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Variety Adds Editor, Installs Pay Wall

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 8, 2009 at 10:40AM

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.)
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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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Thompson on Hollywood

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.