Adweek Takes The Wolffian Way

Adweek has a new bespoke suit, a fresh shave and a great haircut. Its new editor, Michael Wolff, is feeling pretty good about it.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Wolff said he wants the magazine “to be the editorial and economic anchor of a newsy website that appeals to the ‘chattering classes and search-engine audience,’ following the model of the political-news website and publication Politico.”

Mr. Wolff said he wants to blow up the formula that has come to define most trade magazines, which he says have tended to dictate what industry insiders tell them. “We need to be the insiders,” he said. “In minute-by-minute reporting on the Web and in close analysis and profiles in the magazine, we will tell the story of the uncertain transformation of our business. We need to be more Tolstoy than trade reporter.”

Catherine P. Taylor worked at Adweek for nearly 20 years. She’s interested to see where the new Adweek goes, but she thinks the new direction shows “signs of significantly missing the mark: by trying to make Adweek part of the New York media industrial complex. That complex is an obsessive, gossipy place, where mastheads — to the extent they still exist — are closely scrutinized, and winners and losers are as closely watched as Anna Wintour during Fashion Week. But it’s also got little to do with what the backroom of the media industrial complex is about — and that’s been the target market for these magazines.”

Sounds to me like Wolff and company want to shoot for a different target, one that includes “fans” of advertising, versus an audience made purely of practitioners. Hey, it works on TV. Maybe it’ll fly in a magazine and website too.

It’s also worth noting that Wolff, who is something of a media celebrity in New York, has also tied his startup aggregation play, Newser, into the action. When you scoll down to the footer, stories from Newser, The Week, Salon and BuzzFeed are displayed as “News from our Partners.” Which means Wolff is partnering with himself. I guess the new Adweek is about “the inside story.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. HighJive says:
  2. Now that I’ve had a chance to read one of the first feature articles from the new Adweek, I can see where Catherine Taylor is coming from.

    Dylan Byers wrote a piece on NYC-based VC Fred Wilson and it ain’t pretty. Byers and Adweek blame Wilson for not helping to even the score with California and bringing a Facebook-like success to NYC. I fail to see the logic in such a story. But here’s the bigger problem…Wolff wants to deliver the inside story, do the tough reporting, etc. But the ad business isn’t going to talk on record. There are contractual obligations out the ass that prevent it for one, then there’s the culture of brand stewardship to contend with. In the best cases, a brand steward will protect the client’s brands, the agency brand and his own. Wilson didn’t want to be profiled by Adweek. He said so clearly in an email exchange with the reporter. What did the reporter do with said email? He published it with small case lettering and the whole bit. Here’s how Byers describes the exchange: “a series of caustic emails that Wilson sent, in which he argued that ‘profiles aren’t journalism’ and told me that I ‘might want to think about making friends instead of pissing people off.'” I know that rubs a reporter wrong, but serious journalism isn’t about settling personal scores.

    In the comments on Adweek, many people come to Wilson’s defense. Jason Calacanis, for one, says, “Wow… this is the stupidest piece of quasi-journalism I’ve read in a year. Congrats on destroying the credibility of AdWeek!”