A few years ago, Variety only had its arch rival, The Hollywood Reporter, to worry about. Now it's competing with seemingly everybody.
Even as mainstream publications have beefed up their Hollywood coverage, a host of Web sites have popped up in the last year or two that are devoted to news and gossip about the entertainment industry. The result is a feverish expansion drive by Variety as the industry's oldest trade publication battles to master the newcomers.
"We are at a crossroads in the business," said Charles C. Koones, incoming publisher, who is spearheading a three-pronged strategy to keep Variety relevant in the era of the Internet.
The first is to maintain the paper's core businesses, its daily and weekly editions. The second will be to create new print publications, the first of which is eV, a magazine devoted to "Intertainment" and the digital economy. It will debut Sept. 12 and will attempt to penetrate an arena crowded with phonebook-sized magazines like Red Herring and Business 2.0. The third prong of the campaign is developing Variety's online operation by expanding its news and data offerings.
In the process, Variety is engaged in a major physical expansion. The paper is adding an additional 15,000 square feet to its offices in the Miracle Mile district, to accommodate the staffs of eV, the paper's growing Web site Variety.com, and other corporate offices.
The drive to improve Variety.com is essentially a defensive one, as more Web sites offering Hollywood news appear. The latest is Inside.com, which some people have called "The Third Trade," a site staffed by some of the best entertainment journalists in the country.
"(Inside.com) is a good-looking site," Koones conceded. "But good is not good enough."
Inside.com's success is predicated on obtaining 100,000 paid subscribers, which, Koones and others believe, is a daunting task in the highly competitive Internet world.
"I can see why (Variety) wants to move into online," said John Miller, president of the NBC Agency, which places advertising in Hollywood trade papers for NBC divisions. "Traditional publications don't want to be left out of the technological revolution. It would be like being carbon paper in a Xerox world."
Koones, a 10-year veteran of Variety, has the title of group vice president in addition to being named publisher April 10. This means he oversees Variety, which is the weekly edition of the paper; Daily Variety; Daily Variety Gotham, a special New York edition; and Variety.com. In March, Variety took over LA 411, a resource book for TV and film companies, and has begun to renovate that directory's Web site.
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