Art & Commerce: Back to the Future

The Internet is exploding, and I’m joining the revolution
Would you believe that once upon a time there was a daily advertising newsletter, four pages in total, that was dropped in bulk every day on the doorsteps of major advertising agencies in New York?
I can hardly believe it myself, even though I was its editorial assistant only 10 years ago. Called Adweek’s Ad Day, we produced it in a down-at-its-heels loft space in the Flatiron district, before the area became populated by the digerati and rechristened Silicon Alley.
For me, Ad Day wasn’t necessarily the best journalism idea, even when we tested a faxed version that eliminated one of the product’s problems–the need to have it physically delivered on time, every day. But it was a way for me to get a foot in the door at Adweek.
Six months after I joined the company, Ad Day folded–amid many sighs of relief in the newsroom. I was assigned a reporting post at Adweek, and for years, no one revisited whether a trade magazine should be publishing daily advertising and media stories again.
Now I’m leaving Adweek all these years later to get into the Internet business. And although I have no plans to start my own online advertising daily–Adweek does a fine job of that at–you could make the argument that I’m leaving because Ad Day, as it turns out, was a really good idea. It was just ahead of its time.
Certainly, it’s fashionable these days to do what I’m doing.
But when I came to this decision, after spending half my career at Adweek reporting and editing stories about the Internet, it wasn’t because “going Internet” is the cool thing to do, like buying this season’s must-have pair of shoes or becoming a Yankees fan because everyone else is.
It is because of my fascination with how the Internet makes previously untenable ideas suddenly possible.
Ideas large and small–such as a community where people can discuss their passion for 1960s Thunderbirds, or a site where visitors can mix their own music, or a service that emails you when a book you might like is in stock at a particular e-commerce site–proliferate.
That fascination with all things Internet has finally gotten the better of me. When you cover this beat, you are talked at–to the point of exhaustion–by people who all believe they have a great idea. It can be numbing, but as my decision illustrates, listening to people’s brains at work is exhilarating most of the time.
Yet when you stop to think about it, the only thing separating their ideas from previous flights of business-minded fancy–like Ad Day– is that the Internet has made this the ideal time to think big.
So it’s the right time for me to have my big idea, my chance to participate in the Internet revolution.
Yes, I’m sure I’ll miss covering it. The ringside seat has been truly wonderful. But there’s too much going on for me not to step into the circus’ center ring. Just ask anyone who files stories about the Internet on a daily basis.
Ad Day. What a big idea. K