Thursday, April 10, 2008

More on 'Adweek': no layoffs, not a lotta traffic

So, you probably heard by now that Nielsen Business Media laid off a bunch yesterday—around 50 people, though the company isn't confirming the specifics. I was more or less out of pocket yesterday and not up to my usual spelunking to find out more. Here's what I've heard, none of which Nielsen would confirm—there were no editorial layoffs at Adweek and Mediaweek, at least one at Brandweek and the Web editor's job at Editor & Publisher. (That was reported yesterday by Mediabistro's Fishbowl NY.) In addition, no open positions will be filled with one exception: the Adweek editor's post, which Alison Fahey is expected to vacate soon for a publisher/editorial director's role at Adweek magazine.

Given the news out of my former employer yesterday, it seemed a good time to see how the relaunch—which was unveiled on Feb. 4—has been going, so I checked in with and Alexa to see what traffic they were reporting. What I found was troubling. The flat-to-down results are below, with Ad Age used as a comparison (granted that brand's mission is larger than Adweek's is, but the graphs look a little naked alone).

Here's what has to stay on traffic over the last year:

And from Alexa over the last three months:

Whatever source you use, you'd expect to see a bump there, wouldn't you? Through a spokesperson, Sabrina Crow, who heads the marketing and media books, said, "For us in terms of the success of the launch, we were up in revenue and up in online subscriptions ... those are the metrics that count for us."


Brian Morrissey said...

Hmm, do the graphs look "naked" alone, or is it that the Adweek-only graph shows UVs up 62% YOY? That wouldn't support your hypothesis, so you to compare us a much larger property. That flattens outs what's actually a chart showing healthy growth. It's a common, if not very fair, trick. Check it out:

I don't think you can draw conclusions from the relaunch with a month's worth of data. The Compete figure's end in March.

Anonymous said...

And everyone in Jonestown thought the Kool-Aid was delicious.

Anonymous said...

And everyone in Heaven's Gate thought their Nikes were cool.

Catharine P. Taylor said...

Ok guys. can we play nice now? thanks.

Brian Morrissey said...

Hey Jack,
That's clever and super original. I pointed out that the chart is misleading. Is it not? Correct me if I'm wrong.


Brian Morrissey said...

And moreover, Jack, why are you so bitter? Obviously, you left Adweek on bad terms. You leave that out of your columns and comments taking potshots at us. In fact, it's left out of all the commentary from those with axes to grind. Why don't we call a spade a shovel: you actively want to see Adweek fail because you got run out of the place.

If I seem a bit put off, it's because I am. You might think your snide comments and hopes for Adweek's demise are just directed at one person you feel wronged you. Yet they're not. They're directed at me and my colleagues, who I know to be hard-working and diligent professionals. You even know and worked with many of them. Move on with your life, dude.

Anonymous said...

Guess we’re not going to acknowledge Catharine’s request, huh? Anyway, I’ll throw in my two cents here (and I feel qualified to do so since I subscribed to Ad Age and Adweek for well over a decade, and follow both publications via their online formats).

I might have said this before, when Catharine asked for input when the new site launched. But the biggest challenge facing Adweek has to do with content and relevance. All the widgets and charts and design don’t mean shit if the content isn’t significantly better or different than the competitors. And the competition has actually expanded. That is, for advertising news, I can actually find more of interest via Adverganza and Adrants than Adweek. Yes, Adweek still has a few quality draws (Lippert and maybe one or two other columnists). But it’s not enough to make me want to visit even a few times a week. Plus, folks like Lippert are essentially posting their columns—Adweek is not maximizing the Web’s potential. Not even close.

Like it or not, Ad Age is kicking Adweek’s ass because they are maximizing the Web. There are multiple blogs to attract tribes of visitors. They do online surveys and videos (which they really need to improve, but at least they’re trying). Adweek used to be the hipper Pepsi to Ad Age’s Coke persona. But now Coke is hipper and has more swagger than the upstart.

Even Adfreak has lost its uniqueness. Adrants beats them with more and better news flashes. Adscam, Copyranter and Agency Spy beat them with better attitude. You’ll find more thoughtful and entertaining content at Adpulp, Make The Logo Bigger, The Toad Stool and Where’s My Jetpack?

(This also goes back to content versus design and format. Adrants, Adscam and Copyranter get lots of visitors, despite having simple—and even cookie-cutter—formats. Any ad person will confirm that a brilliant designer can polish a turd, but in the end, it’s still a turd; conversely, great content with mediocre or even bad design will still get attention.)

Given all the online choices, people only have so much time to “subscribe” to a site. Adweek isn’t offering enough to interest me.

It’s too bad, because I like a lot of the folks involved with the enterprise. And it seems like only 5-6 years ago, there was no contest between Adweek and Ad Age (Adweek was the superior). Others have claimed the downfall has a lot to do with management and money. That may be true, but it shouldn’t prohibit a revolution from taking place. Adweek should consider recruiting new content people and writers. Go freelance Bill Green or Toad or Jetpacks or Danny G. Folks like Joker or the Daily (ad)Biz writer could start to appeal to new (i.e., younger audiences).

Sorry, the person who insisted “subscriptions are up” is missing the big picture. And Morrissey teeing off on haters doesn’t really solve anything either. Y’all need to go into a conference room and start papering the walls with ideas.

But that’s just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

pardon any typos in my previous statements. thanks.

Anonymous said...

one more thing. i listed a bunch of ad bloggers as potential contributors for adweek's online content. you ought to bring in more digital people. talentzoo has been letting digital executives write columns. adweek should do more of that too.

Anonymous said...

REPORTER: What do you think is happening to the team?

RICHARDSON: The ship be sinking.

REPORTER: How far can it sink?

RICHARDSON: Sky's the limit.

Brian Morrissey said...

Sure, Adweek can improve. It's imperfect, pretty much like anything in life. I solicit feedback on Adweek from so many sources -- in person, via email, on Twitter, wherever. My only point was that it's odd for ex-colleagues to root for our demise, since they're essentially hoping people they used to work with don't succeed. It gets tiresome to see this again and again. I'm all for constructive criticism and feedback. Thanks for yours.

I think the ad blogs do a fine job. I don't think Adrants does what Adweek or AdAge does. They're just different. We'll never compete with Agency Spy, Copyranter or AdScam on "attitude." They do that well enough.

As for opening up more to new voices, I think that's something we're doing, maybe not as much or as fast as we could. We've had Bob Greenberg as a columnist for a while. Benjamin Palmer and Joe Jaffe are now columnists. We have contributed pieces from Ian Schafer (Deep Focus), Daniel Stein (EVB) and David Armano (Critical Mass) teed up. For the past year, I've included a section in the daily IQ Newsletter that links out to interesting blog posts, written by the very people you cite. This is giving the same weight to stuff written on blogs as Adweek articles. That's a step. I'd like to expand this to the site in order to link more with the ad blogs, since places like Agency Spy tend to use our stories as fodder fairly often anyway.

I'm in complete agreement that it's a content game. That's why I think the focus on the relaunch is silly. A new Web site doesn't really mean much of anything. It's about what's on the site. People don't go to, or AdRants for the Flash module. It's up to us to create good content.

Feel free to email me with any other thoughts: bmorrrissey AT

Alan Wolk said...

@anonymous: While I appreciate the compliments and vote of confidence, I can't say I share your perception of how AdAge and Adweek stack up against each other.

I find the AdAge site generally tougher to navigate and I don't like the fact that their columns/blogs don't allow for comments unless you're registered, which leads to a less robust conversation.

I subscribe to both publications and get email updates from them on breaking news stories, which usually satisfies my fix for that sort of stuff.

Adfreak has ups and downs like any blog, but is something I read daily.

Brian Morrissey does a great job covering the digital space- he actually makes it his business to know the players and that's reflected in his reporting.

I mean yeah, there's a long list of things I'd like to fix on Adweek, and I like reading Jonah Bloom over at Ad Age, but I guess my point is that I don't see a clear slam dunk.

The idea of paying lots of money to someone like that brilliant stylist Toad is a brilliant one however, and deserves to be explored further.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note, if you don't want to spend lots of money on that brilliant stylist Toad you can always spend a medium amount of money on the "appealing to a younger audience" Daily Biz.

As for the meat of the argument, I'll stay on the sidelines for the moment...

Anonymous said...


Don’t disagree with some of your comments. But I stand by the “ does a better job of maximizing the Web than” Yes, commenting for registered people only is a pain in the ass. But doesn’t let you comment at all on stories. is more interactive and inviting. Granted, it’s not night and day between the two sites, but Ad Age is moving forward better and faster. If I tried to simplify the notion, it would be to say that Adweek is essentially posting their magazine online, while Ad Age is creating an interactive experience (or at least Ad Age is trying to do it).

I don’t think Adweek is doing a good enough job of presenting characters and experiential content. Whether you like the players or not, Ad Age is filled with distinct characters, from Bloom and Wheaton to Garfield and all the bloggers. I would bet that people go to Ad Age for specific people; that is, they love Garfield, and may have no idea that columnists like, say, Bart Cleveland, even exist. But that’s ok, because the industry is so fragmented that it’s impossible to think you can serve up one thing that everyone will love. In that sense, Ad Age has become an online network of sorts. People can tap the programming that appeals to them.

I’ve never understood why Adfreak is separate from Adweek. Why not just merge the two? It’s almost like Adweek is CNN while Adfreak is SNL Weekend Update. But that’s a sidebar discussion.

I never meant to imply that there is any “slam dunk” in this scenario. It’s just that Adweek is no longer playing in the big leagues in certain areas. They have lost their swagger. They are not distinct and unique. I’ll go back to the Coke and Pepsi comparison—and even say it’s like McDonald’s vs. Burger King. The burger wars are more intense and complicated; but Burger King has been able to stage a rebirth by creating a personality/platform/audience. Adweek needs to do likewise.

But that’s just my opinion.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

“...the "appealing to a younger audience" Daily Biz.” lol

And I’ll say thanks to any Anon comments that give my blog props that I didn’t have to first pay for. ;-p

One solution to help the bigger picture though is the inclusion of different voices into the fold, and not just young ones.

Two new blogs that came out recently highlight this: Ad Broad and the girl Riot. Two different ends of the same ad spectrum, but both POVs no less relevant—except to the close-minded who only think youth is important.

AdRants just brought in new voices as did Agency Spy too. While it’s easy to inject a dose of youthful energy/anger for the traffic spike, there still has to be more than that though. From what I’ve read so far, they’ve been able to pull it off. This is good, no?

Otherwise, you can’t have the same house whine for 20 years talking about the same spots.

You can look at a few pubs and say they’ve included opinions from differing voices. Yes. Problem is, it’s just more of the same from the upper echelon at major shops, all rehashing old issues in tired ways. The bloggers I like are people in the trenches, and that to me is one possible segment to go after to grow a future audience.

Many of us also critique stuff and raise the questions the way we would if we were in the brainstorm sessions, so it’s not just a few angry people venting. Although I admit, that can be overlooked when you’re watching one of those Shatner vids.

This is one of the main reasons ad bloggers have flourished though. They have too many targets to rant about and are tired with what they see in the biz, while media pubs have spent too much time fortifying their entrenched positions.

I’m not going to get into an us vs. them thing though, nor is it about ways to improve and single pub either, but one stupid little thing I've noticed on many media/ad sites should be addressed:

It shouldn’t be hard to leave a comment, or to sign-in, or delete/edit that comment. Only one ad blog/site lets you do it, and that’s Adholes. If you can’t get basic stuff like that right, how can you expect to engage and foster an audience?

Anon's comments about alternative voices highlights another key difference: major publications speak too much to the industry and offer little to no entertainment value. You don’t always talk biz 24/7 with someone, yet, this is what I see pubs doing all the time.

Sure, industry people/brand side are the majority of readers here and other places, but why not broaden the approach? I’m sure some readers think a CMO of Sears talking about how 'mobile is going to be really huge next year” is sexy. (Wait, scratch that, Sears?)

Why not add some extra stuff that goes beyond a weekly column? (Email me for details. ;-p)

Watch what’s happening in the social media space. A network of friends support each other, which in turn grows the whole thing even more.

Here, seems like only ad bloggers get along with other ad bloggers and the pubs go at it tooth and nail.

With all the talk about how people are ‘engaging’ with brands differently these days, why not reflect or at least respond to that changing audience?

Anonymous said...


I agree with your comments. I didn't mean to imply Adweek only needs young voices. New voices will suffice. The truth is, they have writers on staff capable of delivering new voices. Somebody just needs to let them loose.