Dave Haynes at World HQ
Sixteen:Nine was started in Feb. 2006 as an outlet for my irritation with the buzzword bingo crap being peddled as “thought leadership” back then.
In Sept. 2021, the publication was acquired by Spectrio, a Florida-based software firm that describes itself as “a leading provider of comprehensive digital signage solutions that empowers clients to transform their business locations into modern, dynamic destinations for customers and employees.”
The acquisition included the provision that I stick around (happily) as the editor/publisher/maintenance man for at least a couple of years.
How I got here
I didn’t know where it was going, but I had spent 20 years writing and editing in daily newspapers before leaving and getting into this weird space, so writing blog posts came easy to me.
Turns out, this effort has become the hub for what I now do. It’s much, more more than a blog. It’s a legitimate online news and analysis publication, though I try not to write it like a lot of trade publications which I have read. They can be deadly dull.
I had a long career in daily newspapers, working first as an entertainment writer (mostly covering rock music and doing crazy things like riding around in a limo with a certifiable Ted Nugent, trying to interview a very tipsy Billy Joel or a seriously hungover Ozzy), feature writer, metro news and eventually investigative reporter.
I then became an editor and ran teams of reporters, and in 1993, stuck my hand up when my paper was looking for someone to take the place digital. I was bored. This sounded challenging.
The Calgary Herald was one of the first newspapers in North America to have an interactive voice response system and also among the first to go live on the Internet, in 1995. I built and ran that for several years. But by the late 1990s, few people were buying into the idea that the Internet was going to take the mighty newspaper business down. My boss called the Internet a fad. But I had no such blinders, and decided to get out before the bullet train coming at the business flattened it.
In 1999, I joined Canada’s Elevator News Network, which was at that time among the most ambitious and successful digital signage networks in the world. I got the company going in Western Canada and then moved east to take ENN through its most aggressive expansion, as VP Ops. We added 600 screens in a year – at the time it was among the biggest, and certainly most complicated and capital-intensive signage projects on the planet.
In Nov. 2001, the VCs who were funding all this shotgun-merged ENN with Captivate Network of Boston. I was walked off the plank along with the majority of the Canadian management team. Captivate has since developed into one of the biggest and most successful players in this space.
I had a brief sojourn with an early-days digital signage consultancy, part of a larger retail design firm.
After about a year, I then started work on what became Concourse Media, a digital out of home ad network with screens positioned through the busiest commuter walkways underground in Toronto’s business district. Premium business viewership. BIG ad impression counts. All the pieces were there … except it was at least five years ahead of its time. Selling Digital OOH in 2004 was, ummm, really freaking hard!!!
That network is still operating, but a couple of very lean ad revenue years, and kids nearing their college years, convinced me to hand over the keys and instead get a predictable paycheque.
For a few years, I developed the business in North America for a couple of the biggest and best digital signage software companies around. I went from one to the other following dollar signs and, in hindsight, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea … as the second one ran low on the cash it seemed to have plenty of when I’d jumped. I also don’t have the mindset to be a hunter-killer sales guy. I gather your not supposed to tell prospective clients they’re not ready.
I got whacked by the Great Recession and found myself on the street in Spring 2009. The financial collapse rescued me from sales, and I was also more than dead-tired of working for others. So, I finally listened to industry friends and set up my own gig, which has been going for more than a decade.
My home base is now in Hubley, Nova Scotia, a woodsy community about 10 minutes west of Halifax. Deer and pheasant and porcupines wander past my office window. Birds eat my grass seed. I saw a bald eagle circling over the yard the other day.
It is wildly different from the Tampa-area HQ of Sixteen:Nine owners Spectrio. They have alligators, and snakes and bugs that would likely have me standing on chairs. But palm trees, too.
That’s a reference to the aspect ratio of screens – 16 wide by 9 high. My daughter, when she was a high schooler, came into my office one day and sheepishly asked if I had a blog called 69. She was soooo relieved she had that wrong.
I mostly started this for giggles, but also because it was needed. Now it pays the bills. A lot of calendar quarters, ad space is sold out.
I try hard to stay unbiased, and if I take a shot at a company or person, it is not personal. It’s because the assertions being made in PR or in front of a mike are ridiculous, and someone needs a little written whack upside the head. If the Emperor shows up with no clothes, I’m taking pictures and posting ’em.
There are a few decent resources out there now – certainly a lot more than 17 years ago. But I know I bring something different. You can find plenty of sites with re-purposed PR. I filter and ignore most of stuff I get, and do analysis and context on the developments I think matter to people in this business.
Everything posted is my personal opinion, and is not guided by my business partners or clients. Nothing is pre-approved unless I choose to get something fact-checked or OK’d by whoever I am blabbering on about. There are no warranties or other guarantees about the quality of the opinions. In other words, it’s a blog. But I adhere to disciplines I learned and refined working in some of Canada’s better newsrooms.
There is no pay to play thing happening here. I have clients I write for and issue press releases about. Some get covered here, but others never will because the fit is not there. To their credit, no one has ever bitched about that.
I accept guest posts, but only ones that have something useful to say, and are not veiled promo pieces. You can mention your company in context. You can’t go on about it or its products and services. Not interested.
I do take advertising, but as with my business clients, advertisers don’t expect or ask for special play. They have been awesome about that – every one of them. Some have backstopped 16:9 for several years. I am eternally grateful.