Variety Makes Changes

by Anne Thompson
September 23, 2009 11:02 AM
6 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
Variety is undergoing some major changes. Some are a factor of the venerable trade paper's adjustment to the challenging advertising economy. In the past year, the company has trimmed down in size over several rounds of layoffs which saw the departures of not only me but hard-driving daily editors Michael Speier and Kathy Lyford. Both were well-paid, high-level execs with years of newsroom experience. Speier moved briefly to The Wrap (which also picked up ex-Variety TV editor Joseph Adalian) but Speier is leaving in order to run internal publications at Disney.

The most dramatic change at Variety was Peter Bart's move from editor-in-chief into columnist/blogger mode, as lieutenant Tim Gray took his place.

Running the news room under Gray are Kirstin Wilder and ex-Hollywood Reporter editor Cynthia Littleton. Pat Saperstein and Ted Johnson edit The Weekly, which still generates enough ads to justify its publication, although I don't see why they don't move The Weekly from Sunday to Friday, when all that juicy content would have a shot of getting dispersed online before the weekend.

Variety is now hiring a nuts-and-bolts managing editor for the daily. They are also looking for a forward-thinking online player to replace Dana Harris as web editor. Harris is moving into a job where she will figure out premium content to place behind the new pay wall.

There will be two pay walls. One will require a subscription, and one will have studio system information for which people will pay extra. But folks at Variety don't know when they're going up. They're still working it out. And there will be plenty of free content as well. They may give the public the first two bullet graphs of a new story, and make them subscribe to get the rest or dig into archives. But some of it has to be accessible.

Variety isn't ready yet to give up on print, which still yields premium ads. But as more entertainment companies are abandoning their print subscriptions, the trade is banking that pay walls are the best way to survive.


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6 Comments

  • Not Anonymous | September 29, 2009 9:35 AMReply

    I must add that being a Spanish-speaking individual; I found McCarthy´s comments about the accents in CHE at least disturbing and somehow insulting. How can you judge that if you don’t even speak the language? I agree with Mr. Maraval: Variety should be a global outlet, with enough perspective to understand other cultures and markets, instead of being a sort of a U.S centric Jack Valenti-like creature.

  • Anne Thompson | September 25, 2009 11:31 AMReply

    No question, Variety was tough on Che, but it was not a collective decision. I sat across the room from Todd McCarthy at Cannes as we hammered out our respective takes on the film.

    For the record, I did use my Toronto interview with Maraval, here: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117992095.html?categoryid=2508&cs=1. The article was about how the movie was funded and picked up. And I did another story hooked to the NYFF. http://www.variety.com/index.asp?layout=festivals&jump=features&id=3255&articleid=VR1117992879

  • vincent maraval | September 25, 2009 10:05 AMReply

    Strange to see someone who has been part of the misinformation mission of VARIETY for years judging them now. I co-produced CHE that became way before its Cannes premiere the thing to destroy at VARIETY because totally financed outside of the US industry ... and VARIETY credo is that what the US industry refuses to finance should have no market (after CHE the Spike LEE film was their next victim for exactly same reasons). At the Cannes screening, VARIETY infamous critic Todd MC CARTHY destroyed the film half an hour after the screening without finding anything to save (he smashed Benicio DEL TORO's performance the same one who was awaded all around the world) criticized the spanish accents while he does not speak spanish and nowhere in the spanish speaking world those critics were done, etc ... The day after, Anna THOMSON did the same saying that there will be no business for this film which ha been since released all around the world and was the second most succesfull film in term of worldwide box office of this Cannes selection. The day after there was another bad article about the film from the same Anna THOMSON saying that we were unable for comment while no one of my company was ever contacted. Finally Peter BART on his blog attacked the film politically with old anti cuban propaganda (CASTRO and CHE executed 20 000 homosexuals) that no one is using anymore as those facts have been demonstrated wrong since more than 20 years. Some months after while the film was reaching 50M$ box office including more than 10 in Japan 10 in Spain and 5 in UK which is exceptional for a foreign language film, VARIETY wrote an article about the big flop worlwide of the film (while the flop is mainly domestic). Anna THOMSON asked to see me 3 months after Cannes in Toronto to understand my anger to VARIETY and why I refused to do any interviews after Cannes. I explained everything and gave her an interview that has never been published and worst than that she repeated all her fake allegations while I denied all of them especially about the fact that the film will never be distributed in the US that proved her wrong 2 months after. Now Anne THOMSON is wondering about changes and difficult times at VARIETY because she ran away doing a job that she calls journalism somewherelse. The truth belongs to Sean PENN who wrote in LE MONDE after reading the review about CHE in Cannes in VARIETY that this press is "a piece of trash that wants to destroy art", article never mentioned in VARIETY or any american press of course. VARIETY will disappear because once you are an insider and you know what they do with the truth, you don't rely on them for information. The truth is that VARIETY is living through the very expensive award campaign that few companies such as the US studios, MIRAMAX, FOCUS, THE WEINSTEIN company, etc ... are doing in their pages and that they are totally depending on that source of revenues and in exchange overprotect them scared of losing their ad money. So, the information is taken in hostage by the lobby of these few distributors through VARIETY
    Most of the rest of the industry knows that the truth is elsewhere.

  • Stacey Parks | September 24, 2009 7:56 AMReply

    I think it's important to establish premium content and charge for it - so the pay wall is a good idea that hopefully will replace the declining ad revenue stream.
    Will be interesting to see how it all works out!

    Stacey Parks
    www.FilmSpecific.com

  • Chester54 | September 24, 2009 5:28 AMReply

    I rent my office from a management company, one with mostly writer and director clients, which is to say, a company that will defend its clients' intellectual property rights and demand payment for services received.

    I find it a little hard to believe, but every morning the mailroom drops off a photocopy of both trades. Do I subscribe myself? My Variety subscription is still going, but the Hollywood reporter sure didn't get a renewal check.

    See a contradiction there? Sign o' the times.

  • Alan Green | September 24, 2009 1:52 AMReply

    your last graph made me realize how long it's been since i've seen (not read, just seen) a print copy of variety. 2 years? 3? i don't know.

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