Thursday, August 2, 2007

Adscam asks if 'Ad Age' will trump 'Adweek'

In the unbridled style to which we've become accustomed, George Parker of AdScam said yesterday that he thought that Ad Age will finish off Adweek. You can read the whole post, which contains only four swear words, here. The high- or low-light, depending on one's perspective, is when he tells Ad Age editor Jonah Bloom that the one thing he needs to do to declare victory is to hire away long-time Adweek-er Barbara Lippert. Obviously those who know me know I've a little perspective on this. I worked at Adweek for much of my career, and even was the interactive editor at Ad Age for a glorious ten months, until the publication more or less declared interactive comatose, along with my career there, in October 2001. (No hard feelings, honest.) But the whole thing isn't as simplistic as Parker makes it out to be. First, Ad Age vs. Adweek isn't an either/or proposition, and frankly, the health of both publications depends on both continuing to exist. Much of what has made both books vibrant over the years is the fact that there has been another publication out there to compete against. (True, there are now other competitors out there, like Mediapost, that are doing a fine job, but there's something about the long rivalry of Ad Age vs. Adweek that brings out both publications' best competitive instincts.) Still, Parker raises a valid question. What might make someone perceive Ad Age as better, at this point when media and creative and branding are sometimes one in the same, is that Ad Age has a more comprehensive perspective. There is shared content amongst Adweek and its siblings Mediaweek and Brandweek, but ultimately Ad Age is a one-stop content shop; Adweek is not. And then there's the matter of commitment, not by the reporters and editors that work at both publications, but by the corporate higher-ups. It's obvious to anyone who studies this stuff closely that Ad Age has received more investment over the last few years than Adweek has, which isn't surprising given that it is owned by a private, family-run company—Crain Communications—which considers Ad Age, along with Automotive News and another book or two, to be one of its signature properties. A commenter to Parker's post asks, "Could VNU/Nielsen be the problem?" and the answer, I think, is a qualified yes. Before VNU was bought out by a bunch of private equity guys, the focus was on cost-cutting, both because of the continued slump in circulation and ad pages that many magazines are experiencing, and because the company was public and on the block. Strategically speaking, I believe this was exactly the same time at which VNU, for the sake of the publications, should have been investing more in its magazines, particularly in the digital arena. Instead, from what I could tell, budgets kept shrinking, and vacated jobs weren't filled, leaving less people to do the same, or more, work. Under the recently re-branded Nielsen, things may—or may not—improve, but the sense from within the company is that all the private equity people are really interested in, is, understandably, Nielsen itself, a cash-cow and near monopoly. (After all, the powers-that-be renamed the company Nielsen, which is evidence enough.) Impossible to say what will happen of course, but both Adweek and Ad Age will be better off with each other than without each other.


Anonymous said...

Adweek has absolutely no editorial direction and hasn't had one for at least two years. Time for new blood at the top of the magazine.

George Parker said...

Brilliant post. I am doing a post on AdScam complimenting you on it. I think this is a sadly neglected subject we should jointly explore in greater depth.

Anonymous said...

The old expression “they are one and the same” is now often mangled into the
roughly phonetic equivalent “one in the same.”

Happy mangling.

Catharine P. Taylor said...

Sorry about the spam above...blogger doesn't make it easy to delete comments or I'm missing something!

Thanks to George!

Tom Messner said...

Interesting comments.
But is it not possible to dump the sans-serif reverse typeface that would make even Hemingway unreadable.
Sans-serif is bad enough for long
copy--longer than 500 words--but reversing it only is torturous.
It is funny that writers succumb to digital designers.

Catharine P. Taylor said...

I hear ya Tom. I'll get on it as soon as I get a new babysitter. You're not available, are you? Kidding.

Alan Wolk said...

The rap on both pubs, for as long as I can remember, is that Adweek was for creatives and Ad Age was for account and media types.

Coverage used to net out that way, and if you look at the home pages of both pubs, Adweek is far more likely to feature the hiring of a new CD while Ad Age is more likely to feature something about Zenith Media.

Digitally, they've gone in different directions:

Adweek's done Adfreak, which is a compliation-style blog, a la Adrants: they've got new and interesting/unusual work with some sort of snarky commentary. Sort of a daily edition of Archive without the German Penis Ads. But the video is all links or hosted on Tim Nudd's YouTube page.
Oh, and it's free.

AdAge has AdCritic, which is a much more comprehensive site (that they bought from its creator that functions as a sort of advertising-only YouTube: there's no editorial voice.

But it's a pay site and that's given it a more limited audience (though they recently redesigned the site and made all new content free for the first 7 days, an interesting experiment.)

What's most interesting to me is whether the online versions will eclipse the offline ones and what the actual online versions ( and will choose to emphasize.

PS: email me and I can explain how to remove spam comments. It's actually pretty easy.

Anonymous said...

Just for clarification, my comment to AdScam was to highlight motivations.

Nielsen and VNU, corporately, have a great deal to gain from self-promoting the adverati. AdAge/Crain have less to gain.

Sadly, no one compares or discusses business results: ad pages sold, VNU ads vs. edit coverage (hmm, correlation anyone?), sentiment of coverage, or any other KPI's. We just discuss the gossip levels.

Buying an ad page in either book IMHO has more to do with relationships & sponsorship than it does market impact, audience delivery, or market influence.

Gosh, what I really miss about the Ad Game are those invitations to Time's 100 Most Beautiful People dinners for the adverati, now all we've got are pictures from Cannes...

Tom Messner said...

Back to the real issue here: babysitters.
The two best babysitters we ever had went on to be successful creative directors at significant agencies.
My own babysitting skill is with pre-toddlers...under 11 months.