Looking for Answers in ...


As part of celebrating the Agency’s 30-year anniversary later this year, I will periodically play the nostalgia card in the blog.

Such is the case today.

In the course of digging through old client files, I came across the news release from our first press conference in New York City for client Meridian Data.

Before going further, let me set the stage with a few words on Meridian Data, the Agency’s first client. They were the classic startup, inventing products for a technology — CD ROM — that taxed the imagination. People couldn’t fathom 600 megabytes of digital storage on a small plastic disc. Meridian Data CEO Fred Meyer and his exec team showed how you could be committed to the mission and have fun at the same time, a form of multi-tasking that has nearly disappeared in Silicon Valley.

So in 1989 I packed my only suit and a red tie (who was I to argue the psychology of power?), and headed to the big city to announce what would be Meridian Data’s flagship product, the CD Publisher. I tried to push the image of Jed Clampett out of my mind. I had never orchestrated a press conference before, but managed to secure a standing-room-only crowd for the Meridian Data event that included journalists from TIME, BusinessWeek and The New York Times. Best of all, a pitch that connected the dots from the CD Publisher to the music industry won over Rolling Stone (although they didn’t send Hunter Thompson).

Back to the news release —

I wondered if the writing from 25-plus years ago would stand the test of time or be fodder for jokes at a PRSA roast in Toledo. As a starting point for the evaluation, I channeled my high school English teacher (“Show don’t tell”) and scrutinized the use of adjectives and adverbs in the copy. Were they used with restraint or as crutches for telling the story?

The following captures the news release with adjectives and adverbs highlighted:

Meridian Data Announces Recordable Compact Disc System

21 March 1989
Business Wire

Meridian Data Tuesday announced a recordable compact disc system called CD Professional.

CD Professional enables an organization to place the electronic equivalent of up to 200,000 pages of information on a compact disc.

Meridian Data CD ROM

Such a disc is known as a Compact Disc Read-Only Memory (CD ROM), an extension of the same laser technology found in audio compact discs.

Like the common copier, CD Professional will impact the way information is distributed and managed in the office, according to Fred Meyer, president of Meridian Data.

“The copier made it convenient for anyone to duplicate and distribute paper information without depending on an outside printer,” explained Meyer. “And CD Professional makes it convenient and cost-effective to do the same thing with the enormous amounts of information generated on computers without depending on an outside CD Mastering facility.”

Toward this end, CD Professional can copy approximately 5,000 pages or 10 megabytes of information per minute onto a compact disc.

By recording the information on a compact disc, the CD Professional enables the information to be electronically searched and retrieved through a PC.

“In a sense, CD Professional makes CD ROM desktop publishing possible, except that you publish a product in an electronic form as opposed to paper,” said Meyer.

Meyer pointed out that professional recording studios represent another application. Instead of the traditional demonstration tape, Meridian Data’s CD recording system makes it possible for the musician to leave with a “demo CD.”

Until this point, the mastering and replication of compact discs and CD ROMs has been performed at facilities that require millions of dollars worth of equipment.

The CD Professional eliminates the mastering and replication process, producing an original master disc each time.

The CD Professional, priced at $98,000 will be sold through Meridian Data’s direct sales force. The company plans to start delivering production units of the system in May 1989.

Meridian Data pioneered in-house CD ROM publishing when it introduced a PC-based CD ROM premastering system in 1986. Today, practically every major CD ROM publisher — Microsoft, Lotus, Hewlett-Packard, McGraw-Hill, Dialog, etc. — depends on a Meridian Data CD ROM premastering system.

Years ago Alexander McCall Smith penned a column for The Wall Street Journal called “Block That Adjective” that offered this advice:

“Concise prose knows what it wants to say, and says it. It does not embellish, except occasionally, and then for dramatic effect. It is sparing in its use of metaphor. And it is certainly careful in its use of adjectives.”

I think it’s fair to say that I was careful in my use of adjectives and adverbs in advancing the story as opposed to bragging or showing off. And I was relieved to find words like “breakthrough” and “revolutionary” didn’t creep into the release (though I did allow “pioneered” in the company boilerplate).

As for the overall storytelling, the emphasis is on how the technology will be used — analogy to the common copier — as opposed to the technical details. And we find one of my favorite storytelling techniques — contrast — used like the comparison of the product’s $98K price tag with the multi-million dollar facilities previously needed to cut a CD ROM.

All in all, I think the release holds up OK.

It doesn’t deliver the drama of say, Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” but it should be safe from any PRSA roasts in Toledo.


  • Kevin Petschow

    Well written and said, Lou. Thanks for sharing and taking us down memory lane.

    Best, Kevin

  • DudeStro

    Ya took the real backwoods communicatin’ readin’ and writin’ with ya’ when you got yer fancy duds on and went to the big city — then stompin’ a bit at the press conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22UKBv4b4zo

    Just wonderin’ why y’all didn’t say, “Raises the bar,” or, “Robust,” or, “Advanced new solution.” etc.

    Glad y’all kept to yerself (did you bring yer kin along with ya?). A man would be a dang fool to leave all those lack-of embelishments in SJ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ae5JG4Pku0

    Yeehaw. That writin’ was a goodn’

  • Dude Stro

    Doggone. This writin’ still reads good. Even with all the cipherin’ you dun. Especially wearin’ that rope belt with your Sunday duds.

    I gotta’ say though, y’all could’a said, “Goin’ forward,” or, “Basically,” and, “It raises the bar,” like all them fancy-dan agency folk do nowadays.

    OK. Time to go see Mr. Drysdale Miss Jane Hathaway now to git me some walk-around bacon. They’s down the road apiece.


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