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Mack the Flack

Our blog, Mack the Flack, explores PR, journalism, and communications trends in the digital age

Modern Social Media Manners

October 29th, 2014

The latest version of Debrett’s—the long trusted source of British manners and deportment—is now available online. Pity it doesn’t cover 21st-century conundrums such as when to tweet (or not).

Such social media etiquette advice may have saved a couple of dumb dudes their jobs recently.

Vandon Gene, a Sun News Network reporter, got fired last week after a Twitter spat with none other than CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Gene wanted Cooper to take a selfie of them at Ottawa’s National War Memorial during a break in covering the shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

On Twitter, Cooper wrote, “Dude, you were rude and asking for a selfie where a soldier was killed. It was completely inappropriate. Think about it.”

Ted Bishop, president of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA), was sacked after he called a British golfer “a little girl” on Twitter for criticizing a tournament.

Later, the ex-president called his statement “unacceptable.”

“This is a classic example of poor use of social media on my part,” he added.

Mack agrees.

The Year the Platinum Album Died

October 21st, 2014

It’s strange how empires grow just before they collapse. Postmedia, owner of the National Post, recently bought 175 daily and weekly newspapers from Quebecor, owner of the Toronto Sun.

That’s one debt-ridden print newspaper company spending $316 million for a bunch of other ad revenue challenged newspapers.

Meanwhile, in the digital world, Canadians are about to reach a mobile milestone. We now spend 49% of our time online on mobile devices. It won’t be long until our screen time on tablets and phones exceeds that of laptops and desktops.

And as free digital access to news and music increases, 2014 may mark the first year when only one US released album – Disney’s Frozen movie sound track – has gone platinum by selling more than a million copies.

Gidget and Zilla’s Amazing Digital Vacations

September 25th, 2014

A Dutch woman recently spent five amazing weeks travelling through Southeast Asia, eating in exotic restaurants, snorkeling and journeying to Buddhist temples, all the while posting her photos and videos on Facebook and Vimeo.

But it was a digital fake. Zilla van der Born never left Amsterdam. The restaurants and temples were local sights, snorkeling was a combination of Photoshop and a local pool.

“I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media,” van der Born told journalists. “We create an online world which reality can no longer meet.”

Next meet a seven-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Gidget who went missing for more than four months from her home in Pennsylvania only to turn up across the continent in Portland, Oregon.

Animal shelter workers used Gidget’s implanted microchip to find her home. The 4,838 km trip only cost Gidget a few lost pounds.

The Death of Driving and MTV

September 15th, 2014

According to the experts driverless cars will arrive in Canada by 2020. As Paul Godsmark, co-founder of the Canadian Automated Vehicle Centre of Excellence recently put it: “The technology is not just accelerating, the acceleration is accelerating”.

Meanwhile digital technology-driven changes are also coming to cable TV in Canada. Bell Media has announced it will cut 91 employees from its music channel production staff. The popularity of YouTube, Netflix and other online services has sucked viewers from music channels such as MTV and Much.

With easy online access to the music, videos, shows and movies (not to mention cat videos) a growing number of Canadians are “cutting the cable”.

Full disclosure – Mack cut the cable this summer.

CEO Kicks Dog – Social Media Bites Back

September 8th, 2014

Mack’s back from a lazy summer of afternoon naps in a hammock with a sad tale from the dog days of summer.

The dog doo doo hit the fan for Centerplate CEO Desmond Hague in late August when footage of him kicking a puppy in a Vancouver hotel elevator went public via social media. He initially apologized, offering to donate $100,000 toward the protection of animals. But the Connecticut-based CEO had to resign when faced with the outrage over him putting the boot to his puppy.

A recent study found that dogs and humans, who have lived together for at least 15,000 years, often build a bond of trust and understanding which has a positive impact on the mental health of the dog owner.

Something one ex-CEO should think about now he has more time to walk his dog.

Breaking News – CEO Sleeps In

July 2nd, 2014

Just when Mack, a former journalist, thought the mostly middle-aged guys who run the world’s legacy media were aware it was the 21st century a variation of this headline appeared online, on air and in print:

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer oversleeps and

Is late for dinner with ad executives

That’s right. The woman who heads up one of the largest technology companies in the world slept in and it made international news.

Now ask yourself, is this news? Would it be news if the Yahoo CEO was male? Since when has ANY CEO sleeping in and missing a meeting been news?

Mack plans to sleep in many times as he takes some time off this summer. He will return after Labour Day.

Until then let’s hope the wise old media men find some real news to cover.

Taxi to Nowhere

June 17th, 2014

The taxi industry is getting kicked to the curb in more than 110 cities worldwide by the latest disruptive mobile technology — smartphone apps such as Uber and Lyft which provide low-cost online ride-sharing services that ignore the heavily-regulated and taxed taxi monopoly.

Worldwide reaction from shaken taxi companies and city governments has been swift and angry, but largely inconsequential. The online ride-sharing movement is moving faster than a New York taxi meter. Uber, the San Francisco-based leader in this disruptive new field, is currently valued at $18.2 billion US.

The Uber app allows people to arrange a ride with a few taps on their smartphone. The rider’s smartphone GPS locates the nearest ride and even tracks the ordered ride’s progress on the app’s real-time map.

Imagine, a world without yellow cabs.

The Boring Conference

June 9th, 2014

Summer is almost here, marking the official kick off of the conference season. Mack is heading to a conference in Halifax where he plans to learn new stuff, connect with interesting colleagues and eat too much lobster.

But all conferences carry a risk of getting stuck in a session with a mind-numbingly dull PowerPoint presentation.

This is a guarantee at the Boring Conference – a one-day celebration of the mundane, the ordinary and the overlooked, held in London last week.

According to founder James Ward, this year’s 4th annual Boring Conference featured 20 speakers giving 10 minute talks on everything from inkjet printers of 1999 and German film titles to cooking meals with equipment found in hotel bedrooms and a comparison of 198 national anthems.

James knows of which he speaks. Later this year he’s publishing a book called Adventures in Stationery.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

May 26th, 2014

Mack spent the May long weekend working on projects at his cabin in the mountains. One such job, replacing rotted stairs, required some careful measuring.

“Measure twice and cut once” is the old carpenter’s adage. Something the French National Railway, SNCF, should have heeded.

SNCF has ordered 2,000 new high-speed trains that are too big for 1,300 station platforms. The company’s failure to measure twice will cost more than $74 million: they need to modify 1/6 of all platforms across the country. At some stations, two new trains can’t pass each other on adjacent rails.

The rail operator failed to verify all platform measurements before it ordered the new trains.  They checked the dimensions of platforms built in the last 30 years, but not built more than 50 years ago.

In the digital age, a simple tape measure still has its uses.

Buying Staples in the Internet Age

May 12th, 2014

Doing business in the age of the Internet has created many opportunities. At the same time, it has shaken many legacy industries—from music to movies, publishing to photography, newspapers to real estate—to their cores.

The latest digital casualty is the office supplies sector. In Canada, Grand & Toy, recently bought out by OfficeMax, is to shut all 19 of its stores. In the U.S., Office Depot, which has merged with OfficeMax, has announced it will shut at least 400 of its stores by the end of 2016.

The closures are a response to a rapid shift in the purchasing habits of customers, most of whom do their buying online, rarely stepping inside a retail outlet.