Entertainment Industry

Category: newspapers

Former LA Timeser Leo Wolinsky named editor of Daily Variety

Wolinsky Leo Wolinsky, a former top editor at the Los Angeles Times, has been named editor of Daily Variety.

Before leaving the paper last year following a disagreement with editor Russ Stanton, Wolinsky worked at the Times for 31 years in a variety of senior positions, including executive editor and managing editor. He was part of Pulitzer Prize-winning teams that covered the Los Angeles riots in 1992 and the Northridge earthquake in 1994. In 2008 he served as associate editor in charge of features and entertainment for seven months, his only previous experience covering the show business world.

In his new role, which starts in January, Wolinsky will oversee the print versions of Daily Variety and its sibling New York publication, Daily Variety Gotham. He will report to Tim Gray, group editor of Variety, who was promoted to the job this past spring when former editor-in-chief Peter Bart, who still writes for the paper, stepped aside after more than 20 years in the top spot at the Hollywood business paper. (Disclosure: I worked at Variety, as did the editor of this post, as did the editor of this post's editor.)

Brian Gott, publisher of Variety, said Wolinsky will be part of a trio of editors reporting to Gray in a new structure. The paper is currently considering external and internal candidates to oversee its weekly and online versions.

Variety's parent company, Reed Elsevier, unsuccessfully tried to sell the 104-year-old trade newspaper and its other publications last year. It recently sold industry magazines Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News and tech magazine Twice to NewBay Media. Variety, Gott said, is no longer for sale.

--Ben Fritz

Photo: Leo Wolinsky. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Report: Advertising weak through September

The U.S. advertising market could not shake its doldrums -- at least not through the first nine months of the year.

Advertising tracker TNS Media Intelligence this morning said that advertising sales plummeted 14.7% during the first nine months of this year, compared to the same period in 2008.

The top 10 advertisers, according to TNS, spent a combined total of $11.75 billion for the first three quarters of the year -- a 5.9% decrease compared to the same period last year. Procter & Gamble Co., Verizon Communications Inc., General Motors Corp., AT&T Inc. and Johnson & Johnson were the leading advertisers, with each company spending over $1 billion from January through September. 

However, two-thirds of the top 100 advertisers cut their advertising budgets this year.

Magazines, newspapers and radio stations experienced the steepest declines -- the second straight year of bad news for the denizens of "old media." Broadcast television networks saw sales tumble by 11.5% for the first three quarters of the year -- and a whopping 25% during the third quarter of 2009.  Network television faced difficult comparisons because commercial sales were catapulted during third quarter of 2008 by the Summer Olympics. Cable television networks, meanwhile, experienced only a 2.9% decline -- "a much stronger performance than the TV sector as a whole," the TNS report found.

Internet display advertising perked up 7%, boosted by the campaigns of telephone companies, the travel industry and auto advertisers.

TV network executives say fourth-quarter advertising spending has been more robust than earlier in the year, although this quarter was not covered by the TNS survey. Industry watchers say holiday retail sales should determine the strength of the advertising market going into next year.

"The timing, strength and durability of an advertising recovery will ultimately be determined by the way consumer activity rebounds," Jon Swallen, TNS senior vice president for research, said in a statement contained in the report.

-- Meg James

Variety to start charging for online access by early 2010

Less than three years after opening up its website for free, Hollywood trade paper Variety is closing it back down to admit subscribers only.

Starting early next year, most content on Variety.com will be available only to those who subscribe to the Daily Variety newspaper or weekly Variety magazine, or those who pay for a digital subscription. Variety's iPhone application and other means of digital access will also cost money.

Publisher Brian Gott said executives are still considering whether some content will still be free or if the entire website will put behind a so-called pay wall. Discussions are also ongoing about whether online pricing will be lower than or equivalent to the print edition.

Variety.com was available only to subscribers until February of 2007, when the paper made access to its entire site free. Since the recession set in and online advertising rates began to decline, executives have been considering when and whether to go back to a paid strategy.

"Everyone thought then that if you got more traffic, you could sell more ads and make a ton of money, so we made a real effort to open up to consumers," Gott said. "We thought about our business strategy and decided we want to focus on serving the professional entertainment community."

Variety.com will continue to carry advertising and Gott said members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who don't already subscribe will likely receive a complimentary pass to access the site because advertising geared toward awards voters are such an important part of the paper's business.

As online advertising rates have failed to grow as many executives predicted, many newspapers have been considering charging for some or all of their digital content in an effort to boost revenue and drive more print subscriptions. News Corp is attempting to put together a consortium of newspapers that would charge a joint subscription rate, as is a start-up called Journalism Online.

Papers that cater to a business audience with unique content, such as Variety, are generally considered to have a better chance of making a pay system work than those that serve a general interest audience. News Corp.'s Wall Street Journal has been the most successful national newspaper to charge for its website.

The news of Variety's plans was first reported on Deadline.com. The site also reported that Variety's primary competitor, the Hollywood Reporter, is planning to cease publication of its daily print edition by the end of the year. However, a spokesperson for Nielsen, owner of the Reporter, said there are no such plans, as did the paper's editor, Elizabeth Guider.

"We are considering what will be the best way as a paper and a brand to go forward and what will be the mix between print, online and events," she said.

If the advertising market doesn't improve, both the Hollywood Reporter and Variety will likely be considering changes to their print publication schedule at the end of awards season (the Academy Awards are scheduled for March 7, 2010), according to people familiar with the situation.

-- Ben Fritz

Steve Brill's Journalism Online venture signs 500 newspapers

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Journalism Online, a startup created to help publishers charge for digital content, said it has reached preliminary agreements with 506 newspapers, magazines and online news sites that reach more than 90 million monthly visitors.

Representatives of the venture, whose founders include Steve Brill, creator of CourtTV, and Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, have been meeting for months with major newspaper and magazine publishers, who have grown increasingly interested in charging for online content as traditional advertising revenue plummets.

"The scale here I hope indicates to people that there's a real change going on, and there is an accelerated trend among publishers to move toward the paid model online," said Crovitz, who for more than a decade ran the Journal's online site, which now boasts more then a million online subscribers.

The venture remained curiously mum about which news organizations will use Journalism Online's commerce platform to begin charging for select digital content. Several publishers said they had not signed on with the venture, including Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal; the McClatchy Co., the nation's third-largest newspaper company with 30 dailies; and the Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.

The Gannett Co. Inc., publisher of 84 daily newspapers, including USA Today, and The New York Times Co., refused to comment.

The idea of newspapers charging for online content has been swiftly gaining momentum.

News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch told investors last week that the company will be charging for content on "all of our news websites." 

The New York Times, which had abandoned an earlier experiment with charging for premium content, such as newspaper columns, is researching how much readers would be willing to pay for online content.

Journalism Online said its technology would give publishers flexibility in how they charge for digital content, including collecting monthly subscriptions or micro-payments for individual articles. Its estimates that a website that attracts 1 million monthly visitors could reap additional annual revenue of $5 million to $10 million.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: Printer stands next to his 1824 Columbian press. Credit: Larry Sharkey/Los Angeles Times

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