New Variety owner Jay Penske won kudos from his new employees at Variety by promising to take down the paper’s online paywall, continue the industry trade’s presence in print and invest in its newsroom.
In his first address to Variety’s approximately 120 employees late Wednesday afternoon, the head of Penske Media Corp., which acquired the venerable Hollywood trade paper on Tuesday for about $25 million, made a largely positive impression on the staff, according to people who attended but requested anonymity because the meeting was private.
Many Variety reporters and editors have been frustrated that their content is less read online than that of competitors such as the Hollywood Reporter and Penske-owned Deadline, in part because it is only available to paying subscribers.
Attendees at the meeting in Variety’s mid-Wilshire Boulevard office applauded when Penske said he would remove the publication’s digital paywall. However, the young media mogul explained that the subscriber-only rule won’t end immediately, but rather will be phased out in the coming months.
While Penske promised to continue publishing the paper in print, he did not explain whether he will keep Daily Variety’s current five-day-a-week print version, weekly Variety, or both. However, the people in attendance said they believe it’s likely Daily Variety will not continue publishing Monday through Friday for too long, as most Hollywood professionals now read breaking news online.
Also winning praise from attendees was Penske’s comment that Variety’s editorial operation needs investment after years of layoffs by former owner Reed Elsevier. Then again, one person said Penske added that there may be some changes in staffing.
The only change confirmed so far, however, is the imminent departure of Variety president Neil Stiles.
Deadline.com editor-in-chief Nikki Finke will not be involved at all in Variety, Penske said at the meeting, confirming what he earlier told the Los Angeles Times. In addition, he shot down speculation in the New York Post that Bonnie Fuller, editor of the Penske-owned HollywoodLife.com, might take over Variety.