After 80 years of covering the nuts and bolts of Hollywood for industry insiders, the Hollywood Reporter is planning to tap into the country's fascination with show business.
In a surprise move by the new owners of the scrappy trade publication, Janice Min, who edited celebrity magazine Us Weekly from 2003 until 2009, was named editorial director of the Reporter. She is expected to radically transform the Reporter from a weekday trade paper into a slick weekly magazine aimed at high-end readers.
Min, in an interview, said she isn't looking to turn the Reporter into Us Weekly but to significantly expand its reach.
"The Hollywood Reporter is never going to tell you about Paris Hilton making a left turn on La Cienega [Boulevard]," she said. "It will cater to the influencers of Los Angeles and the small consumer group that has a fascination with how the sausage is made in Hollywood. The opportunity is to put all of that in a larger context and elevate the discussion of the entertainment industry."
The Reporter was one of seven publications, along with music industry trade Billboard, acquired in December from Nielsen Business Media by E5 Global Media, a consortium of investors led by Chairman James Finkelstein, who also owns Washington, D.C. newspaper the Hill.
In January, E5 hired Richard Beckman, a hard-charging former sales and marketing executive for New York magazine company Conde Nast, as chief executive.
Beckman declined to confirm specific changes coming to the Reporter that were outlined by two people familiar with the plans, but he said that it will expand its editorial staff and "reinvent" itself in the coming months.
"The Hollywood Reporter is a great brand that has not been well taken care of in the past few years," he said. "We want to be the most influential vehicle covering what's happening in entertainment and open the aperture beyond the industry to aficionados who are really interested and are influential."
Although E5 still wants the Reporter to break news online every day, a weekly magazine aimed at a larger audience of upscale "influencers" could allow it to grow its circulation and expand its base of advertisers into consumer brands.
Beckman said the trade publication may start charging for some or all of its online content as well.
Like its longtime competitor Daily Variety, the Reporter has slashed its staff as its circulation and advertising base have declined over the last several years. Five rounds of layoffs in the last five years saw the paper lose more than 60% of its staff and its average daily circulation dropped 45%, to 18,582, from 2006 to September of 2008, the last date for which the Audit Bureau of Circulations has information.
Movie studios and talent agencies have cut back on congratulatory and "for your consideration" awards ads that made up the bulk of the two trades' revenue in the past. At the same time, the papers are facing increased competition from online-only outlets as well as newspapers, including The Times.
The 40-year-old Min doesn't command the kind of respect as up-market media stars Tina Brown, the former editor of the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, and Graydon Carter, current editor of Vanity Fair, but her success at Us Weekly was undeniable.
During Min's tenure, circulation of Us Weekly more than doubled to 1.9 million.
After predecessor Bonnie Fuller created much of the magazine's template of candid paparazzi shots and "scoops" on celebrity relationships, Min softened the tone and made it much more friendly to stars. She also refocused the brand away from actors and singers and toward reality stars such as Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt of "The Hills" and Jon and Kate Gosselin, who were the little known stars of TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" until Us Weekly under Min put them on cover after cover and helped to make their personal soap opera a national obsession.
She said she's now aiming to expand the scope of the Hollywood Reporter as well.
"Hollywood is not necessarily just film and TV, but also fashion, new media, publishing and news," she said. "We're going to hone in on who the big players are and I don't just mean celebrities."
Launching what would essentially be a new magazine with an old name in a very challenging economic environment for media companies is a big risk, though it seemed clear that as the second-place publication in a shrinking space, the Reporter needed to make a bold move.
"They're moving away from their core historical value towards something more of a leisure read," observed Peter Kreisky, who runs his own consultancy focused on the media business. "The question is whether there really is a big audience of people who aren't in Hollywood but love to know everything about it."
Though Min is the biggest name nabbed by the Reporter, the publication is in the midst of a hiring spree at a time when many other media companies are holding the line on staff or cutting back. It recently hired Michaela Apruzzese, who was director of movie advertising for The Times, as associate publisher for entertainment.
Elizabeth Guider, who has served as editor of the Hollywood Reporter since 2007, will stay in her post and report to Min. No other staff changes are expected in the immediate future.