A high-level executive at the Hollywood Reporter reacted on Wednesday with skepticism and a little bemusement to a report that a decision had been made to close the print publication by the end of the year.
"Either I'm the last to know, or it's wrong," the executive told TheWrap.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Deadline.com claimed that the venerable Hollywood trade would officially be going online-only some time in 2009.
"The Nielsen company (owner of THR) has, like every company, been discussing what to do with the newspaper," the executive said. "But it's safe to say we'll have a print operation through the Oscar season. Beyond that, there are constant talks."
Indeed, it makes sense to keep things running through February, since the bounty of "For Your Consideration" ads — even if there are fewer than usual — are still out there to be had. And even better for the trades, Oscar's Best Picture category has been expanded to 10 nominees.
The executive had no comment as to what would happen beyond February.
In the same report, Deadline.com also said that Variety was planning to ditch its free website and go behind a paywall.
"A Variety reader gets his or her information in a multitude of ways," one high-level Variety executive told TheWrap. "We want to offer people one price across the medium."
What that exactly means is nebulous.
The idea, the executive explained, is that a reader would get all Variety news distribution for one price: web, mobile, print.
While that is kind of what the paper does now, it has up until this point had a completely free website, so, in reality, readers do not need to subscribe to anything.
Rumors have been swirling about THR's eventual demise for at least a year. And Variety's pay strategy has been circulating around town as well.
As everyone knows, the economy has done some serious damage to all print media, but especially niche, trade publications that, like Variety and THR, have great demographics but reasonably few eyeballs when compared to consumer publications.
There's more: studio consolidation, the near-death of the independent film business and weak DVD revenues have put huge pressure on conglomerates. Vanity advertising, therefore, has been pulled back across all sectors.
If the Reporter closed, that would be a significant move in the world of business entertainment coverage, as both it and Variety have been the kings of trade journalism in L.A. for decades.
Both trades have been downsizing for the past year, and THR even went online-only for much of December.