About 16:9

By Dave Haynes, Founding Editor

Sixteen:Nine is now 14 years old. It was started in Feb. 2006 as an outlet for my irritation with the buzzword bingo crap being peddled as “thought leadership” back then.

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.

How I got here

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 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 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 seemed to run 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 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.

I do a few things these days:

Mainly, I consult – helping end-users and vendors get their signage projects and products together. I help companies figure out the why, what, when, where, who and how of signage projects, so they don’t waste time and money. I’ve helped major banks, retailers and brands get their signage projects right from the start, or back on a proper track. I’ve also helped a lot of display, player and software vendors – big and small – with market analysis and strategy.

I also do a lot of writing – everything from press releases and ghost-writing to the full narrative for coffee table books, like the ones Christie has published about its MicroTiles and its projection mapping tech. A lot of vendors come to me because I actually know their business (always useful), but also because I can take often complicated products and language and turn it into something accessible and readily understood. As a blogger, I get mountains of badly-written, incomprehensible material pushed at me every week.

My home base is now in Hubley, Nova Scotia, a woodsy community about 10 minutes south of Halifax. Deer and pheasant and porcupines wander past my office window.

I also see a lot of hotels and airports and convention centres. Too many.

Why 16:9

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 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 14 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.

Where possible, I declare any vested interest I have in a written subject. So you will sometimes see disclaimers if the company I am writing about is a client. However, I have many consulting and writing clients who want my work kept in the background. In those cases, I make no declaration.

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.

This is how to reach me:

  • Email (best): dave at sixteen-nine.net
  • Phone: 905-592-1612
  • Skype: dhaynes