The Janice Min hire: Hollywood Reporter gets a new lease on life
With dozens of blogs and websites, from the Wrap to Nikki Finke's Deadline to New York's Vulture to several blogs at my own paper all reporting on the same casting decisions, box-office stories and industry trends, it's become clear that there's only room for one old-style trade paper -- at best -- to keep its head above the choppy showbiz media waters.
Until recently, I'd always predict that the Hollywood Reporter would be the most likely paper to be pushing up daisies, since Variety had a stronger brand and a more visible cadre of top writers. But with Variety still churning out cobwebby, press-release-style stories and having lost or laid off a host of key staffers, most notably Mike Fleming (who defected to Finke's Deadline) and Todd McCarthy (who inexplicably got the boot), it looked like a toss-up. But now,with the news that the Hollywood Reporter has hired ex-Us Weekly editor Janice Min to be its editorial director, I'd say that the odds for survival have shifted in the Reporter's favor.
Canny and dynamic, Min is a shrewd judge of pop culture tastes and has a proven track record in creating the kind of media buzz that drives readership. Everyone in Hollywood seems obsessed by the fact that she is -- gasp! -- an editor without any real business background who, following in Bonnie Fuller's lead, kept Us drinking at the trough of tacky celebrity sightings and scandals.
But if the Reporter is going to survive, it's going to have to reinvent its brand and separate itself out from the wolf pack of blogs that obsess over every "Transformers 3" casting decision and every new wrinkle in the now tedious saga of which suitor will get to buy Disney's defunct Miramax subsidiary. Judging from Web readership studies, there is always room for one more celebrity- and entertainment-oriented publication, so it makes sense for the Reporter to get as far away from the dying trade paper model as possible.
If the Reporter is going to grow its brand, it needs to broaden its coverage to reach more rank and file entertainment readers. It still won't be an easy transition. But at least the Reporter is spreading its wings, unlike Variety, which seems mired in the same-old, same-old way of earnestly reporting the showbiz news of the day. Advertising is more scarce than ever, so it's telling that even before Min's hiring was made public, Reporter parent company E5 announced that it had named Michaela Apruzzese as the Reporter's associate publisher, having hired her away from my paper, where she was director of movie advertising.
If there was ever a clear signal that the Reporter was doing the right thing, it was the reaction of Finke, who in the midst of one of her many unexplained recent absences, surfaced -- in a post written by Fleming on her website -- saying that she was "saddened to see Hollywood lose yet another source for business news, since this hire clearly shows that won't be the focus of THR any longer -- just as I've been predicting it wouldn't." Translation: Finke realizes that she will soon have a formidable new competitor for celebrity news.
I'm betting that in six months the Hollywood Reporter is going to look like a very different kind of publication indeed. And it needs to be. If it doesn't revamp its old trade formula, it can't expect to survive in the kind of troubled media universe where papers that don't embrace change don't have much of a chance of survival.
Photo: Janice Min pictured at an Us Weekly Hollywood party in 2007. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press