Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Magazine comings and goings: Virgin's Project magazine leaves content agency Seven for new joint venture; the Wolff will no longer be at Adweek reader's door

The content agency Seven late last week announced that they will no longer be working with Virgin Digital Publishing on Project, the tablet-only magazine that garners quite a bit of attention, if not actual financial success.

Launched in November of last year, Project was, and hopefully will remain, a good example of the new platform with its use of cover animation, and inventive layouts and design.

Now, however, Project will be rolled up into the merged units of Virgin Digital Publishing and Other Edition Limited to form a new entity, Virgin Interactive Publishing.

Hopefully the new Project app, which incorporates Newsstand is not an example of the work that can be expected. The new app deletes all your previous purchases and, at least on a first generation iPad, crashes and just plan fails to work. Absolutely nothing ruins the reader relationship faster than releasing an untested, buggy app update that replaces a perfectly good earlier app.

In fact, one fears for this new joint venture. Other Edition recently launched 10 new Newsstand compliant apps into the App Store, all with drab, plain wrapper icons – about the most unattractive icons ever created. The magazine app descriptions range from full informative to just going through the motions. One wonders if Other Edition just couldn't be bothered or if this is some sort of statement of the company's esthetic (maybe an hommage to the days when porn was delivered in plain paper wrappers).

Prometheus Global Media announced Monday that Michael Wolff is, as rumored, leaving Adweek. Jim Edwards, writing for BNet has fun delivering the news, writing a beat down of Wolff that Wolff himself could have written. Edwards sees the irony but that doesn't stop him.

Wolff was a ridiculous choice as editor to begin with; a high profile Hail Mary attempt to make Adweek relevant again. The choice did yield a great redesign of the magazine. But it also resulted in a website redesign that, while attractive, looks like it was created for 80 year old ad executives with failing eyes. With my large display I can read the headline and maybe one sentence of any story due to the gigantic fonts used.

The Adweek under Wolff was well designed and did, in fact, contain some interesting stories, while its rival, Crain's run AdAge remains drab. But reading a column by Adweek's editor made clear that Wolff was completely out of his element. It helps if you actually like the industry you cover. Prometheus discovered this sad fact pretty quickly.

The biggest problem, though, with both Adweek and AdAge, is that they are run by companies woefully behind in their New Media efforts. Like Poynter, Folio, Editor & Publisher and other media industry publications, you don't see the advertising industry books leading the way in launching mobile and tablet publishing projects.