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Media Watch: A Rocky Year for Hollywood Trades

by Anne Thompson
February 4, 2010 1:22 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

A lot has changed in the last year for the Hollywood trades.

A year ago, Variety began a series of lay-offs (several years after the THR started trimming staff), including me. Long-time editor Peter Bart moved to being a columnist/blogger, while Tim Gray took over his post.

Also a year ago, ex-Variety exec Jennifer Wilhelmi Sargent and ex-LAT staffer Gregory Ellwood founded Hitfix. And ex-NYT reporter Sharon Waxman launched online trade The Wrap.

Changes continued at Variety. Reed Business CEO Tad Smith left, as well as a series of well-paid Variety editors (Michael Speier, Kathy Lyford and Phil Gallo), while LAT veteran Leo Wolinsky came in to run the Daily. And Variety publisher Neil Stiles, questioning the paper's future, finally moved the beleaguered trade toward a pay wall.

Meanwhile, Nielsen sold The Hollywood Reporter to new owners. Online mogul Jay Penske rebooted Movieline and acquired Deadline Hollywood. Like many newspapers, the LAT was in a tailspin, chronically laying off staffers. And I relaunched TOH at indieWIRE, SnagFilms' thriving New York-based online trade aimed at the smart movie sector.

Where do we stand a year later? Who's where, who's up and who's down?

Paid Content recently ran Ken Sonenclar's analysis of the trade landscape, which I do not entirely agree with. Sonenclar writes that Variety had no choice but to go behind its pay wall--yes, if it wanted to stay at its current size and pay-scale. I'm more in sync with one of his commenters, who points out that overhead and online revenues are key factors in the equation. Variety is still too big to survive if it doesn't make drastic changes, but I am not sure they care about adapting to the ways of the online world. It makes sense that they are retreating to a world-view they understand.

Meanwhile, while the The Wrap and Deadline Hollywood are growing traffic, they are also adding overhead and staff which are tough to sustain with current online advertising rates. If the new owners of The Hollywood Reporter are savvy about online (their staff already gets blogs and online marketing more than Variety does), they could well endure and thrive as a leaner, meaner online entity.

Over the past few years, as entertainment writers and editors have moved from one venue to another, where did they land? Here's a survey.

The LAT: Ex-Variety staffer Ben Fritz, ex-Hollywood Reporter editor Gina McIntyre (now deputy film editor) and THR reporter Steven Zeitchik. They've hired entertainment beat reporters, and boast of surging online traffic.

The Wrap: Ex-Variety reporters Joe Adalian and Daniel Frankel, ex-LA Weekly columnist Steven Mikulan.

EW: Ex-THR reporter Nicole Sperling.

Gawker: Ex-Variety staffer Gabriel Snyder.

New York Vulture: Ex-Variety, TMZ and Ad Week staffer Claude Brodesser-Akner.

HollywoodNews.com: Ex-LAT staffer Robert Welkos.

THR: Ex-Variety editor Elizabeth Guider, ex-LAT columnist Jay Fernandez.

The Daily Beast: Ex-W editor Gabe Doppelt, ex-LAT editor Kate Arthur, ex-Variety reporter Nicole LaPorte, ex-NPR correspondent Kim Masters, ex-NYT critic Caryn James.

Deadline Hollywood: Ex-Variety star Michael Fleming, who still plies his trade from his New York home-office, but now throws his scoops up online faster, with less second-guessing and more visibility. By all accounts, he's enjoying a cordial phone relationship with his editor (and occasional LA Weekly columnist) Nikki Finke, who like most folks in the entertainment industry, he has never met.


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