Sharon Waxman's announcement today that "leading news organization" TheWrap is partnering with Reuters America serves to illustrate how hungry TheWrap is to grab a foothold. Here's the real deal. Variety let its Reuters deal go to The Hollywood Reporter some years back, and now THR--the dominant trade--doesn't need Reuters anymore.
The THR/Reuters relationship was part of an older paradigm. When I wrote for THR, Reuters took my stories from a trade backwater out into the big world where they were picked up by CNN, Yahoo, ABC News, etc. My stories mattered, they played on the big stage. But Reuters sends edited text stories out with no link to the original THR version of the story.
TheWrap needs cash and a higher profile; it serves Waxman's purposes for Reuters to help brand her content, and collect a share of the revenue from the Reuters Entertainment Service package that goes out to Reuters' subscribers. These days, bigger fish THR deals directly with Yahoo for placement--with links and huge traffic returns and no middleman. Also Reuters prefers to work closely with its entertainment trade partner and get some cooperation on what the trade reporters will cover. THR wasn't playing that game.
As part of its growing commitment to Reuters, TheWrap is adding movie, television and music reviews from movie critic Alonso Duralde, who recently enjoyed a brief stint at Movieline, and ex-People critic Leah Rozen. And ex-EW music writer Chris Willman will be TheWrap's lead music reviewer/reporter. Reviews are a strong addition to The Wrap's portfolio of offerings.
But while I look forward to reading my one-time EW and Premiere colleagues Willman and Fred Schruers' stories at TheWrap, I can't help but wonder if they'd be better suited for THR's weekly print magazine. For better--and worse--TheWrap is an online trade, and while both are veteran elegant writer/reporters who know their respective beats better than most, they have never had to hustle in the fast-based daily fray in which newshound Waxman thrives. She'll chase anything for traffic, no matter how far from the Hollywood universe, from Weinerdog to Palin. (She argues that she's covering the intersection of online media and politics.) I loved Schruers' The Deal blog at Portfolio, but he wasn't out to break news.
The context is Waxman's loss of film editor Josh Dickey and aggressive news reporter Jeff Sneider to Variety, and more recently, esteemed media columnist Dylan Stableford to Yahoo News. She has been looking for replacements; she brought in ex-Variety Weekly writer Diane Garrett as an editor, Maine political reporter Josh Weinstein to replace Sneider on the casting beat, and finally hired Columbia grad and sports fan Lucas Shaw, son of late LAT media reporter David Shaw, for the media beat. "It's easier to train young journalists to be competent reporters than to help legacy writers on the journey to online," Waxman says. "We cover as part of the regular entertainment space new media, legacy media, the intersection of politics, media and entertainment, and emerging business models."
Schruers, for example, is a stellar long-form celebrity interviewer. But star features haven't been The Wrap's focus, outside of Steve Pond's awards column (he once covered the Oscar beat at Premiere). Waxman says she is not chasing celebrity coverage; she sees Schruers as a business reporter. "There will always be an adjustment period for everyone," says Waxman, who claims 1.3 million uniques a month. "We really want distinctive voices along with great reporters. We're lucky to have him." Indeed.
The Hollywood Reporter has celebrity covered. In fact Janice Min has turned THR into the right combo of sizzling entertainment and hard breaking news, much more fun to read (and look at) than just-the-facts Deadline. At a recent lunch, a former studio head confessed to me that he doesn't read Variety anymore--which I was sad to hear. They're not servicing his needs, he said. But what needs are TheWrap servicing? He didn't mention it at all.