Hollywood Reporter ditching print? Not so fast

It wouldn't be terribly surprising to see one or more entertainment trade papers retreat from print or disappear entirely; indeed, some of the participants in the DailyFinance Media Brain Trust poll predicted just that. But is it happening already?

Hollywood blogger (and newly-minted millionaire) Nikki Finke says it is, reporting Thursday that The Hollywood Reporter is planning to do away with its daily print edition by the end of the year. Meanwhile, its arch-rival, Variety, has plans in place to turn its currently free website into a subscriber-only destination, says Finke.
But people at Nielsen Business Media, which publishes The Hollywood Reporter, insist that Finke is at least half wrong. "A decision hasn't even been made yet" about whether, much less when, to go online-only, insists one high-level source. "I would bet my life it won't be this year."

Moreover, says the source, the complete eradication of the print edition is only one of "a billion different options" being considered by Nielsen. "It could go from five days a week to three days, or two days. The one fact I can tell you is that no decision has been made."

A Nielsen spokeswoman echoed that position, saying, "We continue to look at the best way to serve our readers, but we have no plans to shut down the print edition." (The Wrap, another entertainment-business website, is also carrying denials of Finke's report.)

As for the claim that Variety will put its site behind a pay wall, a spokeswoman for Reed Business Information referred a call to publisher Brian Gott, who was not immediately available.

It should be noted that Finke's site, Deadline Hollywood Daily, competes directly with both Variety and THR for readers, advertisers and scoops. "I'd hate to see either trade disappear from the showbiz landscape," she writes, but there's little question that she'd benefit if it happened.

I asked Finke what she makes of the denials. "Things can always change. But that's what THR is openly telling Hollywood," she replied. "As I reported, they were contemplating the October 16th date but moved back from it. And they are preparing their awards issues. However, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a game of chicken played out between Variety and THR to see who blinks first. But Variety is operating on the assumption that THR will go 'online only' in 2009."

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