Challenging print

A story that continues to evolve in Los Angeles took a new turn last week, when Variety decided to suspend publication of its daily print edition (it will continue to offer a print version once a week). It also decided to suspend its use of a reader paywall, effective March 1.

Last October, Penske Media bought Variety from Reed, the event organizer that had been actively trying to shed its publishing assets. At the time, the sale felt a bit like a blogger's takeover, as Penske operates several sites focused on the entertainment industry, including Deadline Hollywood.

In fact, it was Deadline Hollywood that helped undermine Variety. As reported in the New York Times last fall, Deadline was run by three staff working more or less from home, at a time when Variety had 120 staff and a print publication to produce and deliver each day. Breaking news on the web, Deadline effectively scooped Variety by hours or a day much of the time.

The web has created similar conditions for upheaval throughout publishing. At one time, Folio: was the preeminent publication and trade show for the magazine business, until mediabistro began reporting the news (and offering job postings and online and in-person education) on an everyday basis.

A similar dynamic exists in book publishing, where a low-overhead operation (Publishers Marketplace) has challenged the dominance of the print-based Publishers Weekly. As it happens, PW is another of the titles Reed Business Information sold as it moved out of the publishing business. The parent company retains control of the annual trade show, BookExpo America.

While there is active competition in media coverage of magazine and book publishing, the public tone generally remains civil. That's not the case in Hollywood, where Deadline Hollywood editor Nikke Finke reported the changes at Variety by noting:

Tim Gray wasn’t fired as expected (and should have been) but instead was demoted to overseeing international coverage and unspecified “other special projects” after presiding over Variety‘s humiliating loss of readership and influence and advertising.

With Penske owning both Variety and Deadline Hollywood, here's hoping the company has more than one holiday party.

Edited March 12 to add a link to a story about Penske moving Variety and Deadline Hollywood into the same building. No word given on plans for a holiday party.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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