Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Some thoughts on the new Adweek.com

If you've read some of my previous posts about my former employer Adweek, than you're probably expecting me to rip the new Adweek site to shreds. But sorry folks, I'm not going to do that. The relaunched Web site, which went up over the weekend, isn't perfect, but it's loads better than what came before it. Even the biggest grousers out there have to admit that. The old home page, as the years went by, became more and more cluttered, as content had to be shoehorned into places it probably was never meant to go. The new Web site actually has white space and displays more content than the old site.

In fact, that's the site's biggest achievement--bringing more content to the home page. My frustrations with the old Adweek.com were almost endless (and I think those thoughts were shared by insiders and outsiders alike), but one of the most unfortunate things was that, if you cared to click on links to "creative", "digital," and so forth you'd actually find some good content, but you had to know the site backwards and forwards to find it. The old home page seemed capable of holding about four to five main stories, and a few links, many of which changed every couple of months, if that fast; the new one has 17 stories and or video streams, and a whole batch of headlines as well. It sounds like it should be a cluttered mess, but it's not. Also the nav bar at the top displays where more content lies if you mouse over it. A big improvement.

The publication has also cleaned up the morass that was the archive. I don't know how many people other than reporters have habitually used the archive, but I always felt the Web site probably lost loads of traffic because of a key fault: you could only get content for more than three months previous by using the "advanced search" option. How many people over the years simply thought that the story didn't exist in the archive, because it never occurred to them that the basic search option didn't go back any further?

Do I see faults in the site as it's presented today? Absolutely. As streaming video is the hot thing on Web sites right now, the appearance on the site is that there's very little video available. This actually isn't true--if you drill down far enough, you'll find that just like Ad Age, Adweek.com has full streams of all the Super Bowl spots, but it's hard to find. And the big video box, which features Tom Carroll, is only populated with his Q&A and an introduction to the new Adweek by editor Alison Fahey. It should have been far more populated at launch, and it should also include links to creative video there as well. The assumption on an advertising site, is that video, first and foremost, means ads, but for some reason the site treats video of ad exec talking heads as separate from creative. Second, there are several stories referencing Super Bowl ads, which either don't link to the specific spots or use a still to tell the story, such as this one for E*Trade. In 2008, you can't get away with that anymore. People expect they are going to be able to stream the spot the person is writing about right then and there. This may be easier to do on a blog, but it doesn't matter. You have to meet the consumer expectation on this.

At this stage, it's hard to see whether Adweek's expanded CGM (or is that agency-generated media?) gambit will work Among the site's new features is the ability to upload advertising content and critique it. Agencies can update their profiles on the site too.

But the site's biggest problem is that it's launching in 2008, rather than a few years ago. While the site is driving down generally the right road, the blogs, and Ad Age have been miles ahead for some time now. To invoke another metaphor, Adweek is playing catch-up ball and it may be too late in the game for the brand to come from behind. I've pasted a chart here from Alexa showing comparative traffic of adage.com, adweek.com and mediapost.com over the last three months. Can that gap be made up?


HighJive said...

OK, maybe it’s just a matter of having to get used to it, but here are some initial impressions.

While it’s visually cleaner, there isn’t a basic hierarchy. All the information appears to have equal weight, making nothing stand out. It also becomes tough to segregate the elements. In contrast, AdAge.com has a clearer hierarchy: the major stories are at the top and are physically larger; the lower you go, the smaller things become (again, creating an easier-to-digest hierarchy); the side bar features plenty of links with easy-to-follow categories, etc. The new Adweek site is too much. They should definitely rethink all the charts at the bottom—put them on a separate landing page. Overall, while it’s visually cleaner, it’s a lot of information that’s just shat on the page, so to speak.

The biggest issue with Adweek now boils down to the issue with all sites: content. Aside from the small handful of regulars (e.g., Lippert), there’s nothing there to make me want to regularly visit. Again, maybe it just takes time to get used to it, but the content is not appealing. Again, contrasting with AdAge.com, where there are lots of regular columnists and sections, Adweek seems, well, weak.

Anonymous said...

I read adweek for the cartoon and lippert.