So What’s Next For Adweek, Other Than A New Editor?

News today, and not really unexpected, is that Michael Wolff is being replaced as Adweek editor. The Huffington Post has more:

Wolff’s departure caps a short, rather rocky tenure at the trade magazine. In 2009, Prometheus announced the merging of Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek as one publication under Wolff’s guidance. In April 2011, Adweek relaunched the magazine. According to the Wall Street Journal, Wolff “sought to turn it from a dutiful chronicler of the inner workings of the media and advertising industries to a more provocative, personality-driven publication.”

Rumors swirled during Wolff’s year at the magazine, with some claiming investors were dissatisfied and upper management nervous about the magazine’s declining revenue.

Is a trade magazine the proper vehicle for a “provocative, personality-driven publication”? I don’t think so. I wrote about Adweek’s fading relevancy three years ago. Reading Adweek every week was the way I learned about who’s doing what in the ad industry. There’s still a need for that. AdPulp, for example, is spotlighting agencies and people in the Pacific Northwest that are doing good work most folks don’t know about. And The Egotist Network is bringing localized content about advertising to its respective communities. But it’s not a full-time job for any of us to be business journalists.

Unless Adweek gets back to what it once did very well — cover the day-in, day-out news of the advertising industry, in all markets — there’s just no future for it. I think Advertising Age has done very well adapting to the new media landscape. Can Adweek adapt?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Big, Bad Wolff says:

    I think a trade journal can be a “provocative, personality-driven
    publication.” In fact, it should be. Ad Age is provocative and personality-driven,
    they’re just slightly conservative and professional. I’ve viewed Adweek and Ad
    Age like Pepsi and Coke, respectively. At one point, Pepsi was the irreverent
    challenger – and so was Adweek. But like Pepsi, Adweek lost its edge while the
    conservative brand reinvigorated itself. I think they should just let AdFreak
    lead the franchise, since it already receives more online visits. That’s why it
    was dumb to hand the reins to Cooper, as he was formerly running Mediaweek.
    They should have given the job to Tim Nudd or another AdFreak editor. BTW, the
    Egotist Network is a joke. 

    • The Egotist is no joke, but they are stronger in some markets versus others. San Francisco, for instance, is strong.

      • The San Francisco Egotist says:

        Thanks for the props David. We do our best. But check out some of the other Egotist cities. NY, St Louis, Minneapolis (just to name a few) are doing great work in their respective communities.

      • David by “strong” do you mean San Francisco post creative work on par with that of a seven year old? Or do you mean when compared to the LA Egotist San Francisco comes in at strong second?

        The LA Egotist

        • That’s right, you guys have a bit of a thing going. I’m not down on LA at all. Just happened to notice that the SF Egotist has a lot of material I find interesting.

    • Feel free to elaborate on what makes The Egotist a joke, friend. Denver ranks above Adfreak, Adrants and AdLand on AdAge’s Power 150 listing: Send us a link to your site.

      • Big, Bad Wolff says:

        Well, you got me there, Egotist. Let’s see, the Power 150’s Top 5 includes Ads of the World (a repository for anyone who wants to dump their latest shit) and Copyblogger. And you guys still trail Agency Spy, which is essentially written by retards. Guess my opinion is colored by living in Chicago, where the Egotist edition is basically a collection of press releases. Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up your franchise. I have no doubt that people visit in large numbers to view the local news bits. And that’s great for you. But it doesn’t mean your content is great.

        • If you want to talk about jokes, the Ad Age 150 is a great place to focus.

          But let’s talk about something serious. Getting past the press release takes work, commitment, editorial vision and oversight. Not many mainstream industry pubs overcome the press release either, likely for the same reason…very limited resources. I’m not excusing the widespread reprinting (that also happens here), I’m just laying out the challenge.

          Another part of the challenge is a perceived need for speed to press. When you have an editorial hole to fill, you want to fill it right now, not in several hours or days later when all the facts have been checked, sources called, etc.

          Personally, I’m trying to slow it down on AdPulp. So we can invest in deeper thinking and put better constructed writing into our posts.

          • Big, Bad Wolff says:

            Posting press releases pretty much signaled the downfall of Adweek — and it was a case of limited resources there too. They had (and still have) some strong writers at Adweek. But there are just too few of them. And when you have every site in the Egotist network also posting the same press releases, it diminishes publications like Adweek even more. Ad Age convinced people to submit content for free, as evidenced by all the blogs it publishes. The free content on the blogs at Ad Age probably accounts for a lot of the traffic there. 

          • I know, I’ve been asking myself why I don’t write for Ad Age. Everyone else does. Oh, that’s right…they don’t pay writers. But I can build my personal brand over there and reach readers who have never heard of me or AdPulp, right? Perhaps, but the truth is I’m all tapped out on the “give it away for free” content models.

          • Big, Bad Wolff says:

            Mark Twain: Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.

          • Three years in Twain time is like an hour in internet time. 

        • It’d be fun to see you take over the Chicago site for a week to get a gander at your content creation muscle. You up for it? Or are you just going to hide behind your anonymity and take whacks at people who are actually out there creating?

          • It’s an interesting idea. By the way, this particular “Wolff” has a solid industry blog, and has for years, so he’s quite capable of a week-long takeover of TCE. But can you persuade him to do so? We shall see…

          • Big, Bad Wolff says:

            Don’t do pro bono. As you point out consistently, David, there is little to be gained in providing free content — and even less when the site is a dog to begin with. 

    • We’re just glad somebody is reading. Thanks for the views “Big, Bad Wolff”

      The LA Egotist

  2. Wolff wanted to dig in and reveal ad people to themselves, but that type of editorial can tarnish one’s reputation in a hurry and lead phone calls unanswered.

    Trade mags are very cozy with their host industries and Wolff’s idea was to go the opposite direction from that fundamental truth. There may be a business in it, but it might not be the business Adweek’s owners care to pursue.

    • Dan Goldgeier says:

      What struck me is that advertising, and ad people, seemed to be the last thing on Wolff’s mind. I thought he was more interested in other celebrities and folks who may have only a tangential relation to the ad business.

  3. Wolff discussed the pending changes at Adweek with Richard Kirshenbaum during Ad Weak recently:

    He said, “One side wants to tell a smaller story…who’s winning what accounts. Then there’s another side which wants a larger story about the incredibel transformation going on in our business, the conflict between old and new, a rivieting tale. I would not want me to tell the former story, the latter story I think I’m a pretty good choice.”

    • Dan Goldgeier says:

      Thank you for watching that so I didn’t have to. And he didn’t seem capable, much less interested, in telling either story. Under his watch, the lead story one day was the bad timing of Elizabeth Taylor’s death.

      • I’m not defending Wolff. I considered putting that video up on the site when it came out, but I couldn’t do it. As you say Dan, it’s unwatchable.

    • Adweek Reader says:

      I think you give Wolff a lot more credit than he deserves.
      Consider the fact that he made his statements to Kirshenbaum knowing full well
      he was already fired. It’s just sour grapes at that point. There is little
      evidence of the “latter story” present in the publication’s content during
      Wolff’s term. Even his one side versus another side is silly. There are plenty
      of ways to run a trade publication, not only two. He picked a bad one and did a
      bad job doing it. At the end of the day, he was an outsider trying to figure
      out the business himself, not unlike a lot of holding company leaders.