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Variety may make website available only to subscribers

The Hollywood trade newspaper next year will end free access to most or all content.

September 18, 2009|Ben Fritz

Hollywood trade paper Variety is putting a seal on its website.

Starting early next year, most or all of the content on will be available only to those who subscribe to the print version or pay for a digital subscription.

Publisher Brian Gott said executives were still considering whether small amounts of content would remain free.

Discussions are also continuing about whether online pricing will be lower than or equivalent to that for the print edition.

Over the last few years, online advertising revenue has failed to grow as many media executives had expected, leading newspapers to consider charging for some or all of their digital content in an effort to boost revenue.

Both Variety and its major competitor, the Hollywood Reporter, which currently does not charge for most of its Web content, have had a particularly difficult year.

Outside of awards season, when studios promote movies they hope will win Oscars and other major prizes, the two newspapers have carried very few ads in print or on the Web.

They are also facing pressure from online competitors and TheWrap .com, both of which are free for users.

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. was available only to subscribers until February of 2007, when the paper made all of its online content free.

"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 have thought about our business strategy and decided we want to focus on serving the professional entertainment community."

Variety and the Hollywood Reporter are both hoping they will have a strong awards season because of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decision in June to double the number of best-picture nominees to 10, which could result in more promotional ads by studios.

If the advertising market doesn't improve, both papers will probably take a hard look at their five-times-a-week print publication schedule at the end of awards season in early March.

"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," Hollywood Reporter editor Elizabeth Guider said.


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