Rex Hammock's Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:23:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In-House Content vs. Out-House Content Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:20:53 +0000

Related posts:

  1. Content that works: Two types of content that may not win awards, but that we can’t do without
  2. In-house White House blogger?
  3. Introducing Content That Works: A series of hand-crafted posts about how businesses should use content that isn’t crap
Whenever you start reading analysis by an expert consultant who thinks a company like Pepsi is smart to create an in-house content (or other creative execution) agency for whatever reason, get ready for a trainwreck.

Pepsi’s in-house content people blew it. However, an agency could have, as easily, blown it. But here’s how it should work. In-house, there should be an expertise in the goals and missions of the company; the reasons a product exist.

The “out-source resource” should be the expert in how to develop a content strategy that will reach those goals and missions. They should be experts in the nunace of various types of media, like publishing or digital media.

From the first day of Hammock’s existence, we have told clients and potential ones: “You are the expert in your product, we are the experts in the message and media strategy that will help you sell more products and develop a deeper relationship with customers.”

The real problem is not whether content is better or cheaper if it comes from within an organization. The problem is that content that is developed to make the senior management of a company feel good about themselves (the Pepsi problem), will likely fail.

For more about why companies that focus on messages that please themselves are almost always wrong, read this post from 2014: RIP: Osmo Wiio

]]> 0
How to Know its Time to Update Your Slide Deck Wed, 12 Apr 2017 17:32:35 +0000

Related posts:

  1. Advice for presenters – Along with the bullet points, lose the apologies
  2. UK “customer” publishing update
  3. Don’t do this: Hand out your PowerPoint sales presentation deck
Earlier this week, I heard a presentation by a well-known analyst and author who is an expert on topics related to customer service and the technology used in that field.

One of her examples of customer service related to an experience in which a friend of her’s was amazed by a service provider’s customer service phone support. He was blown away by the simple integration of two data points that enabled him to not have to repeat his issue multiple times. “Oh, I see you were just on our website,” the customer support person said.

I would be impressed by that technological breakthrough, myself.

Unfortunately for the presenter, the company was United Airlines and the audience reacted to the example with laughter.

They were not impressed.

You’ve got to admit it: using an example about customer service in the context of massive coverage about how a customer of their’s had been beaten up and dragged off a plane because they were oversold is being far too loyal to one’s presentation deck than necessary.

]]> 0
No Famous Person Ever Said What You Quoted Them Saying Thu, 06 Apr 2017 00:43:07 +0000

Related posts:

  1. Does anyone know this person?
  2. Person of the year betting odds
  3. Dear magazine person
On Mondays, we almost always post a quotation on using the hashtag #MondayMotivation. It’s difficult for me to come up with a quotation because I insist that the quotation have a primary source, not a second-party attribution. In other words, the quote must be in the writings or public statements of a person or be from someone who was recounting the quotation they heard directly from the source, not from a friend-of-a-friend of the source.

One of the places I look to verify quotes is the Quote Investigator, a website of someone whose pen name is Garson O’Toole.

NPR’s All Things Considered recently ran an interview with O’Toole, who has a new book out called, Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations.

Here’s a quote by O’Toole that can be verified by listening to the interview below:”It’s a lot of fun to uncover these hidden histories, and I’m also very glad when I get to give credit to the person who actually said it.”


Another place I look is Wikiquote, a project of the organization that runs Wikipedia. It is maintained by hundreds of people who are like O’Tolle. If you go there to look for a specific quote reference to a quote by Einstein or Hemingway, you’ll often be disappointed not to see it. Click on the “Discussion” tab at the top, left side of the box that contains the quote. There you will see a list of quotes that are often attributed to the person, under the heading, “Unsourced.” You’ll also see any debates over the source.

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of lame sourcing, but it’s still a pet-peeve.

]]> 0
Folio: Followup Wed, 05 Apr 2017 18:02:22 +0000

Related posts:

  1. Folio: freely
  2. Drive by blogging from the Folio Show
  3. M10 parent, Primedia form “new company” and combine Folio:, M10, other properties
I’ve now done something I never thought I’d have the chance to do: Follow up on a 20-year-old magazine cover story. And since I’ve only been on one magazine cover, this was my only shot.

A shout-out thanks to Tony Silber who conceived the original story “way back when” (about custom publishers going digital in 1996) and who thought it would be fun to compare the Q&A then, to what they might be today.

One thing I didn’t do 20 years ago was Tweet, but Hammock already managed a couple of web forums and a very active Compuserve group (I was the sysop). We were creating CD Rom projects and publishing branded magazines and books. It was those foundations that enabled me to “get” everything that has been built on such foundations.

There is so much that great content can do for marketers. Unfotunately, when marketers think that content is limited to SEO and lead generation, it’s hard to explain all the other benefits of great customer media and marketing with content.

Oh well, no doubt I’ll still be trying to explain that 20 years from now.

Blast from the past: Revisiting Rex Hammock’s 1996 Folio: cover story

— FOLIO: (@foliomag) April 5, 2017

]]> 0
@R eview | STown Tue, 04 Apr 2017 03:50:37 +0000

Related posts:

  1. Review: The Podcast “Serial”
  2. Decade-old Nashville murder case solved
  3. Where are they now? Phillip Moffitt
If you visit the website of the podcast STown, you’ll notice that the seven-part series is divided into “chapters.” After binge-listening seven hours during the past weekend (kept doing yard work so I could listen guilt-free), I agree that “chapters” is more appropriate than “episodes” as STown flows like a well-crafted story, masterfully told.

First a word of caution. If cussing (and I mean cussing, not cursing) offends you, please stop here and forget the podcast. Okay. You’ve been warned. STown stands for Shit Town, the name given to his hometown by John B. McLemore. The town he’s grown to hate is in Bibb County, Ala., about midway between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. John (or John B) is one of those people who has grown angry with the world, an iconoclast who can’t believe what idiots human beings have become. Unfortunately, he’s smart enough to know it’s true. He’s brilliant on a wide range of topics and is one of the world’s most talented restorers of antique mechanical clocks. But he’s also crazy as a loon and a world class cusser.

Oh, here’s another thing I should disclose (if you’re not one of the 12 regular readers of this blog who already knows), I’m a native of Alabama and have lived in the South all my life. I’ll admit, however, my experience in the South has been more suburban new South “Gardens & Guns” than rural town new South tattoos and Trump. But still, I’ve known a few John B’s in my life. They are unique and engaging while, simultaneously, scarey as hell.

Before sharing more about STown, here’s a flashback to my review of Serial, the podcast that shut down the tech-media “experts” who were writing podcasting’s obituary at the time:

Serial is like a brand new way to experience someone telling me a story that stretches 500 pages and a dozen hours. Except with Serial, “the audiobook” is presented in a way that no audio book I’ve ever experienced has (except, perhaps, the audiobook version of Katharine Graham’s autobiography). Rather than being a murder mystery, Serial is becoming a story about a journalist trying to determine the mystery of whether or not there is a story in the murder. It’s like an author of an audio book is writing the book in real time, sharing with us the pieces that have to come together and the frustrations when they don’t.

Like (I’m guessing) most people, I expected STown to be another Serial, a murder mystery documentary. Developed, written and narrated by a producer of This American Life, Brian Reed (a New Yorker, bless his heart), STown is, according to its digital equivalent of dust jacket notes, “about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. John asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, and the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.”

The mysteries of STown do involve violence and crimes that are solved as dramatically as in any TV procedural. But STown is more southern gothic than journalist whodunit. It’s Faulkner* meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with a little Rick Bragg and Truman Capote thrown in.

It took three years to produce STown. And while it is “by” Reed, it’s obvious that countless talented people worked on this project.

Every moment spent during those three years is evident.

A hint: Listen through to the very end. It has one of the best-written final paragraphs of any book (er, podcast) I know.

*The song that ends each chapter is titled A Rose for Emily by The Zombies, a reference to the Faulkner short story by the same name. (Full text of the short story.)

]]> 3
Twitter Swaps the Default Avatar Egg for a Gumdrop Sat, 01 Apr 2017 00:29:03 +0000

Related posts:

  1. 7 reasons to use Twitter (that I wrote before there was such a thing as Twitter)
  2. Thoughts on Twitter #12: Twitter vs. the Crazy Uncles
  3. Dave Winer on the future of Twitter
Harry McCracken, writing for Fast Company’s Co.Design, goes “Inside Twitter’s Obsessive Quest to Ditch the Egg


“Starting today…the egg is history. Twitter is dumping the tarnished icon for a new default profile picture–a blobby silhouette of a person’s head and shoulders, intentionally designed to represent a human without being concrete about gender, race, or any other characteristic. Everyone who’s been an egg until now, whatever their rationale, will automatically switch over.”

I’ve been known to mock coverage of logo redesigns at large technology companies; especially those projects that end up with something looking like clip-art from a stock service. (For instance, that time I explained how Hammock Inc.’s logo was designed.)

In an era when “content creators” are judged by the number of keywords they can pack between commas, it’s nice to read the way Harry demonstrates the craft of writing with both wit and insight.:


Instead of defaulting to the perfectly spherical head of a restroom-signage figure, the designers began playing with other approaches. They gravitated toward a gumdrop-like shape and found it had Rorschach Test-like qualities. “The second you start playing with head shape, you start thinking, ‘Oh, this might not just be a single gender,’” says Cotton. “Is that a man with a beard? Is that a woman with a bob?” Rounding off the shoulders, they found, also helped them create a symbol for “human being” that wasn’t freighted with any specific characteristics.

That said, I don’t think this is going to be one of those days that people will recall and feel the need to tell their grandchildren where they were the day they heard the news that Twitter got rid of the egg.

via: Techmeme


]]> 0
A New Yorker Cover That Magazine Wonks Will Love Sat, 25 Feb 2017 15:29:48 +0000

Related posts:

  1. Time Magazine names the New Yorker’s Obama election cover the best cover of the year, but you knew that…
  2. Print is alive: The New Yorker magazine cover and animation
  3. Want to Paint a New Yorker cover? There’s an App for that

“Every once in a while, there’s a perfect storm to produce an image.”

Françoise Mouly
New Yorker’s art editor in interview with the Washington Post

The March 6, 2017, New Yorker provides a great example of how the magazine uses the web to promote its print version. A few days before the print magazine is released, an image of the cover is released. Often, the image goes viral among the readership of the magazine–and those who don’t actually read it, but love to drop references to the magazine at cocktail parties.

More importantly, it’s an example of how a contemporary magazine–some would argue, the best contemporary magazine–can pay homage to its heritage (the 1925 cover on the left is iconic) in a way that readers understand, but non-readers won’t get–an “insider” effect. (The cover for next week’s magazine is explained in the Washington Post today.)

Most importantly, the cover breaks every rule in the “top ten reasons to buy this magazine” cover design book so effectively that “having” the magazine is more important to “reading” the magazine to a big percentage of its subscribers. And that’s more than okay with me.

Magazine lovers can look at this cover and comprehend why print magazines that matter to their readers — their collectors and lovers — will be around for a few more decades, at least.

Update: Another story about the cover via

Flashback: I wrote a similar post nine years ago.

]]> 0
To Infinity and Beyond Thu, 23 Feb 2017 04:32:45 +0000

Related posts:

  1. The only thing we have to fear
  2. Blog-free zone
  3. NYC pride

While I’m not one to blog about NASA findings, this is one of those events that seem historic in a galactic sort-of-way. We can meet back here in 80 light years (out-and-back trip) and see if I was right or not.

(VIA NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water. The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

]]> 0
People Love Selfies, Unless They Are of Someone Else Thu, 23 Feb 2017 01:56:54 +0000

Related posts:

  1. Why do I blog? So people will meet in the comments, fall in love and get married
  2. Pacman needs some love, people
  3. Why I love Tim Tebow
According to TheNextWeb, researchers in Munich have found evidence to suggest that few people want to look at the selfies of others, but they love sharing their own. The findings of a survey of 238 people were published in Frontiers in Psychology in a January article titled “The Selfie Paradox: Nobody Seems to Like Them Yet Everyone Has Reasons to Take Them.”

77% | Take selfies at least once a month
49% | Receive a selfie at least once a week
90% | Think others’ selfies are self-promotion
46% | Think their own selfies are self-promotion

Translation | People enjoy taking selfies but don’t like looking at other peoples’ selfies. (The researchers say that other cultures than Germany may have more accepting attitudes towards selfies and that further study is required.)

Observation | Is this surprising? They are called selfies. It’s why Apple put a camera on both sides of the iPhone.

For some reason, selfies are of great interest to researchers and the publications that write about research. Bottomline. There are two types of people in the world: People who like taking photos of themselves and people who love to hear themselves complaining about people who take photos of themselves.

The image of the macaca is in the public domain because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.
]]> 0
A Few of the Thousand New Words That Made it Into the Dictionary Sat, 11 Feb 2017 14:35:06 +0000

Related posts:

  1. OneLook Reverse Dictionary
  2. Loren Ipsum: My Review of the First Presidential Debate
  3. Lookin good
]]> has added 1,000 new words to its online dictionary.

I was familiar with the most of the tech, web culture and political ones. Completely blank on the science ones. Didn’t know that wayback machine has a meaning other than the one found at But buried deep in the list, I knew the meaning of ginger.

Completely blank on the science ones.

Ginger, of course.

Didn’t know that “wayback machine” has a meaning other than the one found at

But buried deep in the list, I knew the meaning of ginger (right).

Here is a sampling of the new words (links go to meanings).

Technology and web culture

net neutrality




urgent care



Cooking and food

chef’s knife
artisanal (expanded entry)


town hall

Familiar words combined that form new words

food insecure
geek out
ride shotgun
throw shade
train wreck
walk back (an opinion)
weak sauce

More examples of new meanings for old word combinations

fast fashion
first world problem
safe space
wayback machine

]]> 0