Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Variety Launches Today: What I Would Have Done

Pic via AJ Marechal's Twitter feed.

UPDATE: Just thumbed through the first edition of New Variety. NICE. Stellar design, chock full of interesting stuff and THICK. I can see why it would be tough to do this twice a week (although the content could obviously be spread across two thinner issues, perhaps). Below, my post from this morning on what I would do with the pub.

Final Variety

Farewell, Daily Variety (that's the final issue, above). Hello again, Variety. Having spent 12 years of my professional life at the venerable trade, I am eagerly rooting for it to succeed and still find myself angered by some of the cheap shots that even cheaper competitors throw its way. I was sad to see the Daily go -- but heartened to see a beefed-up Weekly Variety (where we always did some of our best, deeper reads) come on the scene, starting today. For years my colleagues and I dreamed of blowing up the website and completely turning it into something more reader-friendly, while turning the Weekly into a heftier publication. It looks like they're finally doing both. I can't wait to get my hands on today's premiere copy.

Not that anyone asked, but if you're reading this Jay Penske, here's my take on what the new owners of Variety ought to do with the print publication -- starting with the idea of squeezing out at least two issues a week. Given all the congratulatory and For Your Consideration ads out there, I still think a twice-a-week format would better distinguish Variety from its glossy, well-funded competitor, The Hollywood Reporter.

I would have also eliminated Daily Variety, and here's the twist: I would publish what's now known as weekly Variety twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. (Giving Variety a slight edge over The Hollywood Reporter's once-a-week schedule.)

The Monday edition would take full advantage of the weekend box office and the Sunday night awards shows -- the one place where people can buy full-page ads touting their box office domination or congratulating Oscar/Globes/SAG/Emmy/Grammy/etc. winners. The issue would be built around something called THE WEEK -- a detailed list of winners and losers from the past week (emphasizing the big moves at the agencies, studios and networks) as well as a detailed calendar of the week ahead; big stories looking back at last week's big stories and looking ahead to what will be important this week.

Thursday's issue would include detail-heavy TV ratings grids, domestic and international box office charts and full dissections of each -- indispensable info that is harder to translate online. (Also: A look ahead at the upcoming weekend's box office and award shows). Plus that issue would be built around something called THE LIST -- a weekly feature that would change from week to week -- power lists, overall deal rosters, pilot charts, salary surveys -- ultimately, 52 U.S. News & World Report-style must-read lists that everyone will be clamoring to see. This would be a variation of the specials sections that have driven revenue for years at the trades -- so yes, these lists could be touted to advertisers for congratulations ads.

Big newsy stories, industry think pieces, editorials, and Variety's patented, hefty movie, stage and TV reviews would make up the bulk of the two weekly issues. Variety is all about news and attitude.

I'm not a business guy, so perhaps the bean counters decided that even this idea was not financially feasible. But I also still gotta believe, as a print guy, that there's still a portion of Hollywood that wants to see its stories -- and its ads -- on the page.

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