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Variety Makes Changes

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 23, 2009 at 11:02AM

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.
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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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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.