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Screen International Retreats Behind Pay Wall on February 25

by Anne Thompson
February 17, 2010 5:35 AM
2 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

"8 Days to Go," warns the headline on the home page of venerable U.K.-based trade Screen International's website. Following Variety's lead, the international trade will go behind a "subscription barrier" on February 25, announced Screen editor Mike Goodridge in the Berlin daily. UPDATE: Here are more details..

From next month Screen Weekly will be a new digital product, carrying all the information and news previously found in the print weekly. Screen International will become a monthly magazine with more analysis, industry insight and in-depth box office data...Mike Goodridge, the recently appointed editor of Screen International, who is now based in London after 12 years as US editor, said: “We are responding to the changes in the way people need information in this market and what our readers have told us. We are putting digital at the heart of what we do in terms of daily news, box office information and reviews.

Another one bites the dust. Will The Hollywood Reporter follow? These trades must know what they're doing with their numbers. But I maintain that Variety lost Mike Fleming to Deadline.com because he wanted to be seen, in the conversation, a visible player. And that he is. No star writer wants to settle for invisibility when he can make news. More than ever, making news is about causing a ripple that reaches as many people as possible.

For anyone who watches the way information works its way around the internet, nothing stays behind the pay wall for very long--in fact it usually breaks online before the trades or other media do the reporting that makes it "official" and confirmed. And more and more, by then it's old news. Fleming is free to run with the news when he gets it now, with fewer rules to hamper him.

The more the trades trim and cut back, the less premium their content becomes. Variety disastrously let go of its one goldmine premium play: box office stats--long ago, ceding the field to Nielsen EDI and Rentrak, which are now merging their data. In the case of Screen, they are plowing their released print resources into enhance digital product, which is smart. Also a detailed print monthly with analysis, depth and charts (and premium ads) makes sense.

Are folks willing to settle for what The Wrap, Slashfilm, indieWIRE, Deadline.com, Hitfix, and the sites for the LAT, NYT, and MTV give them? Many are.

Entertainment hub pubs the LAT and NYT have chased after the trades' Oscar ad share. Successfully. "Sorry trades, we win this box office race," reads an ad in the LAT's Oscar-promo supplement The Envelope, claiming that its circulation "far surpasses that of Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter combined, delivering both the trade for awards consideration and consumers to drive ticket sales in one cost-efficient buy." That's the model that some studio marketers say they prefer.

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More: Media

2 Comments

  • Sean J Vincent | February 17, 2010 7:34 AMReply

    When are these sites going to realise that pay walls are not the way forward. If they have enough exclusive new content and enough readers, then they'll make their money on the advertisement space on the pages. Or are they not taking ads at all on their site? The internet is free speech...and not just in that you can say what you like...it also means you say it for free. If you start charging, the bloggers will bring you down eventually...they update quicker and are often the first to get the exclusive shots and stories.. good luck and all that, but i don't see this working for long..

  • J. Sperling Reich | February 17, 2010 6:52 AMReply

    I have always been torn on the issue of whether premium content should be behind a pay wall. After all, we all started out in this world (at least those of us over the age of 25), paying for content in magazines, books, movies, newspapers, etc. However, the Internet and the way in which it enables information to be spread and shared at lightning speed really defies pay walls.

    When someone blogs about or repurposes that wonderful piece you wrote which sits behind a pay wall, you can try to go after them. But then what happens when two hundred people blog about it or repurpose the information? What about a thousand? It becomes impossible to control. Even worse, readers will simply chose the path of least resistance and that is most always a site without a pay wall.

    That said, apparently opening the flood gates and allowing everyone to read your work for free doesn't seem to be paying the bills for some media outlets. Somehow such outlets will need to find some hybrid method to earn revenue, possibly following the donation model established by Public Broadcasting. One such service may be Kachingle (www.kachingle.com) which allows readers to support free content based on the sites they visit. I know I'd be willing to contribute to such a service if I knew indieWIRE and other sites like it were participating.

    - J. Sperling Reich
    www.showbizsandbox.com

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