Variety has been the source for entertainment industry news since 1905. No, that’s not a typo. The newspaper started out as a trade paper covering vaudeville from New York City. In 1933, they began producing Daily Variety in order to cover the growing movie business from Hollywood. Back in the day, they’re only real competition was The Hollywood Reporter but with the birth of the internet, all that changed.
Variety is no longer the shining beacon it used to be. With more readers moving to the web, the site put up a paywall and slowly landed deeper in debt. Now Variety has a new owner with a new promise, the paywall is coming down!
Word around town is that staffers were thrilled with the news. They’ve been writing great content but few people have been willing to pay to read it. Now, with the doors flung wide open, they’re hoping to prove that they have the means to top The Hollywood Reporter and other online outlets.
Variety’s new owner, Jay Penske, says he plans to continue publishing the print edition, but it’s likely that they’ll cut down from daily to weekly. Before the internet, people needed the news within 24 hours. Now, by the time the pages hit the mailbox, it’s already old news. The smart move would be to make the website the home of breaking news and turn out a weekly edition with features and news recaps. Variety makes a lot of their money selling those pricy award ads, but for how much longer?
Variety’s troubles may lie in the fact that they are an entertainment industry institution. They’re the stogy grandpop and Hollywood Reporter is the hip aunt. Which is weird, since they both date back to the days of the talkies. You can see it right on their front pages.
Variety is text links and information. Hollywood Reporter is all graphics and grabbers. What’s interesting is that Hollywood Reporter looks more like a consumer gossip site than an industry insider site. But apparently, it’s what the customers want.
The lesson here is that you can’t rest on your laurels. Variety was on top for almost 100 years but, being a brand everyone knows isn’t enough. If they don’t find a way to become relevant again, they won’t be celebrating any more anniversaries. How do they become relevant? Taking down the paywall so the world can see what they have to offer is a good first step.