The New York Observer has an item on the collapse of Variety, once the definitive source of Hollywood insider info. What happened was the internet, where there is no “definitive” source of anything and where having a big online presence doesn’t actually help a trade paper make money. It may be even worse for entertainment trade papers than for non-niche papers. Whereas the internet can’t compete with the New York Times for reporting, and bloggers/twitterers wind up linking to or quoting from newspaper reporting, the information that Variety or The Hollywood Reporter offer is often accessible to anyone who has an inside source or two. News about executive firings, movie projects and TV cancellations therefore winds up being “broken” all over the place. So all Variety has left is its brand name, and it’s a brand name that’s increasingly associated with boredom and, during the writers’ strike, a pro-producers slant that didn’t set well with a lot of its readership.
The piece, or the people quoted in it, seem a bit too convinced that traditional entertainment journalism is completely different from online gossip. One person is quoted as saying: “And that’s where Nikki [Finke] kills everyone. She goes out there and says it, and sometimes it’s true, and sometimes it isn’t, and no one holds her for account for what’s not true.” Well, that’s true as far as it goes, but it’s not like Variety has been right and accurate on everything either, and at least Finke’s site, for all its flaws, presents itself as a gossip site. At this point, shorn of its status as the place where insiders go to learn about their business, Variety is basically a gossip publication that pretends to be something else.