A New Words Resolution

There were a number of words and phrases that infected media during 2011. Some made people feel queasy about the state of the industry, while others left people confused about what we actually do for a living. Here are some of the words that we should quarantine immediately:

Dead. This year everything from television, apps and the Web itself was declared “dead” by various industry commentators. If history is any guide, though, the technology of today will be with us far longer than we expect.

Disrupt. It became fashionable this year to claim a new technology would disrupt or destroy some existing one. For 2012, let’s resolve to simply make the things that already exist like a little better.

Agnostic. Mark Naples of WIT Strategy points out that saying something is “platform-agnostic” actually implies that the technology doesn’t work with anything.



Bifurcated. I first heard the word “bifurcated” spoken a few years ago by Rob Norman, CEO of GroupM North America, and it sounded really smart. Fast-forward to today, and this four-syllable word is now all the rage across media. Let’s agree to leave the fancy words to the CEOs.

Cloud-based. “The cloud” sounds so much better than “a bunch of servers housed in a big building that we don’t own” -- which is probably why most companies use the former to describe the technology.

Amazing. Detecting earth-like planets 600 million light years away is truly amazing, but at this point there’s little that’s amazing about a new mobile phone, ad platform or consumer app. Cool, maybe, but not amazing.

Leverage. Writer Brian Morrissey says he’s tired of hearing the word “leverage” used as a verb -- as in, “our company leverages amazing, cloud-based technology that disrupts markets.”

Chunky. Industry vet Sean Finnegan notes that the word “chunky” is on the rise. The term is used to describe a difficult problem, but given that “Chunky” is already the name of a soup and a candy bar, we should stop this new application immediately. 

Sports jargon: If you spend time in the testosterone-filled boardrooms of venture capitalists, you know that these firms speak in an endless stream of sports metaphors. “Hitting a home run” means building a business that makes everyone gobs of money. “Skating to where the puck is going,” describes a business that isn’t making any money yet -- but hopefully will someday.

Pivot. Another popular venture capitalist word, a “pivot” can mean that a startup has discovered a better way to make money, but it can also mean that their first (and sometimes second) business idea was really stupid.

Tradigital. Mashable’s Lauren Rubin has had enough with mashing the words “traditional” and “digital” together to form “tradigital” -- and who can blame her? For evidence, here’s an excerpt from an actual piece that Adweek published on the topic: “What excites me most about the future of marketing? That's easy: tradigital. Not just because I enjoy the crafty nature of neologism, but because I'm captivated by the artful venture of respecting traditional branding ideas in the face of a new digital reality. It's what a whole new breed of tradigital agencies is all about.”

Acronyms. Seasoned entrepreneur Dave Morgan points out that the media industry has become awash in acronyms -- to the point where it is now difficult to understand what anyone is saying. Using terms like DSPs, RTB or ATDs needs to stop, ASAP.

Proxy. Dylan Parks of is tired of hearing the word “proxy.” I’ll take that as a sign that everyone else has, too.

At the end of the day. Most Brits working in media -- as well as a number of Americans -- feel compelled to use the phrase “at the end of the day” at every opportunity. Ultimately, though, we all need to find a better way of making a point.

Those are some of the words that media people were sick of hearing this year. What are yours?

10 comments about "A New Words Resolution".
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  1. Sheldon Senzon from JMS Media, Inc., December 19, 2011 at 12:14 p.m.

    Great post and thanks for highlighting all the over the top hackneyed/cliched expressions. Let's shoot for plain English in 2012 and while we're at it; more "me-mail" and less e-mail.

  2. Doug Barshop from Amazon Media Group, December 19, 2011 at 12:16 p.m.

    Isn't what's important, can provide, makes us different or true "at the end of the day" the same as the at beginning of the day, the middle of the day or anytime during the day?

  3. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, December 19, 2011 at 12:17 p.m.

    Hope you get lots of "traction" with this column.

  4. Max Kalehoff from MAK, December 19, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.

    Good roundup. Here are a few more buzzwords we should eliminate:

    1. Killing it.
    2. Crushing it.

  5. Samantha McGarry from InkHouse, December 19, 2011 at 1:23 p.m.

    Leverage also appeared on my list of "Words to Retire in 2012" that I published last week. You can check it out at

    I shall add this to the list of resources on the post - and add cloud-based to the list as it totally needs a time-out!

  6. Kevin BULLARD from Ilfusion Creative, December 19, 2011 at 1:24 p.m.

    Wow! Look at Matt! A sense of humor AND a great post! Good work!

  7. Fred Cunha from Extreme Reach, December 20, 2011 at 12:17 a.m.

    "Onboarding" just gets to me for some reason and the funny thing is that I don't remember ever hearing that word until this year... (these days, I hear it everywhere, unfortunately)

  8. Matt Straz from Namely, December 20, 2011 at 11:19 a.m.

    Great list, Samantha. I'll add those to my own personal "do not say" list for 2012.

  9. Ngoc T from Iowa, December 21, 2011 at 9:03 a.m.

    "First off," the "bottom line" is that your post "proactively" "synergizes" several bad buzz words into an “out of the box” column.

    Nice list, Matt. Here's mine:


    First off: if you have something to say, just say it.

    Bottom line: first cousin to "at the end of the day."

    Proactive: this has been overused now for a decade or more. When will it die?

    Synergize: also dump its iterations of "synergistic" and "synergism" into last decade's list of bad buzzwords.

    Out of the box: another term that needed to give up the spirit long ago.


  10. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., December 22, 2011 at 5:07 p.m.

    You may call me, contact me, FAX me, write to me, even e-mail me, but please do not "reach out to" me. I'd prefer you kept your hands to yourself.

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