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Media Watch: Prometheus Global's Trade Struggles, Elle on THR's Min, Wolff Out at Adweek

Photo of Anne Thompson and Maggie Lange By Anne Thompson and Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood October 19, 2011 at 6:58AM

The Hollywood Reporter looks like it should be successful, with burgeoning traffic numbers and a healthy industry readership. But is it? In order to support a glossy weekly magazine, new editor Janice Min increased her staff and has managed to mix business with pleasure with newsy, readable copy online and in print. Clearly though, with the architect of owner Prometheus Global Media's original expansive business plan, freewheeling Richard "Mad Dog" Beckman (ex of Conde Nast), pushed out of the picture, and new THR publisher Lynne Segall returned to her old hunting grounds with a renewed focus on endemic advertising, Min's THR is doubling down on retaining its identity as a trade, as opposed to a celebrity magazine able to lure luxury ads.
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Thompson on Hollywood

The Hollywood Reporter looks like it should be successful, with burgeoning traffic numbers and a healthy industry readership. But is it? In order to support a glossy weekly magazine, new editor Janice Min increased her staff and has managed to mix business with pleasure with newsy, readable copy online and in print. Clearly though, with the architect of owner Prometheus Global Media's original expansive business plan, freewheeling Richard "Mad Dog" Beckman (ex of Conde Nast), pushed out of the picture, and new THR publisher Lynne Segall returned to her old hunting grounds with a renewed focus on endemic advertising, Min's THR is doubling down on retaining its identity as a trade, as opposed to a celebrity magazine able to lure luxury ads.

Min is the focus of a puffy Elle Magazine profile, which like many outsider approaches to this subject, fails to comprehend the inside-the-beltway complexities of the Hollywood trades, which are all taking their own approaches to finding profits in a digital world. (In any case the future of magazines is up in the air, as Conde Nast and HP experiment on make-your-own magazines at home, and celeb weeklies are battling a circulation slide, reports WWD.)

Thompson on Hollywood

In other Prometheus Global developments, the company recently forged a financial alliance for Back Stage, after it was unable to sell the struggling 50-year-old theater trade outright. Billboard and Adweek are hardly flourishing either. Beckman had brought in Vanity Fair columnist and Newser entrepreneur Michael Wolff to remake three Adweek publications--the flagship magazine, Mediaweek, and Brandweek--and combine them into one title.

After less than a year as editorial director, Wolff was rumored for weeks to be out at Adweek, and while he stalled for a time, presumably to figure out his exit strategy, Wolff finally ankled as expected. Wolff's new format, described by PaidContent as "buzzy," had caused tension within the company. The early signs of his undoing turned up in August when The New York Post reported that Prometheus Global was not pleased that ad revenue was falling amid costly photo spreads. (Adweek's ad pages were down about 5% over the summer.)

Adweek sources had indicated that changes were in store, and indeed Wolff is finally out. Here's the NYT:

Michael Wolff, a combative and contrarian figure of Manhattan media for the last generation, has left his job as the editorial director of Adweek, ending weeks of speculation over his job security there. Michael Wolff was named as the editorial director of Adweek barely a year ago. Adweek, which named Mr. Wolff to the post barely a year ago, announced on Monday that he would be succeeded by the publication’s executive editor, Jim Cooper...

...Some speculation about Mr. Wolff’s departure, particularly those in The Post, was related to his aggressive coverage in Adweek, and his interviews elsewhere, about the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed the News Corporation and its owner, Rupert Murdoch. Mr. Wolff wrote a biography of Mr. Murdoch, who also owns The Post.

“Michael created some interesting content at Adweek, and I loved his coverage of Rupert Murdoch,” said Joe Mandese, editor in chief at MediaPost, which publishes online and print media and marketing trade publications. “But I could read that in New York or Vanity Fair.” Mr. Mandese questioned how successful trade publications “that want to cover the media business for consumers” could be when there were “plenty of consumer publications that cover the media business.” And the idea that altering the Adweek editorial formula would help bring in “upscale advertising” from marketers of products like automobiles and liquor has so far not panned out, Mr. Mandese said.

It seems that Prometheus Global's expansive strategy is struggling across the board. It remains to be seen if a change of course will yield the necessary numbers for these niche publications to survive.


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.