As newspapers struggle for readers and hand experienced entertainment journalists their walking papers, ex-NYT reporter Sharon Waxman thinks she has the answer for a new kind of online journalism. Backed by $500,000 in seed investment, Waxman plans to launch The Wrap News in January. "It's an entertainment and media site," she said, "covering movies and TV and eventually, music, and new media and the intersection with technology. It will cover the business and the culture of the entertainment industry."
Wasn't that the late lamented experiment in web journalism, Inside.com, founded by Kurt Anderson and Michael Hirschorn, which back in 2001 tried to apply an old-world journalism paradigm to the fast-breaking web world and drowned in red ink? It helps to remember that the wildly successful The Huffington Post, while it boasts support staff, still doesn't pay most of its myriad bloggers a dime. They blog for the exposure--and to send readers back to their own sites.
Waxman, who has dipped her toe in the digital world via her small Waxword blog, insisted that The Wrap will be "starting small. We will be hiring reporters and putting a staff together but we don't know how many."
While The wrap will have a presence in L.A. and New York, Waxman said, for the first year The Wrap's offices will be "virtual. We will build our way up to an office once we we get revenues going." It seems optimistic to expect to swiftly build enough traffic to drive enough online ads to fund a fully-staffed operation.
Waxman's private non-industry investors did not want to be identified, she said.
Waxman and her unnamed partners have hired a web developer. "We will be using all the tools of the web to deliver news and analysis and features," she said. "And we'll invite creative people from the Hollywood community and our readers and users to generate content." They will likely be invited to write Huffington-Post-style blogs, Waxman said.
"With digital media, things go in stages," Waxman said. "I don't want to bite off more than we can chew on day one. It's iterative. We'll make mistakes. What's at the core is high-quality authoritative journalism, enhanced by people from the community who contribute to the news process." As opposed to Tina Brown's aggregation approach, Waxman pointed out, The Wrap is going for "original content. There are few online places doing original reporting. This is our opportunity to seize."
The online entertainment space is getting crowded. Forbes Media is backing Public Post, a new aggregation news site.
And as the fortunes of the old-media print magazine world continue to slide downward--with newstand top-seller Cosmopolitan magazine's circulation declining by 6 percent, and of the other top-ten sellers, only People and In Style gaining any circulation-- it's no surprise that two former doyennes of magazine journalism are moving webward. Tina Brown and Bonnie Fuller are both prepping the launch of their respective online entertainment sites. But the LAT wonders if these print refugees will be savvy enough to navigate the fast-moving web world:
Many Web seers predict that Digg‚Äôs popularity-contest model will ultimately triumph over hand-edited, sensibility-driven sites like Brown‚Äôs. But Huffington expressed a sentiment common to those who have taken the Web plunge: ‚ÄúOne of the best things about the new media is that it‚Äôs not a zero-sum game. The more sites there are offering smart, compelling content, the more people will get their news, opinion, and entertainment online.‚Äù She had just one piece of advice for the web upstarts, as they leave behind the more human-scaled rhythms of the print world: ‚ÄúBe prepared to move quickly!‚Äù
UPDATE: Here's our expanded Variety story.
The full The Wrap press release is on the jump:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE WRAP NEWS CLOSES SEED ROUND
Hollywood News and Information Network,
Led by Sharon Waxman, Readies January 2009 Launch
LOS ANGELES, CA, August 11, 2008 ‚Äì The Wrap News LLC announces the completion of a round of seed funding of $500,000.
Based in Los Angeles and New York, The Wrap News is a news and information network covering the entertainment and media industries that will be available on multiple platforms. It will begin with an online presence at thewrapnews.com, in coordination with editorial partners, in January 2009.
Led by nationally renowned journalist Sharon Waxman, the former Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times, the site will be anchored by other top journalists in the fields of entertainment and media.
Using the Web, they will marry top-quality journalism in real time with social networking functions to build a premium community of users that interacts with reporters and the news that affects their lives. The Wrap News will feature both original news content and aggregated news from around the Web, as well as user-generated content.
The Wrap News will build the best, most dynamic, most valuable and most discerning community of entertainment professionals, influencers and enthusiasts on the Web.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre very excited about the opportunity that the Web has presented us at a time when newspapers are struggling,‚Äù said Waxman. ‚ÄúThe Wrap News will fill a gaping space on the entertainment landscape for smart, sophisticated news and analysis, enhanced by the contributions of an incredibly talented community ‚Äì entertainment and media insiders and those who are passionate about those worlds.‚Äù
About The Wrap News LLC:
The Wrap News LLC is a news and information network that will deliver high-quality, original news content covering the entertainment and media industries, while connecting the global community of entertainment professionals, influencers and enthusiasts.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]