An Apology for Departing ...


I continue to come across shards of content that amuse, surprise or teach. As individual content, each one doesn’t necessarily frame a post.

Which is why I invented the grab-bag post.

Coming at you …


Japanese Train Apologizes for Departing 20 Seconds Early

That’s not a typo in the headline.



A Tokyo train issued the following statement (translation from SoraNews24):

“On November 14, at approximately 9:44 a.m., a northbound Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company (main office in Tokyo, Chiyoda Ward, President & CEO Koichi Yugi) train left Minami Nagareyama Station roughly 20 seconds earlier than the time indicated on the timetable. We deeply apologize for the severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers.”

Note the adverbs, “deeply” and “severe.” I think it’s fair to say that the train company took this matter seriously.

It’s an example of incongruence in storytelling, at least from Western sensibilities where people arrive 20 minutes past the scheduled time and don’t even offer a “Sorry, dude.”

And why the RocketNews24 story was syndicated in a number of publications, including The New York Times, Bloomberg and Quartz.


PR Under the Local Microscope

The Mercury News recently ran the story, “Mayor accused of using city PR consultant in kerfuffle with 49ers.”

Naturally, the phrase “accused of using city PR consultant” caught my attention. You never see a headline along the lines of “mayor accused of using city attorney in legal dispute.”

The story goes on to call out the following:

At an hourly rate of $400 to $450, records show, Banner principal Pete Hillan spent more than 10 hours drafting an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle and preparing Gillmor for an interview with the newspaper’s editorial board. He spent more than two hours setting up a CBS interview about the 49ers and prepping the mayor. He spent nearly three hours in August “message training” Gillmor.

Without more context — How much research went into the op-ed? How many rewrites for the op-ed? Did the outreach pursue other media properties beyond the SF Chronicle and CBS? Were mock press interviews taped and analyzed? … and the list goes on — it’s impossible to determine whether the time allocations are reasonable.

All in all, it’s a bad look for PR when the core issue is internal politics.


Shades of Gray in Fooling the Reader

Whether you call it sponsored content or native advertising, this type of paid “advertising” has been manna from heaven for publications.

From their perspective, the more the paid stuff looks like journalism, the greater probability that the reader clicks on the content. As I’ve discussed before, this poses a quandary for publications. Fooling the reader isn’t good for trust or long-term brand-building, but it can increase revenue when it comes to sponsored content.

Which brings us to the shades of gray.

Check out how The Atlantic handles sponsored content in its story feed taken from a laptop.



It’s true that The Atlantic’s sponsored content carries a disclaimer, the typography is different and it doesn’t have a byline. Yet, the core structure that constitutes the sponsored content — thumbnail image on the left, black headline and description — means some people will mistake it as journalism.

Now check out the same feed on a mobile device,



The Atlantic seems to be less inclined to fool the reader in the mobile view, structuring the sponsored content differently from journalism.

Why favor the mobile reader over the laptop reader?

I have no clue.


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