Masthead Blogs
Monday, March 11, 2024
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto
The winners of the 2023 COPA were announced on February 9th, 2024 and this year’s winner saw the rise of branded content as award winning quality.


The Academic division saw the emergence of a new school Red River College Polytechnic with a gold and 2 silver. RRC Polytechnic campuses in the National Homeland of the Red River Métis. UBC captured 1 gold a 3 silver was the other big winner. An entry from York’s film school won best Video.




In the B2B division saw York University capture 3 gold and 3 silver and was the big winner of the COPAs. University affairs won 3 gold and a silver. The Atlantic Association of CBDCs Ambitions Magazine won two silver that is part of the the rise in quality of branded content in this year’s winners.


 Deidre Kelly is presented a Gold for Best Digital Edition by Marty Seto


The consumer division had multiple winners across all categories, but the emergence of branded entries from the Mental Health Commission (2 silver), Metrolinx (Gold and Silver), Travelzoo (Gold and Silver), Samara Centre for Democracy (silver) and Hockey Canada (gold) win a COPA medal this year.


The News Media division that caters to local community websites across Canada saw Discourse Community Publishing that caters to First Nation communities in BC win 3 gold and 3 silver. New Winners included the Breach based in Montreal with and gold and silver and By that won gold.


The Top Ten scores if the This year COPAs has 13 entries (ties allowed) with the Top entry for York magazine for Best Digital Edition. This design has worn multiple COPAs. University Affairs came is second for the Best Multicultural Story and Fête Chinoise came in 3rd for the ir Best Feel Good Story.



Wednesday, January 10, 2024
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto
Unless you have been living off the grid, the global economy is still suffering the effects of the tight money supply through higher interest rates to combat the post pandemic echo of high inflation. The strategy seems to be working as inflation was 3% in Canada in November 2023. But we are still not out the woods yet as the first six months of the year will still be tight as inflation needs to be at 2% before there will be a change in interest rate policy and that is expected to happen in the second quarter.

Snap Shot of the Post Pandemic Echo
Zoom, the video conferencing tool the world has been living through since 2020, laid off 15% of its workforce, or about 1,300 people, on February 7. 2023. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic Zoom’s profit skyrocketed more than most tech companies, leading to massive hiring, but the company is now saying it overdid it.


According the Dentsu Global Ad Spend Forecasts (Dec. 2023) was a very turbulent year for media as we saw a contraction in global ad spending in automotive, finance, food, government/social, media and entertainment, pharmaceutical, retail, technology, telecommunications and travel industries, which was a  a reflection of what the economy was suffering through. Only two sectors saw a growth and they were beverages and cosmetics/personal care. The Dentsu ad forecast will see a rebound back in ad spending in 2024 with an increase of 5% worldwide.

The movement by Canadian Ad Agencies to buy Local 
The growing digital spend with USA based publishers have not gone unnoticed by governments and now ad agencies in Canada have an industry goal of a 25% digital ad spend for Canadian media through an effort called “ The Canadian Media Manifesto”. Publishers can learn more about about this here.


What can Canuck publishers do as they confront the "Walmart Effect" of  Canadia media going out of business caused by the digital giants. Well it is important to show relevance of your audience to today’s advertisers and reader research is always needed to keep in tune with the changing habits that seems to change every 6 months. Reaching Adults 18-34 today is totally different from a generation ago, as this market is the “ Cellphone Zombie Generation” and live on social and prefer video over text.

Its time to think outside your box to survive.
What is your digital delivery strategy to compete with SEO, programmatic and Influencers that have captured the attention of today’s advertisers. According to the Dentsu Dec. 2023 report you will also have to explore AI as 72% of their clients have AI on the marketing radar. There is no magic wand, It all comes time down to marketing basics target market fit, geographic location and timing ie: Right place, right time, right market. Build your plan in 2024 with sound marketing fundamentals, but you have to know your audience to compete.
Thursday, November 16, 2023
COPA Judges Blog
Guest Blogger
Now that the pandemic is mostly in the rear-view mirror, it’s easier to take a second look at what we sped past in the last couple of years. Without doubt, the pandemic created the biggest shift towards more automation, faster digital transformation, and exponential leaps in robotics and artificial intelligence. Estimates around investment in robotics and supply chain automation hovers around the $250 billion mark for just 2023. And the global adoption rate is set to increase to 70%+ by 2025.

So, when you have this level of automation, you can be sure that there will soon be a slew of people whose sole task will be to manage this ever-growing non-human workforce. Are you ready to manage a group of robot assistants? Not sure if you’re aware of this, but the pandemic-fueled isolation and digital transformation has led to the rise of robot-dependents – people who feel emotionally connected to chatbots or robots. I’m not kidding. This is a real thing. How quickly did robots transition from anxiety-inducing entities to familiar everyday support systems that bring a sense of calm and safety? 


When you think about it, autonomous robots range from innocuous chatbots to the Roomba to even aerial drones. There are more of them around than many of us can comprehend. They’re no longer the stuff of science fiction, but increasingly ubiquitous objects that deliver significant value. They no doubt improve the speed and accuracy of routine operations and add efficiency while working alongside humans.

They’re increasingly deployed in dangerous situations like nuclear plants or to track and diffuse land mines. Judging by the speed of things and how every organization is glued to scaling, it won’t be long before bots are life companions. Now imagine encouraging, criticizing, or mentoring bots. We’ll soon have to develop language, etiquette, and protocol around all this. Let’s begin by translating eye rolls. 

Now fast forward to the reality of contactless delivery and automated transportation, and suddenly we need to figure out how to reengineer our roads to accommodate for their increased presence around us, especially in cities. It’s only a matter of time before driverless cars and delivery robots will be jostling for road space alongside bikes and scooters. Are city planners thinking about this? Typical to technology, automated vehicles (AVs) will make some jobs redundant and create some new ones.

Today’s truck driver or Uber driver will have to transition to an AV specialist. Someone who manages automated vehicles and customer service in Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) offerings. New roles will emerge like AV Service Mangers, AV Deployment Specialists, AV Technicians…. Can you see where this is going? The good thing is, AVs will also make mobility more equitable and accessible.

Think of seniors, people with disabilities, even children will have greater access to independent transportation. And let’s also consider the potential drop in road accidents – if things go as cited. Removing human error from road accidents can have a significant impact on everything from life to insurance costs. What about parking lots? Dare we hope that they’ll turn into green spaces within cities? Especially since AVs can drive themselves to their own pens. 

Among the most compelling lessons of the pandemic is the impact of artificial intelligence (AI). Estimates suggest that over 50% of companies accelerated their AI adoption plans because of the Covid crisis. And Big Tech has clearly doubled down on this in the last few years. From a marketing perspective, the hope is that AI is going to help us narrow in on the ‘why’ and not just the ‘what’ in terms of people’s behaviour.

Speculation, of course, is very high with large language models like Open AI’s Chat GPT. Even though Chat GPT can scan the entire internet in a matter of seconds, it cannot (yet) connect outlying dots to create a fresh perspective on a human insight.

So, I doubt very much that Copywriters are about to disappear. But the potential for AI to iterate and optimize copy in bulk digital ads, and add personalization, can be a real game changer. Ad tools like Meta’s Advantage+ lets AI choose audiences and creative assets, and Google’s Performance Max decides how to distribute the ad spend across its properties. So, if targeting and audiences are going to be taken care of by AI, what else will the age of automation bring?

Another quick glance into the rear-view mirror throws up one of the most talked about fallouts of the pandemic - information epidemic. Especially the dubious kind. No one seems to know if the information they’re consuming is indeed true or factual. Things got so bad the World Health Organization held its first ‘Infodemiology Conference’ in 2020.

Misinformation and disinformation are by no means restricted to scientific or health-related topics. Indeed, technology has helped to weaponize information. Disinformation thrives in societies where systemic inequality and deep-seated discrimination is rampant. When everyone is a content generator, it’s easy for bad actors to twist misinformation (someone who got facts wrong accidentally) to disinformation (creating false information).

In today’s environment where people are ready to jump to the nearest conclusion without much thought or debate, it undermines some basic principles we collectively accept and agree upon. It’s scary to think how easy it is to tear apart any society with disinformation, immaterial of where it is. Ultimately, trust will be the most valuable asset anyone, individual, or organization, can have. And if you haven’t guessed it yet, pro-truth influencers are a thing too. 

Which brings me back to the question - who then has the responsibility to ensure trustworthiness, inclusivity, and sustainability in our breakneck speed for technology triumphs? Thankfully some people across the pond are taking this a bit more seriously than the rest of us in North America. A European Commission initiative aims to reimagine, reshape, and re-engineer the internet and it’s called the Next Generation Internet (NGI). It funds innovative research to develop a safer, more transparent, and inclusive internet for all. Wishful thinking? I hope not.

Despite the handwringing, there’s no doubt that technology will move faster than people, or policy. So, where should the guardrails be? And who gets to decide that? And where’s the crystal ball that can see what’s in store? When we started playing hockey no one thought about the need for helmets. In fact, it took about a hundred years before helmets were mandated in hockey. How long do we wait before we get protection from the trauma of technology?

Abut The AuthorZach Abraham

Zach has spent over 25 years in the advertising and marketing industry in a leadership position. Prior to starting Us Communications, he was Associate Creative Director at Anderson DDB responsible for all the Digital and DTC work produced by the agency. Zach has won several awards for creative excellence including the London International Advertising Award, The New York Festival and RSVP among others.
Thursday, November 09, 2023
COPA Judges Blog
Guest Blogger

“Why’d you call me?”

Asking the question was my friend and one of my many journalistic mentors, Ernest Hillen. 

I’ll get to the answer to his question in a moment, but first, in case you don’t know, here’s how Wikipedia describes Ernest: 

 Ernest Hillen
“A longtime editor with Saturday Night, he became best known for two memoirs which he published in the 1990s about his childhood experiences during World War II. Hillen was born in the Netherlands in 1934 as the child of a Canadian mother and a Dutch father, and the family moved to West Java, Indonesia when he was a child. However, following the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies in 1942, the family was confined to detention camps for several years.  After the war ended the family moved between Canada, the Netherlands and Indonesia for several years until the 1950s, when Hillen moved to Toronto.”

I met Ernest when I was new to the magazine industry; we worked on a publication called Influence then went separate directions but remained close. 

He’s in his 80s now and lives in Cambridge Ont., and Ernest is literally the reason my wife Helena and I keep a landline. True fact. Phone conversations with Ernest seldom clock in at less than an hour and who likes to talk on a cell that long?

Here’s why I’m telling you about Ernest. 

Last Monday afternoon, at about 2:00, I realized I had a few spare hours so figured it was time to start reading the entries in this year’s Canadian Online Publication Awards (COPAs). 

I’m a judge in two categories and feel privileged indeed. I get to immerse myself in a whole pile of some of Canada’s finest reporting and writing and frankly, I have a hard time thinking of any activity I’d rather do.  


I love making it, reading it, talking about it. Defending it. 

What’s not to like about being a judge in the COPAS?

(Quick aside, in a work meeting last month, my writer/editor colleague Amanda Jerome advised that if you have a task to perform that you’re putting off, you can radically reframe the job by  instead of saying, “I’ve got to” do this job, try “I get to” do this job. Take Amanda’s theory out for a test spin. It’s powerful.)

I get to judge these stories 

PLUS it’s a duty. Which means I must ignore other, less important chores. Here’s me, Monday, shortly after lunch, to Helena: “Sorry darling, the trip to Winners can’t happen. I really should get to those COPA stories. Duty calls.”

I never actually said “duty calls.” I hope I’d never sink to such a cliché unless I was playing with it, as in “Cat litter needs changing! Doody calls.” Like that.

Where was I? Oh right.  Calls.  To Ernest.

First thing I did when I started judging Monday was pick up the landline and dial Ernest because, well, because I’m a writer and that’s what we do when we’re facing a deadline. Find a distraction. 

So here’s what I told Ernest when he asked “why’d you call me?”

“Thing is, Ernest, I just started judging stories in the Canadian Online Publication Awards competition and frankly, there’s certain times when I just hope and wish and pray that I’ll get a phone call from somebody who will ask ‘what are you up to?’ and I’ll be like, ‘sorry you caught me at a bad time. I have to read some more of Canada’s finest journalism because I’m a judge in this national competition.

“That sounds impressive, doesn’t it?”

I continued, at Ernest: “Have you any idea how much great stuff is being reported out there? All over the place, by large outfits, tiny outfits, students? Until you get involved like this, you lose all perspective and you’d think journalism’s drying up or something, and you’d be dead wrong. It’s flourishing. You just have to know where to look.

“Some of these online publications are not-for-profits while others seem very profitable indeed and you know the best part Ernest? 

“They remind us how important everybody is; how one person’s concerns are as serious as the next’s. Like say if you’re having a hard time finding daycare in Nanaimo and you’re afraid you won’t have enough money for rent, that’s as worrisome for you as some guy who has been told his cat’s dying or somebody whose mom is in a questionable nursing home or whose son is being sent off to war.  That’s what this kind of journalism does, Ernest. 

“You’d love it!

“And the young journalists! They’re doing such amazing work. They do way more research and go further indepth than I ever did. They do better work, too. I’m glad I’m not competing with them.”

Oh wait. I think I and the publication I work for, Law360 Canada, might be competing in a category or two. So never mind that last part.
And maybe I didn’t say those exact words when talking to Ernest. I wasn’t taking notes or recording. 

But that was certainly my message.

It is a privilege to judge.  I do love every moment of judging. 
But just because you love something doesn’t mean you can’t procrastinate, like I did with considerable success by calling Ernest on Monday afternoon. Cuz you can bet the call didn’t end there.
Ernest and I were on the phone for 57 minutes. 

He’s a journalist, for my (Pete’s, get it?) sake. At work or in everyday conversation, people like Ernest work diligently at finding new, helpful and interesting methods to discuss ideas using language and communicative tricks in wholly innovative ways.  

It’s what we do. And that’s what makes judging so damn wonderful. 

I just had a terrific idea for a new category for next year’s COPAs. 

The competition would be Olympian.

Best Procrastination Techniques 

Details to follow.

About the Author: Peter Carter


Toronto writer/ editor/ one-time magazine owner and publisher---35 years experience in Canadian magazines; currently Analysis Editor at Law360 Canada; an online daily news source for Canadian lawyers; Winner of Best Business Blog at COPAs 2014 for Pete's Blog&Grille; National Magazine Awards finalist; accordion player and motorbike enthusiast.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto
My goodness things change so fast in digital it is so hard to keep up even for me after 35 years. The past year we have experienced some interesting developments in the digital world and I have identified some macro issues that will disrupt the market or shape its future. A couple of COPA Judges -  Jean-François Bérubé and Anik Magny have chipped in on the discussion. 

1. Facebook and Google taken to the Legislative wood shed.

The free ride of unfettered access to free content created by third party publishers is over. The theft of this content and I have been pointing this out for years to deaf hears. The news industry is grasping at a paid model, but a free to paid model is too late for some publishers. I noticed the newsstand copy of the Globe and Mail (very thin BTW) and was tempted to get one, but the cost was $4.00.

What the future holds?: The current legislation of the digital giants providing content fees to publishers is wrought with potential bear traps. How do you enforce it . Facebook just went offline for Canadian content and we are waiting to see the impact.

2. Influencers go mainstream - Only Fans becomes the new Playboy

Even though Facebook and Google take a lot of heat for their profits through their market dominance. One side effect of this is the ecosystem of “Influencers” that was created . This is a multi-billion dollar ad market that that they do not get a cut off except for the free user generated content provided for this ecosystem. The use of “Adult” content on “Only Fans” page as become the new “ Playboy” with centrefold type celebrities sharing experiences with their fans. Ya gotta say its a better deal than a print magazine subscription and sex still sells in the digital age. LOL

Advertisers targeting A 18-34 are leaning this way as the best way to reach this group. But don’t ask Budweiser of the viral side effects of this tactic from the stealth marketing activity in the USA from the left and right to shape public opinion. Traditional media have been left in the dust for this generation of consumers as this group prefers video to text, use ad blockers and are smartphone zombies. The COPAs this year added this as new category. 

Anik Magny, COPA Judge, Podcaster
The growing ecosystem of influencers is indeed something to keep an eye on. Several studies show that Generation Z is abandoning traditional media due to a lack of representation and diversity of opinion, but also out of mistrust and lack of confidence in institutions that all too often seem to follow a political agenda. As a result, they are turning to people who sound and look like them, with a variety of opinions. Some podcasts available online last for hours, so it's possible to capture the attention of Generation Z with denser content, but we need to rethink our formats and the way we deliver it. 

Traditional media don’t always maintain a bond of trust or a sense of community with BIPOC communities. The strength of influencers lies in their proximity to the public and the sense of belonging and community they are able to create, which has become almost impossible with traditional broadcasters.

3. AI Generated Content opens a New Pandora Box

This is the latest salvo by tech using AI as a tool and promising a new and better world. But AI content software vendors are being sued by book authors for content theft and the USA is looking at regulations to keep deep fakes that are occurring in the market. The movie industry is at a standstill on the use of AI and its possible use in the industry.

I am a skeptic on AI right now as it is not 100% correct, your may get three different answers to the same problems from three different software.  My brother who was an AI lab manager at Google and we discussed his work, he told me AI needs experience to work to achieve a better outcome of the 10% error rate of math. I always used the error rate of math with my brother to bug him about his work.  LOL (Math Error rate is plus or minus 10% 19 out 20 times).

BUT….I recently got casted in a commercial where I did the voiceover and script. During post production the script was changed and my voice was edited using AI. In this scenario the producers creativity is enhanced with minimal cost, so AI is here to stay

Jean-François Bérubé, COPA Judge, Content Creator
AI Generated Content has emerged as the latest technological frontier, offering a disruptive impact on a variety of industries. As with any change, many individuals are terrified or upset by it. However, AI is here to stay and will change the way we operate. AI is creating previously unimaginable opportunities and making individuals more efficient in their work. It can be a good thing in the creative process because it speeds up a lot of the phases in content creation and can be an excellent helper, removing the tedious tasks while humans handle the human activities. Having stated that, it is prudent for society to create guidelines while using such technology.

Anik Magny, COPA Judge, Podcaster
It's understandable, even natural and necessary, for artists to be concerned about the crazy rise of AI. But by talking with independent artists, particularly small production companies and non-profit organizations with a small or no staff, I saw a potential benefit in AI. Some are considering using artificial intelligence to assist them in applying for grants - a long and energy consuming process that discourages many. I found this interesting. Could artificial intelligence eventually offer the help that so many small players lack? I don't have the answer, but I found the discussion very interesting.

4. Dominance of USA Publishers in the Programmatic Ad market
The cost to play in the market is that you have to make a profit based on $2CPM or less. Pretty tough for a Canadian publishers. Agencies the big players take a blind eye as clients want a low CPM. This is not sustainable for Canadian publishers as USA based ad networks  have flooded the market with a low cost advertising that is putting Canadian publishers out of business. We need advertisers to buy Canadian. Here is a Toronto government ad that is on CNN, this should not happen.

How do we do this?
We need barriers to entry to the Canadian market to level the playing field from the cheap USA digital imports that are flooding the market. Television faced the same issues in their history with USA border stations, magazines with USA titles restirected to newsstand only and we need to do the same for digital. Canadians are too soft and polite and we need to act like a Bear with tariffs, tax deductions and sales taxes as the weapons not the ill-fated content tax that is facing major hurdles. Where is Shelia Copps when we need her!!! Buy Canadian!!!

5. Streaming Opportunities for Canadian Content Creators

Here Canada has already lost the battle to Hollywood. All the major streamers are USA based. Canada's only positive side effect is that Toronto and Vancouver have becomes hubs for USA film and commercial production outside of LA and NY. This can only be a good thing as it has fostered a independent film community that will help create the next generation of content creators in Canada for the video generation.

I had a first hand look at this new generation when I was casted as “ Human” in a Toronto Film School  production of  "Blood Sisters” produced by Jessica Duval as part the student's final thesis. The Toronto Film School is one the top film Schools in Canada and the COPAs will be reaching out to all the film schools in the country to participate in the COPA’s this year to help raise their profile. 

Jessica Duval - Producer - Blood Sisters
As a filmmaker you need like minded people to bring a story to life from the individuals in front of the camera to behind. You become family, working that many hours together.  It’s been a pleasure working with the Toronto Film School and all the students who assisted on set to already working artists in the industry traveling from as far as Ottawa to provide their expertise and join the vibes.  We as Canadians may be the cheaper route for Hollywood but we keep growing. I look forward to what the future holds for this production piece, resources are endless. A series might just be what the humans are asking for!” 

6. Wink, Wink…Criminal activity is rampant in cyberspace

Ya think with all the chatter about cyber crimes it will go away, but it has not. As Barnum and Bailey use to say, “There is a sucker born every minute” and this is still true with all the scams out there, I have come across fake movies casting calls, but this latest one is a doozy as it uses fake video testimonials about an AI software from Elon Musk, CBS and even Premier Ford.


You end up a getting a calling from a Quebec phone number, btw. These were posted on Facebook using multiple fake identities. This was a paid campaign on Facebook and they earned revenue on this. If Facebook can filter news they can filter this, but they did not. This poses the question does Facebook profit from all the scams out there?

What is the Roadmap for the Future for Content?

Anik Magny
In the years to come, it will be imperative to review the form of the products - it will no longer be possible to keep the classic 30- and 60-minute formats, for example. We need to adapt the form to the content, as well as the narrative structure, without abandoning quality content.  The notion of format came up again and again during discussions with young BIPOC in the cultural industry. Quebec television is standardized, with few types of format: 30 minutes or 60 minutes, including commercial breaks. Many are calling for a carte blanche - a freer, more fluid space with lighter subjects.

Web Series is a new form of Content
Well, I have seen a glimpse of the future, I have been working on a Web Series cast as a Asian Crime Boss this summer and it will have 100 two minutes episodes that will be available on TikTok and another web series I worked on “Pork U” (trailer link) a comedy that will be available on YouTube this fall. These independent film productions is a new wave of content outside of traditional models.

Canadian Content creators need to adapt to this new environment , but to succeed is a very challenging as the industry needs protection from the global giants that dominate the industry. We welcome your comments for further discussion.
Most Recent Blog Comment
Lorene Shyba says:
Full of terrific information, Thanks!...