EXCLUSIVE: In my opinion, this is a necessary step if the financially beleaguered trades are going to survive the current economic downturn. Even if advertising does pick up for other media outlets. Because the contraction in the entertainment industry, and the change to a no-frills attitude regarding lavish awards advertising, has permanently hurt the trades which in turn have tried to staunch the bleeding by massive layoffs. (On a personal note, no matter how hard I compete with Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, I’d hate to see either trade disappear from the showbiz landscape. Too many people work there, and too many people need the niche content.) That said, I’ve known that Variety spent 6 months intensely studying all its options. Now toppers Neil Stiles and Brian Gott have decided to go to a paid strategy right after the first of the year. That means the website will no longer be free. So online and print content will both be subscriber-based. Exactly which combination of content and services will be offered has yet to be determined. But this is being done in recognition of the sad fact that, ever since Variety pulled back that paywall in 2006 (back when all that mattered was traffic numbers at the expense of subscription dollars), the trade has lost a ton of money. Meanwhile, sources tell me that The Hollywood Reporter is about to dump its daily print version. The date considered was October 16th, but now that’s been moved back. So this means THR will pursue a paid web-only strategy for its content. (Though I’ve heard certain special issues will be published from time to time, including awards coverage.) If THR scraps its print edition as planned, then Variety might see its print subscriptions pick up.
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