Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hollywood Reporter Rediscovers Journalism


When I first heard the news that the daily show business trade publication The Hollywood Reporter would become a weekly, glossy magazine, what surprised me most was not what its future might be but rather what it had become to warrant such a drastic make-over.  Apparently, its staff had turned complacent, relying on scoops from Internet bloggers and fan-driven Web sites as well as content provided by the press agents and marketing gurus of the Tinseltown insiders for the stories they were writing.  No wonder it was hemorrhaging readers and facing a fiscal crisis.

The new version of The Hollywood Reporter will be a cooler looking magazine that will strive to increase advertising revenue and attract new readers by focusing on what it had forgotten -- writing stories about breaking news in the entertainment business.  In other words, doing some actual (hopefully unbiased) reporting instead of serving as a dated rehasher of facts that people have already learned online or regurgitations of the bland PR fluff that was constantly fed to them by studios, networks, agencies, and celebrity handlers.

The new Hollywood Reporter wants to become a must-read publication again in an age when people are getting their news from mobile devices and computer screens rather than from the printed page.  It is a hard hill to climb -- I confess that I cancelled my subscription to the showbiz trades when their physical delivery to my doorstep provided nothing but out-of-date retreads of what I had already heard or read or seen from other sources.  The new weekly version of Hollywood Reporter, plus a revamped Web site, promises to shake things up and deliver content that people will look forward to reading again.

It is telling that The Hollywood Reporter's stiffest competition is no longer its fellow famous trade publication Variety, but rather a string of Web sites like Deadline.comAintItCoolNews.com, IndieWire.comTheWrap.com and countless blogs that report on casting news, script sales, projects getting greenlit, clients switching agencies, and more, all before the old-school publications even have time to blink.
The trades are still overpriced in my opinion, but maybe this new bold move by The Hollywood Reporter is a step in the right direction as it attempts to regain relevance in the digital age.

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