Is the end near for Hollywood trades?

The New York Times' Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes set up a piece examining the future of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter by saying the "feisty tradition of entertainment trade reporting and criticism...has been so severely tested in recent weeks that some wonder whether the entire era is drawing to a close." There was last week's elimination of the top staff critics at Variety, followed by the lawsuit from the producers of "Iron Cross," and with the increasing competition from the web the question now is whether the trades' style of journalism "can even survive."

Movie and television companies, making fewer films and having revenue decline, have been slashing their industry-oriented advertising. A representative of one media conglomerate, who spoke anonymously to protect relationships, said the person’s company cut its overall spending on trade ads by 50 percent in 2009 from the year-earlier level.

In a stark illustration, Paramount Pictures did not buy a single print ad in Variety for “Up in the Air,” which had six Oscar nominations (and won none). As recently as last year, it was routine to support contenders with a string of ads in Variety, with a cost totaling $1.2 million or more.

Meanwhile, the sort of insider knowledge that was once the stock in trade of the Hollywood papers has become ubiquitous, and free, on the Web. The dozens of entertainment-specific sites include IndieWire.com, TheWrap.com, Hollywood.com, Deadline.com and TMZ.com, while some mainstream papers have stepped up show business coverage.

Executives of both trades were upbeat in the story, and Variety's circulation is up 10 percent over a year ago. However, "the Audit Bureau of Circulations said it no longer tracks The Reporter’s circulation."

Related: At The Wrap, "Iron Cross" producer Joshua Newton details his complaints about Variety and accuses the editor of lying.

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