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Variety Adds Editor, Installs Pay Wall

by Anne Thompson
December 8, 2009 10:40 AM
10 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

After Peter Bart stepped down as editor-in-chief of daily and weekly Variety, his second-in-command, Tim Gray, took over. Among the layoffs that followed were long-time daily editors Michael Speier (now at Disney) and Kathy Lyford. While ex-THR editor Cynthia Littleton has been filling in, the paper has been looking for someone to run the daily. (Littleton, who enjoys writing books as well as features, insists on continuing in a non-administrative role.)

Adopting the new title of Variety Group Editor, Gray announced Tuesday that LA Times 31-year-veteran Leo Wolinsky, who is a one-time managing editor and executive editor of the Times, will now be editor of Daily Variety, both the LA and Gotham editions. When Wolinsky lost his job a year ago, he was associate editor in charge of features and Calendar. Gray will continue to run the Weekly, and is quoted in Variety's story:

"As the industry undergoes massive changes, Variety continues to evolve. We have been working to beef up our senior editing staff, including creation of this new position, and we're lucky to have found Leo. He's a perfect fit for this new job and will be a welcome addition to the newsroom, bringing his special talents and perspective to both papers."

The long-threatened Variety pay wall will roll out slowly starting this Thursday. UPDATE: Variety's Wednesday story explains how the early phase of the pay wall will work: subscribers (@ $248 a year) will have full access.

Non-subscribers may access only five pages of content in any given month...Content unaffected by the paywall includes the home page, headlines, brief article summaries and search results. Similarly, Variety news will continue to be aggregated online, as it has in the past.

My sources say that the pay wall will initially not be full-fledged, but a slow ongoing process with many moving parts. (A new Variety.com editor to replace Dana Harris is on the verge of closing a deal; Harris is in charge of content to go behind the pay wall.) I can't imagine how it will work. Google, as Rupert Murdoch doesn't seem to understand, has taken over the world and there isn't anything to be done about it. Search is Google, search is traffic. Google brings the world to Variety, which has never done much to reach outside its narrow-defined "trade" community, which buys the print ads that pay for its overhead. Once you've given something away for free, it's hard to go back. If all of Variety's breaking news--its most valuable offering--went behind a pay wall, all the movie fan sites that give Variety huge traffic might subscribe to get that news, but they would no longer link to it. Then Variety would effectively be invisible.

I have to assume that Variety won't do that. Other sites put old archive material behind a subscriber wall. And Variety has been talking about adding premium content to put behind the wall. That makes more sense.

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10 Comments

  • Ellin S | December 13, 2009 7:12 AMReply

    I used to freelance for Variety. If archive material goes behind a paywall, I won't be able to access my own work or, more importantly, enable other editors to click through to my clips (an old-media word). Somehow I don't think printing out the relevant page before the wall goes up and sending a paper copy is a great alternative.

  • Kermode | December 13, 2009 12:07 AMReply

    Well, I hope they have a big paper subscriber base, cause what do they really offer that is so unique? People will just turn to other websites (with less weird English) to get the information. Another (soon to be fired?) exec who doesn't understand the web.

  • alan green | December 10, 2009 1:18 AMReply

    it's funny. i just realized. i haven't hit variety's site more than a couple times in the last year or two. i hit movie blogs. if a story is in variety it's discussed on the blogs.

    sometimes, i have to get hard info at lat or nyt or through google news, but the color is found on blogs

  • jl | December 9, 2009 5:31 AMReply

    Even now, google is limiting the "free" to 5 clicks or something of that nature. But NYT is still monetizing our clicks with all the advertising. I'll deal with that to avoid the subscription model ... Such a detriment to schools and kids when there are great articles that they can't easily get access to. Granted, I'm not a fan of the big phat commercial billboards but I'd rather they see a bunch of banner ads and read the article than have to skip it because of a monthly subscription charge ....

  • alan green | December 9, 2009 5:08 AMReply

    cadavra

    i remember nyt's paywall. they would say something like 'the content you're seeking requires a subscription of $xxx/year'. i'd automatically close the tab and go to google news, or someplace, to get the story for free. it took a couple seconds.

  • cadavra | December 9, 2009 4:45 AMReply

    Evidently the nabobs at Variety have forgotten that the New York Times tried a firewall a few years ago; it was a spectacular failure, and they meekly dropped it after less than a year.

  • New Kid (Clooney's Cookie Crumbs) | December 9, 2009 4:00 AMReply

    @Neil you pay for it, report it and I'll link to you and give you the traffic - Variety doesn't get it, traffic clicks ads which bring THEM money.

    We're a small blog but with 1 million hits in our first 18 months of existence who's to say we're not important enough to get Variety's breaking or even want to research an article before posting?

  • jl | December 9, 2009 2:13 AMReply

    I just don't get how they'll convince consumers to pay for content when they can't pay for their own writers ... It seems like they'll get into a situation when they can break news, but only 5% of their potential can read it, then a blogger or another free site will simply post it an hour later and all the traffic just goes there. If they can't sell ads in the old model, this model seems doomed to fail as well.

  • alan green | December 9, 2009 1:18 AMReply

    so, who's going to pay for variety? execs, agents, etc? if i ran a studio of course i'd pay. but, in a few years? maybe not. there are free sources already and they'll only get better with time

    besides, how long can variety survive on a few thousand (or would it be a few hundred) paying customers?

  • Neil (Film School Rejects) | December 9, 2009 12:18 AMReply

    At this point, we'd all love to see them go behind a firewall with all of their content. We being the bloggers of the so-called "fan sites." That leaves regular readers one less option, leaving many of us with more readers. So go ahead Variety, pick up the knife and turn it inward. We're all here to pick up the pieces... :)

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