How Top Execs Keep Up With Frantic Media Change

Sixteen Key Players Detail Their Daily Sources

By Published on .

It used to be that publications thought they owned their readers (some still labor under that delusion), that they could somehow be the exclusive provider of all the news that was fit to print. No longer.
Sources of information about the digital revolution wash across our screens at tsunami level every day. But which actually matter? Some of the marketing and media industries' major heads answer that question below. | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
Sources of information about the digital revolution wash across our screens at tsunami level every day. But which actually matter? Some of the marketing and media industries' major heads answer that question below. | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

In today's wiki-world we're part of an enormous content-producing, aggregating and de-aggregating machine composed of anyone with access to the internet. A publication can aim to be first, smartest and most trusted. The best will also become filters that make their readers' lives easier. But those that operate in splendid isolation will be marginalized.

It is in that spirit that Ad Age, which of course aspires to be the No. 1 read for anyone interested in any form of marketing, increasingly views itself as part of an information matrix and not a sole destination. (See, for example, the Out of Site feature online, or Bob Garfield's excellent Listenomics blog, a book being written in collaboration with other bloggers and Ad Age readers.)

It's also in that spirit that I have embarked on a small quest to find the best sources of insight and information on the digital revolution that we spend so much time tracking and deciphering as it changes the marketing rules.

To do so, I e-mailed some of the smartest people I could think of and asked them how they continuously educate themselves to keep up with the shifting digital and cultural landscapes -- the shifts that dominate so much of our coverage today and are changing many of the marketing rules.

Here are a few answers. I removed all references to Ad Age -- fortunately for us there were a few -- because I'm assuming if you're reading this you already know us. I only cut others for length, not because some are sources-formerly-known-as-competition. I hope this will be a dynamic list, so if you have a thought, e-mail me and I'll add to this list or feel free to post your comment online:

Angela Stark, senior brand manager, Cisco Systems:
"Word of mouth is by far my No. 1 source -- I work with people and have friends who are gadget and tech fanatics. I have always been a huge IM user. ... I envy other markets that are so much more advanced than us. You can look to Korea to see what's possible. I get data from our market-intelligence team and media partners. And I watch teens; they're a great barometer for what's next."

Daniel Morel, CEO, Wunderman:
"With over 4,500 people around the world executing campaigns in all these channels I have to be looped in. I have a CFO and a COO who are also on the bleeding edge of the latest thing to but most importantly, "we gotta guy!" His name is Opher Lichter and he is one part IT guy, one part personal shopper. It is his job to stay up to speed through nearly continuous RSS feeds from, among others. What he has been able to come up with is truly amazing: A satellite phone to VPN connect and download our corporate e-mail on a diving boat in the middle of the Red Sea. Right now he is working on figuring out how to fit my Mio Pocket PC/GPS with wireless tracking onto my new Heritage Harley Davidson. And yes I can access and share files remotely from 3 different computers thru a phone with Avvenu ... and I love the Singtel Motorola 3G that he got me to use when I travel thru Asia. I occasionally find the time for podcasts, mobile SMS and MMS campaigns. Often, these get me thinking about what types of technology I can use to make my life easier or more complicated depending when you decide the adopt a particular technology. I try to find the sweet spot "after the geeks and before the dentists!"

Janine Benyus, author of "Biomimicry":
"As far as my media diet, I'm a hoover for print and will read whatever blows my way ... I find New Scientist to be the best sci mag. Also subscribe to Wired, Onion and Resurgence. I use a feedreader to keep up with about 35 sources (news digests and blogs). We have an extensive, active backchannel portfolio of blogs for the Biomimicry community too. Offline I get my full text journal articles through University databases. I read my hometown rag, the Ravalli Republic. POV: Nightline, Daily Show, NOW, Comedy Channel Presents, couple of Showtime dramas. Love stand up comedy for its honesty and pathos about the current state of things. And, of course, I can waste away my youth surfing the web. Love living in this era."

Joe Tripodi, CMO, Allstate:
"I'd summarize as: Read about it; experience it; observe it. I get a ton of e-mails every day from Media Post, Brand Week, Ad Week, NYT, etc, etc. I try reading books about the 'new world order,' but find they are virtually obsolete before I finish them. Experience it! You have to walk the talk. I have iPods (regular, Nano and Shuffle), three TiVos (sacrilege, I know, but time is too short to watch all the commercials), 8700c Blackberry, DirecTV, HDTV, etc. I try to spend time regularly on new web destinations, especially those generating some buzz. Observe it! I have three young children (10, 8, 6) and learn more from them than any new-media 'guru.' They sit near the epicenter of this ADD economy. Recently they've been swept away by the cultural Tsunami called "American Idol." Lots of gaming, surfing, texting, etc. Favorite question from my 10-year-old daughter watching a beer commercial: "Daddy, I don't understand, what does that commercial have to do with beer?" CMO's insightful answer to daughter: "Uh, I don't know."

Fernanda Romano, executive creative director, Lowe:
"First and most important, I read. Everything and anything. I read Wired, Business 2.0, The Economist, Businessweek. Sometimes I just buy a magazine for what's on the cover. I love technology magazines. I am not a geek, or I am actually, but I am not technical. Love browsing through books in Barnes & Noble. Always makes you think. My daily destination, though, is blogs, like PSFK, Trendspotting and Springwise. I also visit MIT's fantastic blogs and Adfreak, Adrants and Bluebus. I love BoingBoing and go there everyday. I also go to Newstoday almost every day. Love CoolHunting. Love to see the latest stuff at Colette's website ( Google Zeitgeist. Where and when do I read all that? Several ways. I am always on. Online. In the cab, in the subway (subscribe to newsletters and read them when there's no service). It's called continuous computing. Or a bad addiction. I love watching people in the subway, it makes you notice how ubiquitous technology is. I pay a visit to CompUSA, Datavision and the Apple Store every month. I bought a new Lego robot."

Rafat Ali, publisher and editor,
"I read techcrunch to see the universe of new Web 2.0 type tools coming out... but it doesn't really put things in perspective. I also like playing with the new phones. we started doing some reviews of content services on phones, and that meant everyone has been sending free phones and connections to us now, which helps parse through a lot of things."

Richard Kirshenbaum, co-chairman, Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners:
"I read pretty much everything from The Journal to the National Enquirer. I hate conferences and hate being cooped up so I walk a lot. (One week it's Chinatown, then the Upper West etc.) I love people watching and this helps. I hire young cool people. They know. I see the Biennial and go to lots of art shows. I try to travel. Whether it's Europe or Asia, it's great to extend a biz trip and walk. And shop. I ask people in MIS department what's new. The best is having a technology client, like Panasonic -- and seeing what's on their slate. I read lots and lots of books and see lots and lots of movies."

Matt Freeman, CEO North America, Tribal DDB:
"We live in an age where so clearly no one knows everything and the pace of change makes tapping a network of knowledge crucial to even keeping in the same zip code as progress. As one small example of what we've done to stem the tide of ignorance, every month I send an e-mail to our global Tribal network asking our folks what is the one most amazing new development they have seen in marketing/technology. We then post all the responses back to the entire network. Tapping the heads of Tribalites in 21 countries has been a simple but effective way to unearth some glimmers of the vanguard."

Brad Haley, exec VP-marketing, Carl's Jr and Hardee's
"For personal use I rely on early-adopter friends, family members and co-workers as well as a wide variety of media. For professional purporses (i.e. understanding the latest media opportunity) it would be the same sources plus our online creative and media-buying agency resources."

Josh Quittner, editor, Business 2.0
"In answer to your question, I have three words: Blogs, blogs, blogs. I use an RSS reader and try and limit myself to no more than 40 or so; I keep two "tryout" slots for new feeds. If I like one, I usually bump one so it doesn't get overwhelming. For media & marketing, besides paidcontent, gawker and romenesko I find useful krill here: Rough Type, Nicholas Carr's blog (bigger on the tech side of media than media per se); A VC, Fred Wilson's blog; Publishing 2.0; Business 2.0 Blog; and John Battelle's Searchblog."

Howard Handler, CMO, Virgin Mobile USA
"I'm a bit of a media glutton -- three newspapers a day (NYT, WSJ, USA Today). I still believe that the newspaper is one of the most efficient ways to deliver a huge amount of intelligence. I check out several daily blogs (paidcontent, fierce wireless, huffington post, TRU). Google News is home base. My magazines include The Week, SI, Blender, Rolling Stone, Vice, Uncut and Look Look (a quarterly youth-generated art, design and photography mag). In TV land, I like to check out The Daily Show, Weekend Update on SNL and a good blast of Headline News first thing in the morning. Home base during drive time is WFUV (90.7 FM in NY) with an occasional sampling of XM (when the tuner doesn't get hijacked to Z100 or Q104 by the kids). Live music is life blood. On my Virgin Mobile handset, my favorite guilty pleasure is the Comedy Central 'joke of the day' -- never fails to please. My 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son are both great ongoing examples of place shifting, time-shifting, multi-tasking and media empowerment in general (and through Virgin Mobile, I get a steady stream of insight from our 900 'Insider' user commentators). With all that, I go cold turkey and jump completely off the media grid 2-3 weeks a year."

Jim Garrity, CMO, Wachovia
"I do what I can, personally, to stay in touch with these technologies (all of which I use) including Tivo (I have four of them), iTunes/podcasts, blogs, satellite radio, HDTV, etc, etc."

Colin Gottlieb, CEO, Omnicom Media Group
"I'm not trying to be clever but when you asked how people keep up with the changing digital world, it seems to me you then expected us to list stimuli, but didn't raise the question of creativity. For me creativity is the ability to successfully connect one abstract thing with another to create something extraordinary. The ability to make these connections depends on many things but perhaps the most obvious is the desire (not the discipline) to observe the world around you. You see stuff, you like it and you store it for the moment the penny drops. The stimuli is not one thing or another -- it is everything around you and everywhere you go. Executives in our business have the opportunity to 'touch' tons of stuff. They are paid to then make the connections. So, the answer to your question is attitude. You either have the hunger to make the connections or you don't."

Olly Comyn, publisher EMEA, The Economist
"Absolutely all my ideas come from watching my kids aged 4, 10 and 11. My 4 year old can now log on, browse and play games despite the fact that he can't read yet. My two girls live in MSN, day and night, and even talk to each other in separate rooms in the house. As regards the business, our group marketing director likened the embracing of new technology by all as like giving two teams of 8 year olds a soccer ball, they all chase after it, but what they should be doing is keeping an eye on the goal, and the positions of all their players on the pitch."

Barry Schwartz, author of "The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More"
"Frankly, what I do is ignore new stuff as long as I possibly can. I let the rest of the world force me to do new things just to be compatible with them. My view is that anything that doesn't last at least three years after its initial appearance isn't worth knowing about. But I'm an old-fashioned guy."

Jud Branam, managing director, Hass MS&L
"Keeping abreast of all the new technologies is a job in itself. It's about paying a bit of attention to a lot of sources. We circulate e-mails around the office alerting each other to our new finds and briefly discussing ways we might use them on client projects. I spend quite a bit of time scanning my Bloglines subscriptions and our own blog to catch word of new sites as they come up. is a good source for just that. For iTunes developments, I ask my kids what's new with their iPods, and keep track of what they ask for. Plus I subscribe to Billy Bragg's podcast, so it updates now and then. YouTube has been an easy one -- I sent a few music videos out to friends and now all kinds of cool stuff keeps coming back."
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