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.

More by Kevin Roderick:
LA Observed Notes: 60 Minutes, selling the Coliseum and more
Gil Cedillo, Nick Melvoin win LA runoffs*
LA Observed Notes: Baca goes down, LAX shuffle, media moves
LA Observed Notes: Big TV news, media moves, obits and more
LA Observed Notes: Writers on the verge, Fox, the riots and more
Recent Hollywood stories on LA Observed:
Costume designer Mary Zophres moves on from 'La La Land'
Robert Osborne, 84, host on Turner Classic Movies
Oscars end on a surprise plot twist*
Westwood's Regent theatre to close, become restaurants
Richard Schickel, 84, film critic, director and author
Media notes: Nikki Finke going to Harvard, local Ellies and more
Janice Min leaving THR, Matthew Belloni upped
Tyrus Wong, legendary Disney artist, was 106


LA Observed on Twitter