Recession rocks Hollywood's showbiz papers

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For more than 75 years, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have battled to be the movie industry’s top newspaper, but recent layoffs due to the recession and competition from Internet blogs has Hollywood wondering if it will soon become a one paper town.

The famed Hollywood sign is seen September 21, 2001. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File

Publishers of the showbusiness newspapers say advertising has plunged, even during the current Oscar season when movie studios pay well to hype their films with cover page ads.

Moreover, the papers face increased competition from bloggers providing a daily diet of Hollywood news and gossip, such as Nikki Finke’s, Tina Brown’s and David Poland’s

Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter continue to compete vigorously through tough economic times.

“I think it’s going to be a battle royale, and there may only be one a year from now,” said Jonathan Taplin, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.

On Monday, Daily Variety owner Reed Business Information, a unit of Reed Elsevier Plc, said the economic slump forced it to lay off some 30 workers at the paper and its sister publications.

Those sister papers include weekly Variety, which is the grand dame of showbiz reporting having started in 1905 and spawned Daily Variety in 1933. Last year, Reed put the publications on the sales block.

The Hollywood Reporter was founded in 1930 and is now owned by media research firm Nielsen Co., which provides marketing and other media business information, as well as TV ratings.

It has cut its staff to slightly less than 90, about half the level five years ago, said publisher Eric Mika.


Neil Stiles, publisher of the Variety Group, said he does not concern himself with his competitor or doomsday predictions for the newspapers. “I don’t give it any thought at all as to whether there will be one or two,” he said.

Still, without giving figures Stiles said awards season ads are “markedly down,” and he doubts his paper’s award ads will migrate to the Web because studios get more punch from print.

“It hangs around in an agent’s office, people see it,” Stiles said. “It’s very visible in a very tangible way. Online tends to be more of a question where someone would have to go online to find it.”

Mika also defended his paper saying, “I don’t think advertisers and readers want just a single point of view.”

Losing one of the historic papers, known for their own style of news jargon, would rip a hole in Hollywood culture. Reading the trades remains a daily ritual for studio executives, producers, writers, directors and actors.

Winking headlines like Daily Variety’s “Katz-and-Mouse Game Over,” describing the rift between Jeffrey Katzenberg and then-CEO of Walt Disney Co. Michael Eisner, speak volumes to Hollywood insiders.

But Taplin, among others, said the papers are rapidly becoming outmoded as readers go to blogs that provide an edgier version of film and TV news.

MovieCityNews editor Poland said he expects The Hollywood Reporter will become a Web-only news outlet, and Daily Variety will cut back to publishing twice weekly. Both have long histories, and can raise revenue online from their archives.

“It probably is part of the salvation of these titles in the long run, whoever owns them and whatever format they’re in,” he said.

In fact, during the holidays The Hollywood Reporter went to a Web-only version for 12 separate days. Still, it has not announced any plans to embrace the Web as a day-to-day model.

As they say on television: stay tuned.

Reuters and The Hollywood Reporter operate a joint entertainment news service.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte