Two bastions of Hollywood’s trade press are going through the paywall drill again. Variety.com is planning to put most of its online content behind a paywall next year, Nikke Finke reports and paidContent has confirmed.
I spoke with Variety Group President Neil Stiles, who said that the executives have been looking at the issue of charging for online content for more than nine months. He said that they are determined to make the paywall policy as simple and clear as possible. “We believe you should pay one subscription price and receive Variety’s content wherever you are and whenever you want, whether its print, online or on our mobile app. You should pay once, and then consume. We don’t think it’s our job to decide how readers consume the magazine. We want to let the readers decide that.” The Hollywood trade mag dismantled its longstanding premium subscription site back in early 2007.
On the other side of the Hollywood trade mag divide, paidContent sources dispute Finke’s claim that The Hollywood Reporter is going printless and will implement a subscription model for access to its online content. As for looking at a paywall beyond its archives, one source said, “Of course we’re examining it, but so is everybody else in this market. No decisions have been made though.” [Update: Nielsen’s official statement just came in: “We continue to look at the best way to serve our readers but we have no plans to shut down the print edition.”]
THR never had as substantial a paywall as Variety did. Its archives have been the only part consistently walled off from the free content. Nielsen is currently reviewing the structure for most of its online content and whatever happens at THR.com will likely be replicated at its sibling trade pubs, such as Mediaweek and Adweek, all of which have seen their online and print editorial functions draw closer together over the past year.
As the ad recession has continued to dig in, magazine sites have have had more trouble drawing ad revenue. When things were still booming two and a half years ago, it looked like walling the content with online subscription fees was a losing proposition. Even when the ad dollars start rising again, almost no one expects the growth to be what it used to be, making subscriptions the safest bet, if not the surest one to sustainability.