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Weekly ‘Variety’ changes with times

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"Franchise gets heat from FBI, grand jury." "Ex-UA prexy on Radar.""D’works pages ‘Knights.’ "

Such entertainment industry headlines appear in print in Daily Variety and on the Web at Variety.com, but news articles like these no longer appear in the weekly print version of Variety.

For almost a century, the weekly Variety, a Reed Business Information publication, delivered news to executives in the entertainment industry. But, with the advent of Daily Variety, Daily Variety Gotham and Variety.com, the weekly became something of an afterthought, filled with content that had already appeared in Daily Variety or on the Web site, which is especially popular with entertainment executives overseas.

"The Hollywood readership is addicted to Daily Variety," said Charlie Koones, group VP-publisher of Variety. "They live and breathe Daily Variety. That’s the good news. That bad news is they’re saying, ‘I get what I need out of Daily Variety. What do I need a weekly for?’"

Compounding Variety’s troubles, the magazine was delivered on Monday mornings. That’s the day that Hollywood executives are preoccupied with the weekend grosses and a standard slate of meetings, Variety Editor Peter Bart pointed out.

So earlier this year, Variety quietly implemented a two-pronged strategy to reinvigorate the publication. First, it began offering Sunday delivery in Los Angeles and New York with the hope that industry moguls would read the magazine by the pool or in Central Park. Sunday delivery will soon be available in London, as well. Second, it shifted the editorial focus to more news analysis and features.

The goal was to create an entertainment version of the Sunday New York Times, explained Jim Casella, CEO of Reed Business. Koones said his model was Barron’s relationship with The Wall Street Journal.

The revamped weekly contains stories that typically wouldn’t appear in Daily Variety. For example, Bart cited one story about Hollywood executives hiring restaurant chefs to come to their homes to cook for dinner parties.

Content divergence

The move by Variety may point to an increased divergence between Internet content and print content in b-to-b publishing.

"I think it raises a real question about the entire issue of frequency in the business press," said Robert Crosland, managing director of AdMedia Partners Inc., a New York-based media investment bank. "Where timely delivery was of the essence, weekly frequency became something that the industry demanded and expected and received. Now, you can have perpetual delivery, so you get it when it’s hot."

He forecast that other industries with b-to-b dailies or weeklies—for example, those dealing with women’s fashion, travel and consumer advertising—might soon be facing the same issue as Variety. He predicted they might produce a daily companion to their print publications—most likely on the Internet—to handle breaking news, while weekly or monthly magazines will take on news analysis and features.

So far, the revamping of Variety has produced some encouraging results. About 11,000 subscribers have the weekly delivered to their homes on Sunday, including 7,500 new subscribers, according to Koones.

Still-valuable franchise

Although Variety’s weekly edition takes in less than half of the ad revenue of Daily Variety, it is a valuable franchise. It posted ad revenue of $16.2 million in 2001, a slight drop from the $16.6 million it totaled the previous year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Daily Variety reported ad revenue of $35.4 million in 2001, up from $32.7 million in 2000.

So far, Koones is pleased with this year’s results for the weekly Variety. "We had the most bang-up May that we’ve ever had for advertising sales," he said.

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