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Janice Min's Revamped THR: Is it Working?

by Anne Thompson
May 31, 2011 2:07 AM
7 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

While many Hollywood insiders are happy with Janice Min's revamped weekly print edition of The Hollywood Reporter, and the site's online traffic continues to surge, I still wonder about the underlying economics of the whole enterprise. (The NYT's David Carr basically drinks the Koolaid.) Both former Us Weekly editrix Min and former Vanity Fair exec Richard Beckman come from the world of high circulation New York glossy magazines and luxury advertising. That's the model they are chasing.

But small circulation, inside-Hollywood-beltway trades are another matter, and may require, in this day and age, lower overhead than THR is trying to maintain.

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More: Media

7 Comments

  • Anne Thompson | June 1, 2011 3:24 AMReply

    I couldn't agree with you more about the right direction to go: lean and mean with a robust online presence. But it's easier to grow that kind of site organically from the ground up--say, the wrap, deadline or indiewire--than to take a big corporate entity and squeeze it down to a fraction of its former size. Thus THR's new owners made the trade bigger--on a weekly print model.

    The trick is that while a small circulation trade gets a premium for print ads targeted at high income influential movers and shakers, way more than its tiny circulation would suggest, even a website with high traffic sells online ads at a relatively low CPM. Oscar and Emmy ads do sell at a premium, but online cannot support a large organization.

    I like the THR print edition, but it is designed to sell luxury ads. And like V Life, the real cost of print production and distribution vs. ad return may not support the scale of organization needed to produce the publication.

    Yes, if it were me I'd go lean and online. But that's easier said than done.

  • ag | June 1, 2011 2:24 AMReply

    got it. online sources do that, but not 3-5k words. but, i read the online stuff and, really, it's not on the level of say a life magazine piece (back in the day) or a nyt magazine story. website pieces are much more superficial, usually. often, the writing is not quite there. it's okay, but it can be utilitarian rather than get-under-your-skin compelling. there's no photography or video. the pieces don't jump off the page. plus, being shorter, there's far less to get invested in.

    so, begs the question. if thr weekly on paper can (hypothetically) make it work despite the associated costs then an online outlet could make it work better. no? that's what i'm not grasping. if one model succeeds, the other should do better because the overhead is lower.

    can you not, with a small staff, produce in-depth pieces and post them online? if not, what's stopping you/them? if it can't be done, well...why?

    continuing the hypothetical (and if you're rolling your eyes cause i'm just that dumb, i fully understand), with traditional papers and magazines folding left and right, isn't there a pool of talented, experienced, trained reporters who are looking for work, who could step up, do just one in-depth piece a week on, say, an indie producer with a project to promote or a waiter who does auditions on weekends or some actor who reminisces about making movies in the 70s?

    and, if hiring a former (nyt, wsj, lat) reporter is no-go cause of the cost, well, there must be people already on staff that could handle it.

    if you ran pieces like that, say 3-4 times a month, wouldn't traffic spike? wouldn't ad revenue follow suit? and, wouldn't it all come in cheaper because you're not printing stacks of paper magazines and shipping them out every week. if this model is doable, why not go for it.

    as for print ads being higher value -- this doesn't add up. if circulation is low an advertiser does not pay a lot to run an ad. so, if thr magazine has very limited circulation how does it follow that their ads are higher value? i mean, this isn't time magazine in 1960. print ads have run at a premium in decades past but is that still the case?

    with an online presence the ads may cost less but don't they produce revenue every time the page is viewed? so -- lots of page views, lots of income, albeit at a lower return per click.

    besides, if the stories were that hot, then the online ads would become higher value comparable to print ads.

    the world is changing fast. traditional media is shuttering all around us. sooner or later there won't be any print ads.

    the idea may have been far fetched years ago, but one day it will be par for the course. isn't it a question of who gets there first, who produces quality, who gets the traffic?

  • Drew | May 31, 2011 8:54 AMReply

    It's interesting -- the new print version is essentially what Variety was trying to do with VLife. However, VLife collapsed due to a high overhead and the fact that Reed Business didn't want to wait for a return on its investment. What the Hollywood Reporter has going for it, is that subscribers are literally subscribing to it, it's not just some supplement.

  • Anne Thompson | May 31, 2011 7:50 AMReply

    many online sources do that, including indiewire, though not at that length. you have to have a small staff to cover your overhead on online ads alone.

  • ag | May 31, 2011 4:47 AMReply

    nyt story says the magazine is hot among la pros. getting on the cover is the new thing. (michael bay and james cameron made a recent cover along with a long-form piece on them and 3D).

    if they can keep that up seems like people would buy it. could become must-read. but, how many copies would that be? who outside la would read this? how much sales/ad revenue would that generate?

    seems like they should have enough talent around to put up an in-depth 3000 word piece every week. i'd love that. there's so many people in the industry with stories to tell. so much going on both on a pro level, and a personal level.

    if they produced one really good 3-5k word piece/week along with great pix they might become of general interest across the country.

    still, it's a tough sell. those zines, with that thick glossy paper, are really expensive. cost a lot to mail cause they're so heavy. you have to commit to a subscription, which costs more than most people are in a mindset to pay these days.

    lot working against it. would love to see it work, though. love that style of journalism. there's the sense the reporter had access, did a professional job, delivered the goods on people you want to know about. i don't see that online. newspapers don't do that. i guess if you looked at several sources you might could cobble together stories like that but it's not available in one place.

    ps -- so. occurs to me that there's no reason why an in-depth piece, 3-5k words, can't be done online every week. is there? if there ain't why doesn't someone jump on that. if thr can give it a shot with all the overhead that comes with producing a weekly magazine (on expensive paper) why doesn't someone do the same thing online, without the overhead.

    why doesn't thr do that? doesn't ad revenue from online sites support the effort? if you cut overhead, lose the paper magazine, move the longform stories online, and it works, you get hits/reads, won't the ad revenue follow?

  • Anne Thompson | May 31, 2011 2:55 AMReply

    If they did that they'd lose the higher value print ads that sustain the entire enterprise. They'd have to move to the WAY SMALLER deadline/indiewire model.

  • Jeff | May 31, 2011 2:33 AMReply

    Who likes the magazine!? It's an oversized, out-of-date-by-the-time-it-hits-newstands Entertainment Weekly. Completely worthless. However, the new site is fantastic. Ditch the print and continue to expand the site.

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