Jim Morton

Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Who’s Your Audience?

In Language, Skills, Technical Writing, Web Content on April 13, 2012 at 11:34 am

Whether you’re writing ad copy, email blasts, or white papers, the question you always should ask before you get started is: “Who is your audience?” It’s one of the first rules students are taught in Marketing 101, and yet, many writers get so wrapped up in their own visions that they forget this. They concoct catchy science fiction scenarios that would draw in everyone at Comic Con for a product that is better suited to a global summit of the Fortune 500. The cleverest advertising campaign in the world is a failure if it doesn’t engage its primary audience.

Sometimes it’s tricky figuring out who that audience is. I worked with a very sharp woman who understood marketing backwards and forwards. She knew how to pitch things, and she knew how to sell. When asked to come up with a campaign for an upcoming trade show, she came up with a solution that probably would have sold a lot of equipment, but it fell flat in the meeting room. The reason: her real audience was the boss and he hated it. She was pitching to a group of people who weren’t there. With a little more care, she might have been able to find a way to get the boss on board with her ideas, but she overlooked that one link in the chain. In the end, the man went with his own vision and the products continued to sell in the same modest way they always had. In fairness to her, she had only been on-board for a few weeks and didn’t appreciate this man’s idiosyncrasies. He would have done well to listen to her suggestions, but she also should have recognized who her real audience was and proceeded accordingly.

One of the most obvious examples of bad marketing is now a classic meme of the Internet: Snakes on a Plane. Quite unexpectedly, this film’s title, in advance of the Samuel  L. Jackson movie’s release, became a popular catch phrase among the technoscenti. The marketing crew at New Line Cinema were sure they hit paydirt, and they milked it for all it was worth. But when the movie came out, it had tepid box office during its all-important opening weekend. Techies liked the phrase, but they weren’t the audience for this film. The marketing team would have done better to concentrate the efforts in other areas and let the meme take care of itself instead of nurturing what turned out to be a dead end.

In conclusion: Good marketing requires understanding who your audience is, but it also requires some careful consideration to make sure that you are pitching to the right people.


Fun Stuff

In Jim Morton, Language, Misc, Recreation on February 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Not all my work is serious. Everybody need to have fun sometimes. Here are a few of the things I’ve created in my spare time.

Crossword Puzzles

I like solving crossword puzzles, but creating them is even more fun. This crossword puzzle appeared in the New York Times, September 13, 2000. At the time, Bill Clinton was president, and I had read that he started every morning by doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. That was a special morning for me, realizing that the prseident of the United States was working on my puzzle!

Get crossword puzzle here.


Translating film subtitles offers a host of interesting challenges. Mädchen, Mädchen was especially challenging because so much of the dialog was based on the way teenagers talk nowadays. It also required me to translate stanzas from a rap song, keeping the rhymes and at the same time making sure that the translation stayed accurate to what was being said. For the techies in the crowd, I used Jubler, an easy-to-use subtitle creation program that is available for both the Mac and the PC.

Get Mädchen, Mädchen subtitles here.

Read more about my translating process here.