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Go Digital Or Go Home

pbart.jpgThe Los Angeles Times has more details on the dismissal of Variety‘s former Editor-in-Chief Peter Bart. Though he made the trade publication the bible of Hollywood in the 20th century, industry experts say he was ultimately let go because he did not have the capability to take Variety online.

Barely into the 21st, the venerable trade newspaper has been dethroned by bloggers and collapsing revenue. Now its formidable editor in chief&#151who taps out blog posts on a typewriter and reads e-mails on paper&#151has ended his 20-year reign as the publication looks to remake itself for the digital age.

The circulation for Daily Variety is at 24,740, down from its publishing peak of 35,716 in 2001. In the first quarter advertising fell 37 percent, sharply down from 2007. Like other media outlets, Variety attempted to patch its revenue wound through layoffs, but the paper still lost traction. This month issues of the paper have been running practically ad-free.

Daily Variety‘s circulation was 24,740, down from a 2001 peak of 35,716. In the first quarter, advertising pages, which were already down sharply from 2007, fell 37 percent. Like many newspapers, Variety has laid off reporters and editors in recent months, and current issues of the paper have been virtually ad-free.

In the late 80s and 90s he turned the paper around by taking it from an insider trade to a mix of business and commercial news.

In its heyday, agents would rush to the paper to see if client news had made the paper’s front page, and distributors would start to tally losses if their new movies had received a negative review. The especially hapless would earn one of Bart’s sometimes caustic open letters&#151filmmakers like James Cameron among them&#151in which Bart would offer unsolicited career advice.

All of Bart’s attempts to move into a mainstream, digital outlet have been disasters for the publication. In the 90s he started eV, a monthly publication launched to cover digital media, but it was soon crushed by the crash. Now news of studio collapses and inside gossip is covered on news entertainment blogs that consistently beat Variety to the story. Bart has been unable to reinvent the paper to make it relevant now. Reed put the publishing group that includes Variety up for sale late last year.

As Bart himself notes, he is not young anymore and it was always a tacit agreement after 20 some odd years he would move into a new role. So now former second in command, Timothy M. Gray, will move to the top role and hopefully implement new digital strategies that will help Variety maintain its relevance in the 21st century.

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Peter Bart Out At Variety

Peter Bart‘s legendary 20-year tenure as editor in chief of Variety is ending today, when Bart will be replaced by his deputy Tim Gray.
Bart, an ex-Hollywood film exec, is credited with professionalizing the trade mag, known in the industry as the “Bible of Show Business.” For years it dominated its competitor The Hollywood Reporter. For years, the magazine was reaping profits of 30 to 40 percent—those margins are much reduced this year.

The WSJ’s reporting that it sounds as if the move was planned. This from Tad Smith, CEO of Reed Business Information, which owns Variety:
“Bart has managed Variety’s staff and news operations for 20 years, and we have long had an agreement in place that, at the 20-year mark, he would move on to new responsibilities.” Speculation’s that at age 76, Bart is regarded as being from the “wrong generation to transform Variety for the digital age,” TheWrap reports. On the other hand, Gray’s not known for his online savvy either: “Gray is considered an experienced and well-liked editor who has run both daily and weekly publications but has not been intimately involved in”

Bart will continue to contribute his weekly column, blog, and more, and will report to Smith.