I recently sat down with Brian Morrissey, Digital Editor of AdWeek, to understand how his job has changed in the last 12 months, new rules of engagement for digital agencies seeking press and a couple of predictions too.

Brian leads Adweek’s coverage of digital media and marketing. He focuses on innovative, effective ways advertisers are reaching consumers through digital channels.

Brian’s preferred method of communication for this interview was Instant Messenger (IM) — not phone or over a cup of java with a tape recorder — IM. No doubt, a sign of the time my friends. This is probably so he could Tweet in between questions (sorry Brian…I had my Twirl application open and noticed you Twittering in between IMs). 

Anyway, thanks again Brian for participating in a first for The Third Place. So, here’s my Instant Messenger Interview with Brian Morrissey:


Kay:  As the Internet has driven all news operations closer to a 24/7 cycle, I’m sure that has drastically impacted the way you report and break news, but also how you are pitched stories.  Obviously, being a ‘follower’ of yours on Twitter I’ve seen some of your frustration with press people who haven’t caught up with the times yet.  So, I appreciate your agreeing to participate in a Q/A that, I hope, will enlighten people in the space on how times have changed.  To begin, how has your job changed in the last 12-24 months?

Morrissey:  I think my job has evolved over the last couple of years.  The biggest difference for someone like me is how small interactions are more important.  In the old days, my goal as a writer for Adweek would be to get on the cover.  That’s still a nice thing, but it’s more important to me that a blogger like David Armano or Ian Schafer picks up my story and comments on it.  So it helps with distribution.  On the other hand, things like Twitter help me connect with readers and sources in a different way.  I can’t always have coffee and drink with people, but I can interact with them from time to time on Twitter.

Kay:  So we can call these ‘micro-interactions’. Yes?

Morrissey:  Sure, all business seems to be going in this direction.  Building a brand is no different.  It’s not a game of home runs anymore, but singles, even sometimes leaning into one to get on base.

Kay: Agreed.

Morrissey:  And frankly, it’s less glamorous.  But it’s the world we live in.

Kay:  So, Pete Blackshaw of the ClickZ Network recently referred to you as a ‘FlackSmacker.’  What did he mean?

Morrissey:  I think he was calling attention to my use of Twitter to complain about bad PR.  To be fair, I’m not obsessed with PR, good or otherwise.  It’s just a fact of my life that I have to come into contact with it way too much.

Kay:  To this end, what frustrates you about the PR world right now? Specifically how agencies approach you with stories.  Please provide insight to agency PR types as to how pitching stories has changed in the last two years.  Dos and don’ts?

Morrissey:  I’m a reporter.  If I had my druthers, I’d never deal with PR people.  Nothing against them.  I’m sure the vast majority are great people.  PR, like the ad world, is still all about ‘impressions.’  That leads to spray and pray.  The other half of PR is controlling access.  Both parts of it inevitably rub me the wrong way.  The best PR is the PR I don’t notice – the ones who make a connection and then stop trying to act like a middleman to “add value.”  PR people don’t like to hear this, I know.  Not all of them are like this, but trust me so many are.  I’m amazed how many PR people there are.  There must be hundreds of different ones that contact me.  It seems like as media shrinks PR grows.

Kay:  Interesting… so what advice would you give to agencies of all shapes and sizes looking to promote work?

Morrissey:  Going back to what we discussed earlier, it’s hard work.  It’s a lot of singles, not long ball.  Build credibility in communities show what you do.   For me, I keep telling PR people to write about how (their) companies are reaching consumers in innovative, effective ways through digital channels.  I don’t need you to package “a story” for me.  That’s mildly insulting.  I mostly just need a heads-up when campaigns launch.  If that’s a PR person, so be it.  If it’s the CEO of an agency, great.

Kay:  Who do you see as your greatest competitor to breaking digital news?

Morrissey:  Anybody with access to the Internet.

Kay:  Funny…and ‘must read’ bloggers of our industry?

Morrissey:  Agency and/or both?

Kay:  All, including your passion point – running

Morrissey:  John Battelle, David Armano, Alan WolkNoah Brier, Umair Haque, Fred Wilson, John Furrier, Techcrunch. Among just ad blogs, agency spy was awesome until SuperSpy left.  I enjoy AdPulp too.

Kay:  What do you see as the biggest digital stories of the past 12 months?

Morrissey:  That’s hard to say.  For me, the thing I’ve most concentrated on is the rise of social media, for lack of a better term.  It’s not a fad.  It’s going to change how we consume media and advertising quite profoundly, although it hasn’t yet.

Kay: Will Twitter still be relevant in 12 months?

Morrissey: I don’t care about Twitter or Facebook or any single property or tactic.  So maybe.  But social media is bigger:  it’s taking WOM and making it economically efficient.  By that I mean we’re heading to a place where we have near-perfect information to make choices based on trusted referrals.  That has huge implications, I think, for media companies and brands.  One of the things I’m most interested in is how brands are built in that world.  I subscribe to the micro-interactions theory or whatever you want to call it.  It’s all small ball now.

Kay:  The digital agency business continues to become more and more atomized.  We now have Traditional agencies with digital offerings, SEM/SEO shops, creative boutiques, tech-heavy shops, and the list goes on.  What role do you think Tradigital agencies will have in this constellation going forward?

Morrissey:  I don’t know.  Clients are set up for this kind of world, right?  How often does marketing talk to customer service?  When will an agency be able to say to a service station client targeting women to make sure they have clean bathrooms because thats what women hate about gas stations?  What I wonder is the role of agencies in the world of micro-interactions building brands.  My guess is their role will continue to decline.



Brian Morrissey is the digital editor of Adweek, where he leads its coverage
of digital media and marketing. His coverage focuses on innovative,
effective ways advertisers are reaching consumers through digital channels.
He has covered the Internet advertising industry since 2000. Prior to
joining Adweek as a senior reporter in 2005, Brian was a senior editor at DM
News for two years and a reporter at ClickZ for two years. He has also
covered Internet marketing and advertising at Silicon Alley Reporter. He
regularly speaks at industry conferences, including Ad:Tech, iMedia Summit,
the MIXX Conference, AdForum, JWT’s Digitivity Day, Yahoo! Searchlight
Awards and others. He has commented on industry developments for the BBC,
CNBC, NBC and local TV outlets. Prior to journalism, Brian worked as a
speechwriter in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Providence College, he has
master’s degrees from Columbia University and the University of Leuven