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What Penske Could Do With Variety

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 25, 2012 at 6:18PM

The sands keep shifting under media professionals who thought they knew what they were doing.
Nikki Finke
Jaime Hernandez, The New Yorker Nikki Finke

I continue to be astonished that the LAT was willing to let Geoff Boucher leave for a senior writer gig at EW, which will continue to promote his stardom as he pursues several entrepreneurial opportunities on the side. The LAT has already seen a precipitous traffic drop since Boucher left The Hero Complex blog, from over 100K page views a day to under 12K. Various in-house folks will fill in at the blog. 

Meanwhile, word is that another media star, fresh-faced 18-year EW vet Dave Karger, an Oscar expert and frequent TV commentator, is heading over to Fandango to burnish his talking head credentials.

Compared to Variety, Deadline's operation is lean and mean in more ways than one. Finke fiercely pursues breaking news by punishing those who dare to take their stories elsewhere. She plays hardball with industry insiders in a way that the friendlier trades would never do. That's why she's an industry must-read. 

Will Penske put both brands under one bigger roof? The economies of scale that Finke lives by are one reason she is so successful. Variety has no clue how to function the way she does.

Buying Variety does present one possible solution to Penske's ongoing dilemma: how to keep Finke's online hard news goldmine going while not alienating potential ad buyers for softer features and Oscar print issues? He could divide the two entities so that Finke's Deadline is an online breaking news operation while Variety would function as a softer print trade revenue producer, complete with Pete Hammond's awards mongering. Edited nuggets from the online content could add value to a weekly print edition. Freed from paywall prison, Variety's huge online archives would add to the mix as well.

This article is related to: Media, New Media & Technology

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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.