The Rise of Ad Blockers

This is a really good article from Luke Richards on eConsultancy about the astonishing rise of ad blockers.

The latest data published by PageFair really puts into perspective just how fast the ad blocking market is growing, with the global use of ad blockers being up 41% (to 198m) between Q2 2014 and Q2 2015.

It’s something that you shouldn’t ignore, especially if you are reliant on online advertising as a revenue generator. And it’s very important to understand the user mindset, too. In the UK, generally people use ad blockers because they feel that their browsing experience is slowed down by ads, but in the US, its about privacy and use of personal data. That’s an important distinction and one that deserves some pondering by marketers.

P.S. – If you ever have a chance to sit down with someone in the business of selling online advertising, ask about what statistics they can get. If they are good, they can basically tell you all of your browsing habits, your address and your age. Unless you’re sloppy, they can’t tell your name, but they probably know what you’re eating for breakfast. Orwellian enough for you on Halloween??

H/T Gerry McGovern

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Send in the ‘Crowns’ — Today’s Surly Grammar Post

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Image: thegrammarnazi.tumblr.com

A good piece in the Times today from Op-Ed columnist Charles Blow. The only quibble I have is with the headline: Don’t Coronate Carly Fiorina Just Yet.

Coronate? No, I don’t think so. The word is crown. You crown a monarch at a coronation; you do not coronate them.

Now, technically, coronate is in the dictionary and its meaning is “to crown,” thus, begging the question of why we need this word. Seems superfluous on its face. In fact, the OED labels this usage rare.

There has been an upswing in the usage of coronate recently and, like other ‘contrarian grammarians,’ I find it grating. Like utilize. No, it’s use.

Over on the excellent Grammarphobia blog they posit that it’s not the rare usage that the OED notes that we’re seeing/hearing these days, but rather:

If I had to guess, I’d say the verb “coronate” that you’re hearing is a back-formation from the noun “coronation.” (A back formation is a word formed by dropping a real or imagined part from another word.) In this case, people assume that at a coronation, somebody gets coronated.

I agree. And the New York Times should know better.

(Also, if you want to get REALLY pedantic, crowning someone in a democracy is a metaphoric oxymoron, but, it’s Monday and I’m just not going to go there.)

College Changes Name Again: I Told You This Was a Mistake!

Do you ever have those days when you feel vindicated and can say to the world, “I told you so?” I’m having one of those days today!

Back in August, 2012, I first weighed in on a controversial name change of a university in Georgia. The short version is that two schools were merging, branding recommendations were made and the regents of the university system discounted the facts and renamed the university what they wanted it to be called.

At the time, I said, “I’ll be interested to see how this plays out. If, in fact, the Georgia regents did go against research when choosing the name of the combined university, they’ll be in trouble. This never works out well.” [emphasis added]

And guess what? They are now changing the name again. To what the top choice was then.

Millions of dollars were spent on this campaign before they surrendered to the inevitable. When will they ever learn, eh?

Accents and Perceptions

A new study came out recently that claims that students with a distinct Appalachian accent have to work harder to prove that they are intelligent.

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The Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. |Image: Jan van der Crabben/Wikimedia Commons

That may sound odd to you, but it doesn’t to me. First of all, I’m a “language person.” Not only am I a former broadcaster, but I used to teach people how to lose their Southern accents.

Why? Because in broadcasting, the most appealing (everything is relative, of course, but appealing to prospective employers back in the day, at any rate), most preferred voice in the U.S. is one that is absent of a dialect. It’s called General American speech.

It’s our version of “the King’s English.” The idea is that heavily accented speech can be interpreted as less authoritarian or less intelligent. To put it another way, television journalist Linda Ellerbee, who is from Texas, once noted that you’re not supposed to sound like you’re from anywhere.

Ultimately, it’s all tommy rot. Accents have no bearing on intelligence.

However, this study found that many persons feel that they must “code switch” or use a different dialect around those who do not use their own dialect to project intelligence. The flat vowels and incomplete or missing diphthongs in Appalachian speech make them traditionally an even smaller subset of accents that make up the subset of American Southern speech. For example, natives of the Carolina Piedmont (like me*) might pronounce the word “bear” as “bay-uh” while Appalachian natives may contract and harden it and say “bahr.”

For the record, inside the region, Appalachia is pronounced with flat a’s, while generally outside of the area, the second a is long — App-uh-LAY-cha. As a graduate of Appalachian (-LATCH-un) State University, I’ve corrected people’s mispronunciations for decades.

Many countries are wildly more inclusive of accents than we are in America. But, like so many things, we are forever bringing up the rear in acceptability and celebration of differences.

The paper, called “Dialect and Influences on the Academic Experiences of College Students,” was recently published in The Journal of Higher Education. You can download it through Project MUSE, if you are a member, or read an abstract at Inside Higher Ed.

*For the record, I wouldn’t pronounce that word that way today. Like fellow Carolina native Stephen Colbert (I’m North; he’s South), I lost my Southern drawl years ago because I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as “Southern.” I still don’t want that — it just doesn’t have anything to do with acceptance now.

Killer Buzzwords

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Why does everyone illustrate “buzzwords” with a bee? Knee jerk onomatopoeic need fulfillment, I guess. |Image: Wikimedia Commons; Steve H; CC w/attribution.

Here’s a good list of buzzwords to avoid on your resume — especially for PR and marketing types — courtesy of the good folks at the Bradford Group.

I have to say, I agree with all of them except for No. 3.

First of all, I think you would be better off eliminating the need to use the word comprise. Or compose for that matter. Second of all, as one of the astute commenters noted, AP style adherents may take exception to No. 3. And, that would be me.

I think that AP style is the most readable of the conventionally used style manuals, even though I do think that sometimes it gets in its own way. Still, the way AP defines “comprise” and “compose” is the crispest and easiest definition to understand.

That said, I still stand by my first recommendation: use another word!

“Avoiding Advertising Like the Plague”

From the latest New Thinking:

People are avoiding advertising like the plague. You are as likely to get hit by lightning as you are to click on a banner ad. [emphasis added] And what’s the response of the advertising industry? Native advertising, which is advertising that does its very best to fool the customer into thinking it’s not advertising.

Blind trust is gone. And gone with it are the traditional models of advertising, marketing and communication. Today, we trust in use. Social media is not me and my brands. It’s me and my friends.

I don’t get how people in the industry don’t understand this. I guess that’s why people are pouring money into advertising at astonishing levels and wondering why the needle doesn’t move. *sigh* For the record, I’m no Johnny-Come-Lately to this; I was telling people to stop most advertising spending in the ’90s. They looked at me crooked then; they look askance today, but, like the old saw goes, “they laughed at Edison, too.”

The UX Drinking Game — Brilliant, Hilarious

This goes straight on the list of Best Things Ever:

The UX Drinking Game

H/T to Patrick Neeman (@usabilitycounts) who runs a website of the same name and the UX Drinking Game.

It’s hours of fun, this; but it also serves as a cautionary tale that you shouldn’t expect the people that you work for — or the people who demand what a site should look like — know anything about usability.

Or what users need.

Or how to deliver that information to them.

This is important stuff. I mean, it’s not brain surgery, but it may mean the difference of people liking your product/service/institution and being completely frustrated by you and turning to someone else. It’s all about the money, honey, so remove your ego [and your organizational ego] from the mix and let the UX folks do what needs to be done.

On Student Blogs

There was an article on InsideHigherEd.com this week that piqued my interest. And mostly for what it lacked in content.

The post listed three ways in which colleges and universities could use student blogs: storytelling, advertorializing (not a word, BTW) and employability/digital literacy.

I pretty much disagree with this thesis across the board. What I do agree with, though, is the comment by Alert Reader Antoinette, who points out:

My personal view of student blogs is that often they are – sorry to be unkind – simply boring. No criticism of the students writing them – their effort and enthusiasm is more than apparent and commendable. But stories about personal experiences and interests are rarely relevant to the reader, nor do they seem actionable in any way. As you say, more could be done to get the most out of this medium.

And she gets a gold star.

Look, if you are marketing a college or university and someone says, “We need to have student bloggers because everyone else seems to have student bloggers or ‘I went to a conference and someone said I need student bloggers’ or we need student bloggers because adult bloggers cost too much,” please do us all a favor and get another job.

The point of student blogs, in my estimation, is to position them to entice prospective students to visit and then ultimately get excited about and apply to your institution. They need to be (1.) authentic, (2.) engaging, (3.) compelling and (4.) AUTHENTIC again, this time in bold caps.

When I started student-written blogs at a previous institution, I hand-picked my first crop of bloggers and tasked them with writing something new once a week. I did not give them any more direction than that. I also promised that, outside of spelling and grammar, I would not edit them and if they wanted to criticize the institution, they could present their case and I would have their backs.

It was a learning experience for all parties — including me, who, more than once, got yelled at by a dean or VP who didn’t like what they had read — but I earned the trust and respect of my writers by standing firm and by treating them like professionals, And all of those bloggers grew as storytellers by leaps and bounds and that blog was the most-read section of our website.

And, out of the myriad projects I conceived and managed during my near-decadelong tenure at that institution, it is the one that I am most proud of.

Doesn’t Anyone Edit Anymore?

This was in my Facebook feed this morning:

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And, in case you are not of the Grammar Nazi persuasion, the use of the abbreviation “Ala.” to indicate the state of Alaska might not make you crazy, but if you’re like me, IT MAKES ME CRAZY.

Why? First and foremost, because it’s plain wrong. The postal abbreviation for Alabama is AL, the postal abbreviation for Alaska is AK. The standard AP abbreviation for Alabama is Ala., and there is no abbreviation for Alaska. (Mind you it gets crazy here because AP is doing away with state abbreviations and it’s just a stupid move on their part, but….)

Ala. has never, in any style guide that I know of, ever stood for anything but Alabama.

Shame on you, NPR, for letting this get out there. Double shame for letting it stand.

We all make mistakes, but you have a helluva lot bigger staff than I do and at least I try to fix things.

Diagrammatically Correct

Late last week, I came back from a week’s vacation and was immediately thrust into the whirling dervish. There was a report that needed to go out and a colleague of mine was feverishly editing it. She brought it to me and said, “I can’t figure out this sentence. Is it ‘have’ or ‘has?'”

Oh, that age-old dilemma, I thought. Let’s see it. And then she handed me the most convoluted run-on sentence I have ever read. Note to alert readers: don’t let academics write things. They just can’t.

Anyhow, I said, “Well, let’s diagram it.” I got looked at like I was nuts.

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My recent sentence diagram. Not as elegant as some, but it got the point across and solved the problem. For the record, the correct verb was “has.”

The art of the sentence diagram is something that’s been all but dropped in American school curricula. In fact, I probably shouldn’t have learned it either, given the tenor of the times, but I was blessed with a few crusty old English teachers who drilled it into me. (By the way, “blessed” is NOT the word I would have used in the 8th grade! “Cursed” would probably be more accurate!)

“When you’re learning to write well, [diagramming] helps to understand what the sentence is doing and why it’s doing it and how you can improve it,” says Kitty Burns Florey, author of Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences. 

In a 2014 interview with NPR’s Juana Summers, Burns Florey declares that there are two kinds of people in the world: ones who loved diagramming and ones who hated it. I was mostly in the pro-diagramming camp, but I really didn’t appreciate it until I was older and could see the benefit to a writer/editor of being able to deconstruct sentences.

Who knows? Maybe I’m just weird. After all, I got A’s in Geometry, too!