One reason that the ever-slimmer LA Times continues to hire entertainment writers is that the newspaper sees the obvious traffic signs. Celebrity sells. (They've added a new group film writer blog, 24 Frames.)
The burgeoning entertainment online space is adding more sites than ever. But how many do we need? In a Darwinian push for limited ad dollars, who will find a way to survive?
Besides older media sites like USA Today, the NYT, EW and MTV plus a score of well-established movie sites (CHUD, AICN, Dark Horizons, Slashfilm, Coming Attractions, Film.com, AOL Moviefone, and on and on), gossip news (TMZ, Perez Hilton, Just Jared, E Online), Oscar sites galore, and relative newbies Hitfix, Movieline and The Daily Beast adjunct Sexy Beast (which my daughter checked daily when she was studying in China), now comes news that New York Magazine's hugely successful Vulture blog (Nymag.com attracts nearly 6 million unique visitors per month, with its entertainment channel accounting for almost a quarter of that) is adding a West Coast editor. Ex-Variety/Ad Week/TMZ staffer Claude Brodesser-Akner knows the trade/entertainment/blog terrain; he also preceded Kim Masters at KCRW's The Business and edited Mediabistro's LA Fishbowl. The release states that he will be:
"...breaking movie news for Vulture, uncovering deals and casting news, and exploring seismic shifts in the industry. He will decode what happened in the last twelve hours, and give readers a look ahead at the next twelve to come. He is the site’s first editorial hire on the West Coast and joins recently hired Entertainment Editor Josh Wolk in expanding the site’s entertainment coverage. 'We are thrilled to have Claude join Vulture,' says New York and nymag.com Editor-in-Chief Adam Moss. 'We have big plans to make Vulture the ultimate destination for obsessional entertainment news, commentary and community. Claude’s passion -- his expert knowledge of Hollywood and lively voice -- will help us translate the informed, populist sensibility of New York magazine to a thriving entertainment webworld where fans, insiders and cultural enthusiasts of all kinds will each find a home.'"
Yet another site is HollywoodNews.com. Now we know where Carlos de Abreu's Hollywood Film Festival money is going. De Abreu, a non-journalist, is launching the generic entertainment site with ex-LAT staffer Robert Welkos at the helm as executive editor. (De Abreu bought up a bunch of Hollywood domain names early on.) "HollywoodNews.com is the one-stop place for the best entertainment and Hollywood-related content on the Web," de Abreu stated. "We are the pulse of new Hollywood." Welkos stated that the site is geared toward "both entertainment pros and fans."
The film industry trade space is also glutted as the venerable Variety and the Hollywood Reporter fight for their life against the onslaught of low-overhead online competitors MovieCityNews, Hollywood Elsewhere, The Wrap, IndieWIRE and Jay Penske's Deadline Hollywood, which this week added Deadline London and New York. Ex-THR publisher/editor Robert Dowling explains what went wrong at the trades. Having worked at both papers, and respecting the quality of their day-to-day output, I agree with his take. The THR has new owners, and Variety is back on the block. It remains to be seen if new management can correct their slides into oblivion. Historically, while THR has been the second-ranked trade, they slashed their overhead earlier, and have understood the need to get their content out into the world via blogs and Reuters better than Variety, which is utterly sequestered behind a pay wall in the old L.A.-centric Beltway that Dowling describes.
The problem is, in an already crowded sector, how many more sites (and stories and posts) do we need? Everyone I know is already drowning in noise and information and streams of overwhelming data.
For the content provider, in the rush to compete and grab traffic, breaking first is crucial, and so is having new original content. How do you balance these concerns? Go too fast and your story can be short and reliant on other sources. Go too slow and people are already tired of old news and ready to move on, no matter how much thought and shoe-leather reporting you supply. Here's NYT media columnist David Carr's demonstration of a model blog post. Tuesday, I ignored the five stories I was going to post in order to labor over my Disney/Dreamworks analysis--but so did a host of other outlets.
How many stories on the same topic does anyone want to read? Punching through with smart marketing, hooks and packaging, and God forbid, retweetable original content, is key.