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Van Hoven, Out (But For Real This Time)

Dear Readers,

Today is my last day as the Editor of AgencySpy.com. Effective immediately, Kiran Aditham will take over as the site’s full time Editor &#151 a role he’s more than prepared for after a year of co-editing on a freelance basis.

He has great reporting experience, running Adotas where he worked for two-and-a-half years and later as a reporter for Creativity. He’s also a good friend and, when it comes to writing, a well-oiled machine.

If you’re interested, after the jump I’ll tell you a little story about how this all came to be.


I came to New York in 2007, chasing a girl I met about a year before in Wisconsin. Back in those days I was writing toilet installation manuals for Kohler, serving tables, and acting as the Milwaukee ad club’s intern. I spent six months at a small agency doing whatever they needed before packing up to move east &#151 I had no job, money or career aspirations other than a desire to write. This is not a unique story. It is a happy one though &#151 that girl and I are getting hitched in August.

I did, however, get a few opportunities to put pen to paper. First for Zootoo.com, a start-up-everything-pet site that wanted me to write four stories a day. The economy tanked and after nine months I was laid off. Unemployment. Harlem. Girlfriend’s couch. Lame.

On a lark I sent my resume mediabistro, which needed a stringer for their infamous AgencySpy blog. I read it top to bottom, realized I was in way over my head, and applied anyway. Soon after, the main blogger SuperSpy (back then the writers were anonymous) and my boss announced that I’d be taking over*. I was still freelance, but had the blog to myself most of the time. And holy shit did I suck.

Luckily, half our readers made a point to tell me how bad I was. As did my friend (can I call you that?) George Parker. I’m sure he’ll have something to say about all this, too, but don’t let him fool you &#151 he’s a kind man at heart. Point being: the readers did not like me, and they were vocal about it. To their credit, they had every right to be. Even today there are nuances to the business I don’t understand because I’m on the outside.

But that criticism, as harsh as it was, was formative. It forced me to get better, bolder, and push back at the agencies that wouldn’t listen or chose to ignore me. Soon the layoffs began and stories rolled in about agencies’ poor layoff practices. In many cases, people found out they were getting let go from us before their managers were able to tell them. That’s not a proud memory, but a reality just the same. I think we helped agencies learn to be transparent &#151 for whatever it’s worth.

And over time I met more of you. I learned about the people who do this, and worked to turn things up a notch. What good were we if we didn’t evolve, at least a little? We turned from layoff news to topics like Lemonade, pension funds, social media, transparency &#151 all based on your concerns. From time to time we covered the pseudo-scandal that sometimes infects the business. It suited our goal, which was to be a listening tool for the industry. We’re as imperfect as the business itself. It’s with that in mind that I leave you today. AgencySpy needs Kiran’s leadership. I’ve taken it as far as I can. Tomorrow, it will be better than it is right now.

When I started, we were just a gossip blog. Today we routinely break stories and keep you up on the latest work, people moves, and industry banter. We are advertising’s locker room &#151 and a must read. I can’t complain.

Advertising’s most respected scribe, Stuart Elliott, has more on my departure at the New York TimesMediaDecoder. But for now I just wanted to take a second and thank you all for reading. For sharing your tips. For shouting at us when we were off. For helping create a lively forum. You’ve built a community here, and that means something, to me anyway.

I’d like to thank mediabistro.com Editorial Director Chris Ariens for taking a chance on me, SuperSpy for everything, and Tribble’s Roger Wehbe for being there from the very beginning. He’s also an SEO/SEM/semantic-web demi-god, if you need such services.

Thank you,

Matt Van Hoven

PS: a few administrative things. Kiran is taking over the agencyspy[at]gmail[dot]com address as well as the Twitter feed and tips line (212.547.7935). If you want to stay in touch, you can find me on LinkedIn, @vanhoven on the Twitters or mvanhoven[@]skinnynyc.com.

*There was another writer, OntheDownLow, who lived in the UK and left the blog after suffering a hand injury. He pens for Tribble now and then.

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