How Much Should We Blame the News Media for Donald Trump?

There have been a lot of articles about how the media, needing a way to breathe life into this election 12 months ago, hooked itself up to the Trump Train and rode it through every area of chaos it went, cashing their checks whenever it came into the station to refuel. It really wasn’t until they realized that a Trump Presidency was becoming ACTUALLY POSSIBLE, that the media jumped off and then started blowing up the tracks ahead in hopes of derailing it.

But that’s not the question I’m asking now. What I’m curious about is how much we should blame the collective news media for dumbing-down the news so much over the last 10-20 years? Was it only a matter of time before someone like Trump was able to attract the hearts and the simplified minds of “Soundbite America?”

Maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe it’s ours for only being able to absorb 8-10 minutes before needing a commercial break. Maybe we need to be mesmerized with four talking heads each bringing their best two to three minutes of content to a discussion. In this format, no one ever has time to discuss a “How.” It’s only about the “Why” and you usually have a full screen of people with polar opposite opinions fighting to get in the best dig.

But then, I could argue that IS the media’s fault for forcing that format down our eyeballs and earholes. What is the total cost of losing a few viewers to make sure that the people who keep watching get something more thorough than clever quips and cut downs?

I don’t know the answer to that. Broadcasters are owned by public companies so they need as much money as they can get to survive this new media economy that forced them to lose their near oligopoly status. Yes, it is much harder to compete in a bifurcated market than to be one of a handful of outlets covering news. So I understand the need to dumb down the news to make it appeal to more people. But I’m not sure I’m happy with the results.

Check Out This Sneaky Amazon Product Placement

Q: If you are a TV show on the bubble between renewal and cancellation, what’s the best way to make the bosses happy?
A: Make them more money.

Undateable will never win an Emmy. It’s niche is that in its 3rd season (and basically out of desperation due to being moved to the Friday night dustbin), it decided to shoot every episode live. The result is a hyped up Friday night live studio audience that contributes to a show that is part script / part improv.

BUT… that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be back for Season 4. So the show needs an extra revenue source on top of the normal :30 spots to secure its place in the Fall lineup.

Enter Amazon, in what is one of the sneakiest product placement deals I can imagine. Remember, subliminal advertising is illegal. But subliminal product placement apparently is not. I counted about four different camera angles in two different scenes where the logo is visible. I’m going to estimate the logo got about 60-120 seconds of airtime. How much do you think that subliminal product placement is worth? More or less than a :30 spot?

Can you spot it?

Undateable and Amazon 1

Undateable and Amazon 2

Undateable and Amazon 3

Undateable and Amazon 4

Undateable and Amazon 5

Join me at the Seattle Interactive Conference November 3

Over the last few years, I’ve had a few amazing chances to get in front of a large audience and either speak on, or moderate panels full of smart people. In about two weeks, I’ll get the opportunity to moderate a panel at one of my favorite events – the Seattle Interactive Conference.

The panel is focused on the changing role of online advertising. Here’s the description:

Game of Screens: The Rise of Multi-Screen Marketing
The rapid evolution of consumer behavior as it relates to their media consumption has rendered many of advertising’s traditional targeting and measurement metrics difficult or obsolete. So how do you accurately measure results when Device proliferation is making even basic reach and frequency management nearly impossible? How can you balance the new expectations amongst consumers that messaging to them should always be relevant and timely? And what are some recent technology advancements in targeting and measurement to help address some of these challenges? In this panel, executives from Choicestream, GoDaddy, Logitech and Sharethrough will share their experience and expertise in delivering successful behavior-driven marketing to consumers who live on multiple screens.

The panel will be on Nov 3 at 11:00am. If you’re attending the event, please come on by and check out our session. And if you have questions you want answered, shoot me an email and I’ll add them into the queue.

A Cynical Realization About How I Read News

It’s coffee break time. So I head over to to do a quick scroll to see if there’s anything im-sport-ant for me to follow up on.  (Yes I created that term to describe important sports news, and I will allow you to use it…)

The latest story on the A-Rod mess attracts my attention. I read the story. I see both sides to the issue. I want more info.

So here’s the main plot point in my story here – I am looking for objective, fair and unbiased facts that I can read through. I want to get news, not filtered bullet points provided by either side’s PR teams. I unconsciously scroll through my mental list of places to type in my browser next. Here’s how that thought process went:

  •  – No, that’s a marketing site, not a sports news site.
  • – No, they will basically have someone from writing the story, with the CFO and head of the MLB / ESPN relationship approving it. It will be completely one-sided.
  • – No, they aren’t going to bite the hand that feeds them either.
  • – No, the baseball beat writers are probably on furlough until February.
  • – Yes, I’ll check them out, but will expect the article later in the week since it’s not pressing news right now.
  • – No, the home of the Mariners is not going to write anything negative about MLB.
  • Any of the news sites – No, they are probably just going to have 3-4 paragraphs pulled from
  • – YES. they may not have the story, but I bet the KNOW where a good article is.

And I was rewarded. A article had a link to this awesome piece by Wendy Thurn at

But now think about this. I have been trained that whenever there is an “insportant” story, I can’t go to any major media outlet to get fair coverage. The news, sports and entertainment divisions of companies are so intertwined, my unconscious reaction is to ignore anyone who has any official relationship with Major League Baseball.  Not to read the story with a grain of salt on my tongue. Not to read the story and then look for countering arguments. But to sidestep all broadcasters associated with MLB all together.

Am I too cyncial? Maybe. Or maybe I’ve just been conditioned to know what to expect from them.

What the MLS Should Have Done on Wednesday

I’m pretty sure I threw this idea out a few years ago, but apparently MLS Commissioner Don Garber isn’t a regular reader, so I’ll post a modified version again.

The day before and the day after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game are the only 2 days in the calendar that none of the major 4 sports leagues have a competitive game. If I was the MLS, I would use the day after the game to my full advantage. Every sports bar in America is starved for something to put on their screens. Every couch potato is stuck trying to choose between the Espys and a 30 for 30 marathon.

So I’d run 3 continuous hours of MLS coverage, with every team playing at basically the same time. The mechanics would look something like this:
– Game 1 starts at 8:00pm EST.
– Each game would start 10 minutes later.
– At your peak, you’d have 9 games running simultaneously, with the llast game starting just as the first game was in its final 15 minutes.
– You would be able to cut away Red Zone style to each goal, which would probably come every 5 to 10 minutes.
– You’d have 90 straight minutes of games in their final 10 minutes. 0-0 and 1-0 games are exciting in their dying embers, so you could have a lot of nail-biting finishes to entertain the average sports fan who doesn’t usually watch soccer.
– By 11:30 Eastern, people would have watched a lot of good finishes, seen a lot of highlights, seen fans in 9 different stadiums, and received at least a little education about what makes people like soccer.

You’re missing a great chance MLS? What do you think? What is there to lose?
Lamar Listening

The Media and the Zimmerman Case

I can be a little bit of a news junkie.  When I get in the right mindset, I want to dive into all the things going on in the world and try to connect them together. And right now there is a lot of interesting stuff going on: Edward Snowden, the NSA, Immigration reform, The rebellion in Egypt, continued turmoil in Syria, U.S. frustration with Afghanistan’s President, Obamacare, US fiscal issues and more.

However, if you do nothing but watch U.S. cable TV news, you would not know any of this. CNN, HLN and MSNBC have decided that the George Zimmerman case is Hurricane Katrina, the Cuban Missle Crisis, OJ Simpson and the Boston Bombers all rolled into one.

At best, the news media is being lazy and trying to find the cheapest and easiest story to focus on during the summer doldrums. Stick up a live feed, call some talking head lawyers who are dying for 15 minutes of fame and put the control room on auto-pilot.

If you want to get cynical or conspiratorial, then you could say the media is trying to manufacture a race riot. Make sure everyone has a chance to make an opinion on whether Zimmerman is guilty or innocent, create a huge buildup to the decision, prep everyone with talking points on how there’s no way he should be judged as innocent, and then stick cameras everywhere you think a mini-riot may occur to capture people yelling those talking points.  Then publicize the mini-riot so that it looks bigger and builds more momentum.  Now you have real news.

Surprisingly, there’s one network not engaging in the Zimmerman summer telethon – Fox News. Pessimistically, maybe they see that being the only network not televising wall to wall live coverage of a boring courtroom gives them a chance to push their agenda out to people who usually skip over them on the dial. Optimistically, maybe they are the only network that has their “A” team working during July and realize the Zimmerman trial is only as interesting as a 2007 episode of Law and Order. We don’t get a lot of chances to to say this, so I will admit, ‘Well done, Fox News.”

It disheartens me that the news has come to this.  3 networks, 2 owned by the same company, live televising a court case that doesn’t deserve it, simply because they are pushing a racial angle.  They’ve  monopolized the news airwaves and pushed away any of the national and global events that we should be thinking about, and instead, dumbed their viewership down and tried to create a race issue. I think it’s irresponsible at best, nefarious at worst.

Speaking Today at Market Mix 2013

I hope to see some of you today at MarketMix 2013. I’ll be speaking in one of the Breakout Sessions, talking about how to add Storytelling to your Content Marketing Plan. If that’s not enough incentive, I also brought along Rebecca Lovell of Vittana and Billy Pettit of Pillar Properties.

If you want to cheat, here’s the presentation I’ll be giving.

The Gas Man, Radio and the State of Sports and Media

No, we won’t get to cover everything listed in that lofty title.

But I want to comment briefly on the news a few weeks ago that the Gas Man, Mike Gastineau, left 950 KJR-AM after something like 21 years in Seattle.  The Gas Man goes waaaaaaaayyyy back – all the way to the days of the Babe, the Groz, Wheels, New York Vinny and Michael Knight in the Morning.

Gas Man was a staple of my drive home diet for 15 years or so.  I think he provided some of the most compelling sports interviews (except for the lame John Feinstein infomericals each week. “Oh really John, you published a new book 4  months ago? Tell us more!”)

So why did Gas Man have to leave?

Quite simply, if you like the Gas Man, blame the Man Man for forcing his exit.

Radio is dying.  A 3rd sports radio station is coming to replace AM 1090 now that the election is over.  And the Disney / ESPN money that got dropped into KIRO 710 basically has turned KJR into a 2nd fiddle.

Over at KJR, the big checks need to turn into small checks.  And thus the cost of hosting content on drive time from 3-7pm went from Gas Man’s salary to Elise’s hourly wage.

I’m sure Gas Man could have taken a pay cut to stay.  But who wants to do that? By the same token, Clear Channel could take a loss on a show to keep premier talent.  So blame them for treating radio like a Google AdWords buy, looking for the best CPC.

So my meandering point is, thanks Gas Man for keeping me entertained – FOR FREE – for the last 15-20 years.  I hope however this radio thing shakes out, we figure out how to keep talented people on the air.

If I Was The NFL Pro Bowl Director

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything here.   If only there was a tool that helped people write coherent blog posts

Well no one asked me, but here’s what I would do if I had to make something out of the NFL Pro Bowl.  Keep in mind the following items:

  • The game is atrocious
  • The NFL needs it as a way to spiff their advertisers
  • Players dig the Pro Bowl because they get bonuses for making the team
  • The game now happens on that dead Sunday between the Championship games and Super Bowl.

So here’s my dumb idea.

High Level: Make the Pro Bowl a week long television extravaganza featuring all the TV shows on the network hosting the game.  Send the producers of all that network’s shows (that make sense) over to Hawaii to film programs that feature Pro Bowl players.  Heck, you can even create shows.

Let’s say that CBS was televising the Super Bowl.  Without doing too much thinking you could have some sort of episode of:

  • Amazing Race, where a bunch of sets of teammates are competing or players get teamed with a regular person.
  • A Survivor spin off
  • A live “taping” of one or two of their sitcoms
  • Plus Pro Bowl specific hows such as a Jeopardy like game show with Linemen vs Quarterbacks. a “teammate” version of the Newlywed game,  skills competitions, etc…

All of these shows could involve Joe Fan, and reach a cross over audience.  But here’s the kicker: You get to charge new advertising dollars for NFL related shows.  Super Bowl sponsors would have more ways to extend their Super Bowl buy into earlier in the week, and companies who can’t afford Super Bowl ads would have a way to invest marketing money into the game.

And really, I don’t really care what they do with the game.  You could still play it, but instead of 3 straight hours of dreadful football, you’d have mini-bites of content from some of the shows that just aired, and some that are going to air that week.

This is a kernel of an idea, not a well thought out plan.  Would love to get your thoughts.