see business as usual.

The New York Times would change. And not only would the paper itself change, the industry in general would change with it.

I got to thinking about this after I published my entry The End of Print, As We Know It as well as after publishing Mobile Phones FINALLY Get Smart — Kinda. Think about the backwards, plodding, change-averse U.S. mobile industry before the iPhone was released 1 1/2 years ago. Mobile technology had made shockingly little progress when compared to the pace of technological innovation in most other industries and certainly when compared to the mobile industries in Europe and Asia. The iPod was a jolt to the system of the plodding mobile industry, much as the iPod had been to the portable digital music industry in 2001.

The newspaper industry is every bit as slow, plodding and change-averse as the U.S. mobile industry was. Maybe more so. Faced with substantial changes or death, it would seem that the industry has chosen the latter, as the steep dive in U.S. circulations may only be rivaled by the steep declines in newspaper profits.

What if Steve Jobs bought the New York Times?

I suppose one of the first things to change would be the web site. Don’t get me wrong, the New York Times web site is far from poorly-designed. I personally love the use of technology and white space. But as a fan of the printed version of the newspaper, I can’t help feel that one of the best aspects of the New York Times web site is the fact that it does a very good job of mimicing the look and feel of its printed counterpart. This may be its biggest downfall.

The New York Times newspaper works very well in the medium for which it was designed. Print. To handcuff the web site and tether it so closely to the printed newspaper is to ignore the realities of the medium for which IT is intended The dgital space.

For instance, why can’t I rearrange elements on the NYT home page like I can with my iGoogle? If I want MY version of the Times to lead with sports, politics and weather I should have that choice. That type of customization on web sites is very common now and users will not tolerate information being served to them in cookie-cutter fashion.

Todays front page

Today's front page

Another thing would I guess be conversational features. Why is it that I cannot comment on Times articles? Some newspaper web sites are starting to allow this type of user feedback but that type of progress is generally slow going.

Mobile Integration

I would have to imagine another change would be to improve the mobile integration of the site. I have the iPhone app and while I admire the Times’ ambition in being the first major newspaper to have one, the app has always suffered from being a bit slow and buggy. It crashes far more than its AP counterpart. Still, I think the iPhone app is a good start but I’d like to see more, far more. Mobile social features would be nice. For instance, it would be great to read an article on the iPhone app and Digg it right from my phone. How about ratings? How great would it be to be able to rate an article from my phone? Better yet, how about combine the two? Perhaps I could customize my home page to auto-populate a section of articles that are highly-rated by users who preferences match my own? Who have highly-rated similar articles that I have highly-rated?

NYTimes iPhone App

NYTimes iPhone App

Other Features

In my “End of Print” entry, I asked why it was that newspapers like the New York Times hadn’t innovated technologies like Craig’s List and eBay?  For that matter, why not Rotten Tomatoes, the online movie ratings aggregator? Or perhaps a location-based mobile application that lets you know where the most highly-rated restaurants on the New York Times list are, while you’re out on the town?

And by the way, it’s not like I’m picking on the New York Times. It’s my favorite paper. One could substitute its name for any major newspaper and I’m pretty sure my observations would still apply.

Maybe to have one of them bought by Steve Jobs is what they ALL need? Might be the only thing that could save the ailing newspaper industry, or maybe it’s too much even for him?


Mobile Phones FINALLY Get Smart — Kinda

Apples iPhone has inspired a flood of next generation smartphones

Apple's iPhone has inspired a flood of next generation smartphones

It’s almost, as Yogi Bera would say, “deja vu all over again”. 7 years ago, after Apple first introduced the iPod, there was a rush of “iPod-killers” that flooded the market in order to compete. However, few of these devices ever caught-on long enough to realize any real commercial success and mount a serious challenge to the dominance of the iPod.

This time around, with the mobile market, Apple is something of a late entrant with its iPhone. In 2001, MP3 technology was still relatively new and no MP3 manufacturer had yet created a device — or desktop music management software — capable of establishing it in a dominent position. Not so with the mobile phone market. Last summer, when Apple first introduced the iPhone, it immediately faced stiff competition against entrenched and established manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Nokia.

That said, since the iPhone was released in July 2007, it has enjoyed a remarkable climb in market share, skyrocketing from 4% at the time of its debut to 23% to date. It therefore comes as no surprise that, once again, the popularity of Apple’s device has spawned numerous immitators from RIM/Blackberry’s Storm to LG’s Voyager.

While I don’t see an iPhone-killer in any of them, despite being a faithful iPhone user, I’m rooting for the imitators to do a better job of giving Apple a run for its money than the so-called iPod-killers did. Why? For the simple reason that a good, healthy competition will only end up quickening the pace of innovation and lowering the prices of the resulting products. Both not only good for consumers but also good for the future of mobile computing, which is the next, fastest-growing frontier in the digital space.

Graph courtesy of ChangeWave

Graph courtesy of ChangeWave

Of course, given the sad history of the manufacturers chasing Apple, I’m afraid I don’t have reason to be optimistic. And I’m ALWAYS optimistic! It’s tough for me to realistically expect a rapid pace of innovation to come from the same companies that, prior to the introduction of the iPhone, developed some of the most useless, unimaginative and uninteresting devices on the planet. That last bit is not hyperbole either. For years the United States mobile market has lagged significantly, and embarassingly, behind its European and Asian counterparts. I find it interesting that now that a popular competitor has entered the space, each of them has found a way to incorporate features that had been unheard of before, such as touchscreens and real web browsers.

And why are they content with merely immitating the iPhone rather than developing something truly unique, user-friendly and useful? If they are all content with merely copying and coming in second to the iPhone, it’s unlikely they’ll all of the sudden start truly innovating.

The digital future is at stake

Why is all this important? Why do I care if the others in the mobile market give Apple a run for its money, rather than watch it route the industry as it did with the iPod? Because this time the future of the Internet is at stake. A recent Pew Internet survey found that “the mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020″.  Also earlier this month, Opera Software announced in its latest State of the Mobile Web report that overall data traffic has increased 463% since last year.

Not entirely surprising. We now have mobile devices that are capable of doing things other than simply placing phone calls. The result is that we’re doing things with our mobile devices that we used to only be able to do with our desktop computers.

For those of us in the design field, we’re seeing clients begin to catch up very quickly as they ask for more ambitious mobile solutions to their business needs. This was hardly the case when useless WAP browsers run from archiac mobile operating systems ruled the market. Indeed one of the things that will make the iPhone so difficult to catch is the advantage it has, having developed a large ecosystem of innovators who write applications for the iPhone that extend its functionality far beyond Apple’s original functionality. Companies are beginning to see the advantages of empowering their customer/client bases and allowing them to connect with their brands wherever they are.

To be sure, Apple has never truly needed outside competitors to spark it’s internal culture of innovation. But it sure would be nice if others found religion and started really developing great products for once.



The End of Print, As We Know It.

In the year 2009, is this what newspapers SHOULD look like?

In the year 2009, is this what newspapers SHOULD look like?

Newspapers are dying. Magazines are very, very sick and have a very bad prognosis. How bad is it? Mike Elgan of the site Datamation sums up the grim situation in his recent article Media Companies Have Only Themselves to Blame:

The Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy Monday. The company publishes the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and other daily newspapers. The New York Times Co. intends to pawn its shiny new Manhattan building to borrow a quarter of a billion dollars just to stop the bleeding. Other major dailies are either for sale, or rumored to be so, including the Rocky Mountain News, the Miami Herald and others. The Cox newspaper group is closing its Washington bureau. Most newspapers have announced layoffs, or will do so soon.

Magazines are faring a little better than newspapers. But the industry is all doom-and-gloom, and everyone is predicting a bloodbath in 2009. Newsweek has reportedly lost between half a million to a million subscribers from its 2.6 million rate base and has announced layoffs. TIME layoffs may total 600. National Geographic, The Economist Group and Doubledown Media are all laying off staffers.

Even books are suffering. Simon & Schuster has laid off 35 people. Random House, Inc. killed its Bantam and Doubleday divisions. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced that it would not take on any new authors.

How bad is it? Bad. Newspapers and magazines are getting hit especially hard during the economic downturn. But why? How did we get here? I remember the parade of “The End of Print” articles that were written two booms and 10 years ago. Didn’t newspapers and magazines have ample time — and money — to get their collective acts together? Or did the digital revolution, which we ALL knew was coming, sneak up only on them?

After all, there is not declining interest in the NEWS. There is no declining interest in the content that newspapers and magazines specialize in. So as their titanic struggles mount, I find myself asking myself a myriad of questions like:

  1. Why didn’t a People Magazine create a blog like the supremely popular and influential Perez Hilton’s blog? Instead of innovating for a new medium, they’ve essentially repurposed their print mag for the web.
  2. Why didn’t any major newspaper buy — or start for that matter — eBay or Craig’s List? Instead of losing millions as classified ads flocked to the web, they would have created new revenue streams.
  3. Why are there so many magazines that are not even online yet? Two of the biggest graphic design magazines, PRINT and HOW, have sites that only allow you to sign up for the printed versions!

In a recent article by Seth Godin, Watching the Times struggle (and what you can learn), Seth makes a lot of great points but none more relevant, especially following an election cycle that piqued worldwide interest, than the point he made about the huge missed opportunity newspapers made in not leveraging their existing Op-Ed voices:

2. Leverage the op-ed page and spread important ideas:
Sure, Tom Friedman and a handful of other columnists have a large reach and influence. But why doesn’t the Times have 50 columnists? 500? Tom Peters or Jim Leff or Joel Spolsky or Micah Sifry or Pam Slim or Patrick Semmens or Dan Pink would be great columnists. Why not view the endless print space online as an opportunity to leverage their core asset?

What would happen if the huge team of existing Times editors and writers each interviewed an interesting or important person every day? 5,000 or 10,000 really important interviews every year, each waiting for a sponsor, each finding a relevant audience…

Newpapers are in the shape they’re in today because they missed critical opportunities during the last 10-15 years to expand beyond their centuries old business models and stake a claim on the information superhighway. The only good news is, it’s not too late for them! If our nation’s leading newspapers get real about innovation and really look to push the boundaries about digital and how they (a) reach audiences and (b) derive revenues.

The only problem is, at most newspapers and magazines, that type of culture of innovation does not exist.

A few words about when we say “the death of” something

No one realistically thinks that when we say “the death of print”, newspapers will actually cease to exist. Newspapers will continue to exist, just not in the form or level of prominence that we’ve known them. Nothing TRULY disappears. Heck, you can still find someplace where you can send and receive a TELEGRAPH! Radio, once king, wasn’t completely wiped off the face of the Earth once television arrived. But the arrival of television had a profound effect on the future of radio. It marginalized it. To the extent that radio exists today, it exists because it is able to do the things that TV cannot do — be mobile, be very small and allow us to consume its content without needing to see it.

Newspapers won’t completely vanish into thin air. But we should take a nice, long look around. While they won’t vanish, they’ll be far fewer in number and much smaller in influence than they are now. And, unfortunately, they have only themselves to blame for it.


Designing the Holidays

Throwing star magnets could make the perfect gift

Throwing star magnets could make the perfect gift

With a little more than a week before Christmas, are you still struggling over what to buy that one realative whom you never know what to buy for? Fear not! Core77 has just published this year’s 77 Design Gifts Under $77.

Beware, if you’re anything like me you may struggle not to buy some of these gifts for yourself! In fact, the only reason I haven’t already bought the Shuriken Throwing Star magnets shown above is because they’re apparently backordered until the middle of January!

I Feel Golden t-shirt that every designer should have.

"I Feel Golden" t-shirt that every designer should have.

This “I Feel Golden” t-shrt from Brooklyn Industries is another interesting gift idea for that creative who never likes anything you buy for them. Most of these gifts are pretty reasonable in price (even an iPhone app for $2.99) and most are pretty good ideas, even if only for a late stocking stuffer for yourself.


Web Design Training for Art Directors

Its not always easy for traditional art directors to pick a web designer

It's not always easy for traditional art directors to pick a web designer

I had a two-fer today. Not only did I find an interesting new blog, the blog from web design firm DSGN + DVLP called the chronicle of a designerd, I also read one of the entries and learned of a course that the blog author — Daniel Schutzsmith — had been teaching at School of Visual Arts called Web Design for Art Directors. Now I don’t know if the course is still being offered — the link provided in the entry only leads to an error page, not to a page offering a description of the class — nor do I think that I personally would be interested in taking the class. I do, however, think the course is a great idea.

With interaction design now such an integral part of almost every marketing, advertising, branding and communications strategy, many art directors and creative directors are grappling with the challenge of of needing to step out of their comfort zones and at times lead projects that involve significant digital components. Years ago, these creatives would have been secure in the reality that such tasks would fall on the web team down the hall and that they would be relied on to lead projects for which they had been trained and had years — if not decades — of experience but today that is not the case.

So where to begin? For someone who doesn’t do this every day, how can they evaluate the skills of web designers? How do they evaluate interactive design strategy to decide which is best for their client? An even better question is, where does one easily find the information they need to bring them up to speed in digital design 101, not from an entry-level designer’s perspective but from the perspective of a senior creative?

For this there are no easy answers. A course is a good idea because over the length of a semester concepts, terminology and case studies can be presented without overloading the course participants. I even think a digital course wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Not everyone is in NYC where they would have the ability to take courses at School of Visual Arts. Also, digital courses would indirectly provide an extra case study for the course, which could illustrate the potential of digital and interactive techniques.

During the early to mid-90′s, I essentially gobbled up every book, magazine article, web tutorial and internet discussion I could in order to make the transition from traditional design to print. How great would it have been if there was some sort of resource that could have helped me along? If anyone out there is currently putting something like this together, I’ll gladly help spread the word!


Cherry-picking Obama’s Successful Digital Tactics

The Barack Obama campaign web site

The Barack Obama campaign web site

Shortly after President-elect Barack Obama won on November 4th, I met with a few of our clients and advised them that it wouldn’t be long before companies began to analyze and emulate many of the digital strategies employed by the Obama campaign during the 2008 elections. I fully expected companies to thoughtfully study the various aspects of Obama’s digital strategy, evaluate them and integrate the aspects that best suit their businesses in order to bring their digital efforts into the 21st century.

Silly me!

What I had not anticipated was that clients would begin to cherry pick Obama’s strategies, acknowledging those with which they already have a predisposition while downplaying others altogether. The Obama campaign successfully wove together an outreach and engagement strategy that utilized external social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Meetup, etc.), internal social networks (My Barack Obama), messaging via YouTube, email and SMS (text messaging) in order to excite and mobilize it’s massive base of eager volunteers.

Recently, however, I’ve had the experience of meeting with clients and having them reduce Obama’s digital strategy into one single tactic or killer app: “Obama won because of Twitter!” “Obama won because of all those YouTube videos!” “Obama won because of his SMS campaign!”

Of course, as each of us knows, there is no killer app. There are no short cuts. No outreach/engagement campaign could be as simple as simply putting up “a Facebook group”. To be sure, the Obama campaign worked very hard to hone and perfect its digital strategy over time — improving on certain aspects of it that worked while minimizing or eliminating aspects that did not — and the same will be true for any organization that wishes to leverage the social web in building its brand.

Last year, when the Obama campaign first launched its social network — which allows anyone to create their own blog on the Barack Obama web site — the decision was met with raised eyebrows in many a corporate boardroom. Many of those organizations are still debating whether it should even have a blog, let alone whether or not they should allow their users unfettered access to their site and the ability to maintain unmoderated blog content which the company does not, and cannot, control.

Earlier this year, when artists like and Obama Girl began to pepper YouTube with content that was not sanctioned by the campaign and, in’s case, did so by using and reproducing content from an Obama speech for which they did not request or receive prior written consent, they engaged in activities that would have gotten them sued by many corporations.

Every company/brand says it wants to deepen the level of engagement between itself and its consumer base. Too many, however, wish to do so in the traditional, one-way method of communication rather than in the establish true levels of engagement by letting go of control of their brands and letting their consumers take control.

As long as companies and brands continue to cherry pick tactics used by Obama rather than embrace the overall strategy of engagement, they will continue to talk at their consumers rather than to establish a meaningful dialogue.


Case Study: Interacting with Hormel

Hormel Brand Interactive Kitchen

Hormel Brand Interactive Kitchen

Recently our team, in conjunction with our partners at Hormel Foods, launched the new Hormel Brand web site. We were challenged with the task of both creating an engaging and memorable interactive experience while also giving information about the wide variety of products housed within the Hormel Brand.

The resulting site features prominently on the home page, an interactive kitchen where users can zoom around and explore areas of the kitchen where they can learn more about Hormel products. We even included an MP3 player where users can preview and download musical mixes to play in the background while they entertain friends and loved ones and serve meals made with delicious Hormel products.

I’m grateful to be lucky enough to have a ton of great clients and client projects to work on every day but this was one of the most satisfying for me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we really tapped into the deep reservoir of creative resources at our disposal at Burson-Marsteller. From visual designers, to copywriters, to Flash animators/developers, to developers, to project managers, etc. This project represents a phenomenal effort by everyone involved and I was proud not only to be a part of it but also to have such wonderful clients who truly partnered with us to create something really special.