NO MORE CRYING WOLFF: After weeks and weeks of speculation, AdWeek editorial director Michael Wolff is finally leaving the magazine. Additionally, Wolff’s managing editor, Hillary Frey, is joining Yahoo News as managing editor.
Less than two weeks ago, Prometheus chairman Jimmy Finkelstein told Wolff that his job was safe. An AdWeek source told WWD then: “Jimmy said he is not firing Michael and is confident they can work out their differences. Michael seems less confident.”
This story first appeared in the October 18, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Finkelstein said in a statement posted to AdWeek’s Web site on Monday: “We are grateful for Michael’s contribution to Adweek.” For his part, Wolff said in the same post, “I’ve had a fantastic time at Adweek.”
So ends a weeks-long saga where it was perfectly unclear — including to AdWeek staffers — if Wolff was staying or leaving.
Finkelstein said AdWeek executive editor and former Mediaweek editor Jim Cooper will take over day-to-day operations of running the magazine. AdWeek sources said that this will be on an interim basis and that Finkelstein will continue a search for Wolff’s successor. Finkelstein said Cooper is “well-equipped to guide the publication through this transition.” Cooper is expected to be a candidate for the permanent job as well.
The news was broken to the AdWeek staff Monday morning during what is usually a regularly scheduled editorial meeting. When Finkelstein walked into the conference room and took a seat at the head of the table — without any sign of Wolff — it seemed clear what was happening. Finkelstein, reading from a note, then broke the news to the edit staff.
The question is what happens to the trade publication now. Wolff himself outlined the problems at a panel discussion two weeks ago, saying, “I think there is, within our company, a discussion going on. And it’s a discussion about what this magazine should be. There’s one side which — I’m characterizing it and I’m sure these sides would characterize it differently — but one side which I think wants a magazine that tells a smaller story, the smaller story would be about the traditional advertising trade magazine story: Who’s winning what accounts? And then there’s another side which wants a larger story, which is the incredible transformation that’s going on in our business — the conflict between old and new, a riveting tale. I would not want me to tell the former story; the latter story, I think I’m a pretty good choice. There’s no decision within the company of which way to go. It’s a nervous time for everybody.”
It’s unclear which direction the magazine will go to now, but it’s safe to assume it’ll be something closer to the “winning what accounts” scenario. Finkelstein, owner of the trade The Hill, wants the magazine to be more trade-y, despite the fact the magazine is expected to be profitable this year.
Finkelstein and Cooper declined to comment Monday. Wolff did not respond to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment.