Paul Flanigan Out At DSA

February 23, 2015 by Dave Haynes


The story has been circulating on Rumour Central UK for several days now, but it can be confirmed that Paul Flanigan is out as the Executive Director and figurehead of the Digital Screenmedia Association.

He was formally there for 15 months or so, but Paul confirmed by email with me that he’s no longer with the DSA and looking for his next gig.

That’s a shame. Paul and I worked together via Preset for about a year, but he started developing a strong interest in speaking – something he’s very good at – and moved on, leaving the high glamour of endless airports behind.

I thought he was very well-suited to the DSA role from the perspective of ambassador and spokesperson and someone to rally the DS troops. But I also wondered how a guy not afraid to give his blunt opinion was going to do with an organization that is all about serving the diverse interests of a membership that ranges from end-users with no budgets to display giants with deep pockets, and related needs and expectations.

I assume Paul has some constraints on what he can say if he wants whatever financial off-ramp he got to continue, so his semi-official “I’m outta here” email note is necessarily elusive.

In the coming days and weeks, the DSA will change.

When I joined the DSA in 2013, I immediately saw the opportunity for the DSA to become something better, something stronger, and something more valuable to its members and the industry.

I spent 2014 talking personally with hundreds of members and industry veterans. I spoke at a number of events all over the world, and I listened to people. I forged relationships with other associations.

Toward the end of 2014, it was clear to the board and me that changes should be made. I ran focus groups with several members asking them what the DSA could do for them and what they could do in return. The responses were terrific and essentially a foundation for the future of the DSA.

My time with the DSA has come an end, and if anyone is interested in speaking with me about an employment opportunity, you can reach me through LinkedIn. It is my goal to get back into this amazing world as quickly as I can, and to help a company profit from the opportunities that digital engagement has to offer.

So it reads on one hand like the planets were aligning. but they apparently collided instead. I know from a private chat months ago what Paul was thinking about for the DSA, and it made sense – but based on his departure now I don’t know what’s up.

What I DO know is member organizations need compelling reasons to join, and the DSA and the DSF have yet to get me convinced. I do know the DSF has a very solid guy in Ken Goldberg now guiding things, and with all due respect to early DSF heads, Ken is the kinda smart, sensible and blunt guy you want in there every year.

There is some good, quite work going on with the DSF that’s FINALLY looking at the whole intellectual property issue that’s become a real problem for everyone from software companies to end-user customers.

The DSA, I’m afraid, still doesn’t get much more out of me than a shrug. It STILL looks, feels and smells like a marketing and lead generation organ for members, as somewhat underwritten by a for-profit publishing company. Which is fine, I guess.

But the top listed objective of the DSA, on its website, is this: To be the unified voice of the members for the betterment of the industry.

Not sure we’re there on that. Or close.

I was at a meeting last week where a branding agency talked about the importance of clearly conveying why a product or company matters – which aligned nicely with my own oft-used, inelegant line: “Tell me why people should give a crap?”

The DSA needs to get that sorted to truly be relevant.


  1. Lyle Bunn says:

    Thanks for this post David. See you at DSE.

  2. Steve Gurley says:

    First of all, I wish Paul all the best in his new endeavors. Second, I’ll tell you what the DSA needs. Third, I speak as one who has had over 4 years experience with the organization.

    Some background: For three years I was a member of the DSA’s Mobile Council. I then spent one year as the Chairman of the Council. Following my Chairmanship, I was elected to the DSA’s board as its EVP of Mobile. I resigned that role about four months later and did not renew my membership. I’ll tell you why and give you my opinion of what’s wrong with the DSA.

    The DSA’s problem can be summarized in one statement: “They’re trying to boil the ocean.” In essence, their mandate is so board that they are of little use to anyone.

    Let me give you an example. I’ll restrict my discussion to the mobile sector.

    The mobile ecosystem is composed of nearly 500 major dimensions. I took the position that no organization could adequately speak to all 500 and that to try would result in nothing getting done. I suggested that the DSA restrict itself to specializing in just a few high-demand dimensions — preferably dimensions that had applicability to all members.

    I suggested that specialization would allow the organization to focus its very limited resources so that it could deliver measurable results. I also suggested that the DSA invest to build a foundation specific to that specialization, then recruit council members who would enhance the specialization and then develop/execute a plan for educating/servicing existing/new members who would benefit from that specialization.

    In the end, the DSA didn’t want to invest, didn’t want to specialize and didn’t want to change. So I resigned. So… here we are nearly three years later and not a thing has been done (speaking specifically to mobile, I’ll let you decide on the other stuff). It’s the same old DSA, same old web site, same old lack of value and same old lack of results.

    Let’s face it. An organization is like an army. Sometimes the leadership just have to say: “This is who we are, this is what we stand for, and this is where we’re going. If you don’t like it, then get off and we’ll find the people who do because we’re going to make something happen!” The DSA was never good at that. It wanted to serve the needs of everybody and didn’t want to offend anyone. So, in my opinion, the DSA has ended up serving the needs of only a few, if any.

    So what does the DSA need: It needs needs a leader with passion, a leader with vision, a leader who knows the problems common to its members, a leader who knows the needs of the market, a leader with the balls to stand up for their vision and a leader with the political skills to get people to believe and support in that vision. Will Paul’s replacement be that leader or will they be a care taker who doesn’t want to offend?

  3. Ken Goldberg says:


    Thanks for the kind words, I hope to live up to them. A few quick thoughts:

    Those who preceded me at the helm of DSF each played a vital role by placing certain building blocks to support the foundation of a young organization. I hope we can add one or two more blocks this year, and I think DSF’s role is more critical than ever as we enter a new phase of growth.

    Second, work has in fact been done and significant investments made on a couple of fronts related to intellectual property, and we hope to make some of those efforts public quite soon.

    Third, Paul did indeed forge relationships while at DSA, but I suspected then and am quite sure now that the wardens in Louisville would have no part of such sensible activity. It clearly was not for the betterment of the publishing business. Paul is of course welcome to join us at the DSF. In fact, I will personally arrange for him to immediately get onto our Speakers Bureau roster, and happily connect him with any committee of his choosing, (I have one in mind, Paul… call me). That invitation is open to anyone else with a passion for this industry. Stop by Booth 1613 and learn more. Even you, Dave! A guy has to dream, you know. See you in LV.

  4. Indeed, reported first by us back on Feb 16, 2015 see

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