Top 10 Lists

Confessions of a digital marketer

I was born within the rare 3-year window known as the Oregon Trail Generation (1980-1982).

I tell you this for one reason: we are the generation that bridges the gap between old and new media.

We’re old enough to remember what the world was like before the Internet, before computers took the forefront in popular technology. We contacted people remotely via landlines attached to rotary or touchtone phones. We can sift through a library’s physical card catalogue, fluent in the Dewey Decimal System. We read the newspaper.

Yet, we’re young enough to embrace the Internet’s revolutionary technology. The World Wide Web is not a foreign entity to us. We came of age within it.

We are the Oregon Trail Generation and are tasked with bringing the old world into the new, while translating what new media means to the old school.

I was born in 1982.

This was the last year an American could grow up, complete high school and go to college entirely untainted by the seismic shift social media would bring, beginning roughly in 2004.

Post graduation, I would acquire a Facebook profile, Twitter feed, LinkedIn account, and then later Instagram, Google+ and build up my own blogs. I adopted these social media just as billions of people have since the early days of the modern world.

But I remember the old school. I remember the way a newspaper is laid out. I even wrote for the Boston Herald. And what I’m always telling baby boomers is that online media — Facebook updates, blog posts, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn’s shares and comments, the entirety of news activity online — is not that different than the way information proliferates via print media. A screen is just cheaper to print on, especially now that everyone has their own personal printing press in their iPhone or Android.

There is a lot to be gleaned from a newspaper, actually…

Top 5 newspaper principles marketers should use online

#1: Write a striking headline

Headlines should evoke an emotion to captivate interest. Though space is limitless online, people’s attention spans are not. The headline should not be too long. And just like in newspapers, don’t say in 10 words what you can say in five or less.

#2: Get to the point

Like the newspaper’s inverted pyramid story structure, the best information on any blog post should be right at the top. You’ve got your reader there by the headline, but the body is the only thing now that will keep them there. After all, they’re just one click away from the next article.

Mark Twain once wrote that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Wisely chosen words will also get you to that point quicker and optimize your SEO.

#3: Layout is important

No matter how well you write a blog post, if it’s not arranged aesthetically — if the font is “weird,” if the copy is bunched together — the text is less legible. Just like how a newspaper is carefully laid out to include stories prominently on a static page, blog copy should be broken up into digestible blocks and separated by subheads.

#4: Length is important

In the newspaper world, longer stories meant less real estate and more ink and paper. Though you won’t be wasting valuable ink, paper or page real estate on a blog, you’ll be wasting your time. The average blog post should be between 300-700 words, according to Most people won’t read much beyond that before jumping to the next page.

#5: Fit the pieces together

Components of a newspaper fit together like pieces in a puzzle. That’s a physical space, but you could say that the pieces of a blog story and its accompanying social posts and emails are linked in time. SEO is only one way we get people to read our blog posts. We can also effectively time supporting tweets, Facebook updates and email blasts that direct people to the story webpage and encourage followers to comment and share — that cascading effect that propels a “viral” story beyond your primary audience.

Social posts and emails sent at 9 a.m., EST, and 12 p.m. EST, are known to perform best. At 9 a.m. on the East Coast, people are just sitting down to their desks and don’t quite want to get into work. At noon, they’re going to lunch and, on the West Coast, it’s 9 a.m. again.

Top 10 Lists

Top 10 Movies Narrated by Main Characters

  1. “Election”
  2. Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
  3. “Fight Club”
  4. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
  5. “The Royal Tenenbaums”
  6. “The Shawshank Redemption”
  7. “GoodFellas”
  8. “Zombieland”
  9. “The Princess Bride”
  10. “Juno”


“Election” is narrated by all four of its main characters throughout the story. Maybe the director took a page from William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury.”

The Grinch shares the same voice as the narrator in this animated, Dr. Seuss holiday classic. This leads me to believe that maybe the Grinch himself is narrating his own rhyming epic. And then I wonder if we can even believe him. Maybe the greatest trick the Grinch ever pulled was convincing the world how he saved Christmas.

The main character in “Fight Club” is actually named “the narrator.” So this one seemed like a no-brainer. I am Jack’s propensity to state the obvious.

John Hughes, the writer/director of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” took a fairly unique approach to progressing the plot of his 1986 masterpiece. Inserted between the lines and the scene descriptions, Hughes broke the fourth wall with full passages where Ferris addressed the audience. He was like the host of his own holiday.

Hughes was supposed to write a teleplay for some TV show, one night. Instead, he stayed up writing a script that would forever “Save Ferris” in the hearts and minds of the eternal American zeitgeist. The original screenplay for “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is largely what made it to the silver screen. Although, if you do read it, there’s a little more about the Charlie Sheen character, the druggie whom Bueller’s sister Jeanie encounters in the police station toward the end.

One of Ferris’ soliloquies mentions this kid, Garth Volbeck. He was a “serious outsider.” Ferris used to sleep over Garth’s house as a child. Baby Bueller could hear little Garth crying himself to sleep. Eventually, Garth succumbs to the fate of his delinquent older brother and was banned from the Bueller Household. But Ferris, the people person and ever the optimist, knew Garth Volbeck was still a good kid.

Ferris mentions Volbeck fairly early in the story, but we don’t see him until much later, giving Jean some much needed worldly advice, on the waiting room couch inside Shermer Police Headquarters. Of course, this paradigm shift in Jeanie is what ultimately saves Ferris, from evil Ed Rooney and losing the trust of his loving parents. I’m not sure why they didn’t leave Volbeck’s backstory in the final cut… “Drugs?”

“The Royal Tenenbaums” is narrated by Alec Baldwin. He doesn’t actually appear as a character in the story. So this one’s sort of an exception to this particular Top 10 list. Although Alec Baldwin is, himself, a character. He’s also a comedian who likes to get coffee. And I’m sure if I told the man himself that he won a spot on this list, despite never appearing on screen nor having any impact on the plot of the Wes Anderson joint, “The Royal Tenenbaums,” he’d look me in the eye and say, “Are you surprised?”

“The Shawshank Redemption” is narrated by Red, played by Morgan Freeman. Great narrating voice. Red does a lot of documentaries these days.

As far back as I can remember, “GoodFellas,” is narrated by main character Henry Hill, played by Mr. Ray Liotta.

“Zombieland” interweaves through the lattice of main character Columbus’s infallible list of tips for surviving The Land of Zombies. In the end, the squirrelly protagonist played by the equally awkward child-prodigy Jesse Eisenberg learns the most important lesson of all: some rules are made to be broken. Aside from being the main character of the 2009 cult hit “Zombieland,” Columbus is also our hero, albeit a beta male. Of course, alpha sidekick Woody Harrelson fills the testosterone gap by assuming the tough-talkin’ Tallahassee role, a zombie assassin outfitted with a unique, supernatural talent for taking out the undead.

“The Princess Bride” is a framed story about a grandfather reconnecting with his grandson. I only have two words for this comedic gem: Peter Falk.

Finally, the eponymous lead role’s narration in “Juno” takes up a fraction of the feature film’s runtime, but the movie’s just that good. And there’s enough first-person narration to warrant its spot as No. 10 on this list. Even when Ellen Page isn’t talking directly to the audience, the dialogue with which talented screenwriter Diablo Cody graces each script page is about as good as it gets in terms of an authentic account psychoanalyzing the mind of a teenage girl dealing with issues way beyond her maturity level.

Top 10 Lists

Fun with Twitter

I have a thought, an inspiring idea, and I need other people to read it. If I can articulate the notion in 140 characters or less, then my medium will be Twitter.

The original purpose of Twitter—a microblogging cacaphony of 340 million daily updates with more than 500 million registered users as of 2012—was to allow an SMS (or Short Message Service) user to communicate with a small group. With over a half billion registered accounts across the globe, this brings new meaning to the term “small world,” I suppose.

Twitter is what you make of it.

When I first joined, back in 2008, I didn’t initially follow anybody. I felt like a person alone in a silent room, but then I began to invite people in. And suddenly the room became interesting. Friends began to join and the aspect of conversation entered the mix. Up to that point, I had been tweeting celebrities, but it felt like I was talking to myself.

Now, in 2013, the limits of this heightened online mode of communication seem endless. I now give you seven ways to capitalize on Twitter.

1. Twitter got me a job.

This was a life-changing tweet. The instant nature of Twitter allowed me to respond to the job inquiry within minutes of its posting. And, luckily, my website has a short URL (but then again any URL is short with abbreviating alias websites like Read more about this fateful Internet exchange at Occupy Peace of Mind.

2. Hashtags connect people

In the article Beer Die across the nation, we see this phenomenon unfold. I tweeted in conversation with a friend and @juaners80 chimed in.

Juan Rodriquez hailed from Corpus Christi, Texas; without Twitter, we never would have met or exchanged our ideas on the drinking sport known as Beer Die.

3. Conducted and instantly transcribed an interview

Along the vein of this mysterious drinking sport known only as Beer Die, I conducted an interview remotely with the 2009 champion of Brownie’s Beer Die Open.

The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

4. Challenged my parking rights

5. The @TownOfBrookline kept me on top of the Great Blizzard of ’13

These last two Twitter entries illustrate essentially what this entire blog post is about: Twitter is instant content for your blog.

6. Became a comedian for an hour or so

Comic Hannibal Buress tweeted this:

This gem inspired me to write Almost Funny, a crash course in comedy that flashed in the pan, but was fun while it lasted.

7. Late Night Inspiration

When Conan O’Brien completed his “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television” tour in mid-2010, he had time for reflection.

As the lanky, late-night locutor looked inward, I decided to capitalize on this rare opportunity. From his two tweets, I drafted the Top 10 Things I’d Ask Conan O’Brien en rout to TBS.

Top 10 Lists

Top 10 Reasons why the iPhone is not the answer to everything (I’d rather rock the BlackBerry and iPod)

“Ohhh! The humanity!”

#10. You can avoid the “all your eggs in one basket” phenonemon. If I lose my BlackBerry, or it breaks, I still have my iPod and vice versa. Not so with the iPhone. You lose that and you’re out of luck.

 #9. Both the BlackBerry and iPod are more tactile than the touchscreen iPhone. I can operate an iPod without even looking at it. The BlackBerry’s physical keyboard has no equal in the smartphone arena.

  #8. Twice the battery power (both the BlackBerry and iPod have their own separate power source).

  #7. This may just be personal preference, but operating two separate devices simultaneously seems to make more sense. For instance, as I type this message into my BlackBerry, the earbuds’ wire hooked into my iPod hangs clear away from the keyboard. No need for a cord to get in the way while I hunt and peck like Jack Kerouac.

  #6. It feels nice, refreshing even, to go against the flow of iPhone clones who drank the Kool-Aid and are now sailing behind Comet Hale-Bopp with Marshall Applewhite, Steve Jobs and the rest of the deceased cult leaders, all of whom will undoubtedly careen right through Heaven’s Gate and into oblivion.

  #5. Don’t have to worry when Siri becomes self-aware and automatically forwards all of those seething unsent emails to your ex, because the smartphone A.I. gets jealous of her master’s extracurricular relationships, with… you know… people.

  #4. I’m sure thieves would much rather steal a shiny new iPhone than some “shabby” BlackBerry and an old iPod.

  #3. BTW, the newest BlackBerry BOLD 9900 has the same signature sleek physical keyboard AND a touch screen. This tandem coupled with an overhaul of the mobile browser allow for at least as rich a surfing experience as the iPhone. And I’ll race good old tactile QWERTY against anyone on the on-screen keyboard any day.I’ve since tested this theory. Met a girl, with an iPhone, in a bar. She smoked me not once, but twice. I’m sure the Apple autocorrect aided her greatly. And the second time, she could have just cut&pasted the test sentence. Either way, when it came to The quick brown fox jumping over the lazy dogs, this fox was not quick enough.

  #2. The BlackBerry is an instrument of communication; the iPhone… a toy. Eat Life cereal, if you want to get in touch with the kid in you. The adult in me says ‘Do it. If you know what’s good for ya.’

  #1. And the No. 1 reason why I’d rather rock the BlackBerry/iPod and not a run-of-the-mill iPhone…

“BlackBerry” just sounds better.

… Wow. I really need a girlfriend.

Top 10 Lists

Top 10 Things I’d Ask Conan O’Brien en route to TBS

When NBC gave Coco the heave ho earlier this year and forbade him from appearing on television, the 6-foot-4 redhead from Brookline barked back with “The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour.

The tour was a success, selling out all across the nation. It also marked a series of firsts for the writer-turned-TV personality. For the first time in his life people had paid to see him, O’Brien had said on stage at one of his 40-plus tour stops. The clean-cut comedian also let it all hang out sporting a fiery beard (reminiscent of the writers’ strike not too long ago) and hauled his axe on stage to shred some Slash-like power chords with the Max Weinberg Seven.

Now that Conan’s tour is over, it looks as though he has some free time on his hands, before he and his staff land the 11 o’clock spot on TBS weeknights starting in November. The prolific comedian may want to take this (rare) opportunity to reflect on his career, as well as look over the horizon toward things unknown to come.

While O’Brien delves into the Cone Zone, OMD issues the next installment of its Twitter experiment. This time entitled “Top 10 Things I’d Ask Conan O’Brien en route to TBS.”