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David Poland

By David Poland

It's not what you WON'T run, Tim… it's what you WILL run.

I am always pleased to see Patrick Goldstein embracing blogging and the web… it’s take him long enough to stop treating the web like… well, like he now is smacking Variety for treating it.
I will give it to Patrick, 100%… he made the call to Tim Gray and got Tim to make transparent what Variety has been trying to do without acknowledgment for years now… and without being quite a cut and dried ( or is that “cut and pasted”?) about it, the LA Times has also been doing for years as well. LAT, especially in its blog space, and NY, especially via Dave Itzkoff and, earlier, David Carr, have gotten a lot better. So I am happy to let bygones be bygones on this front.
Patrick writes – Gray insists that it’s not a knee-jerk reaction “to someone getting some news two minutes before we do and us throwing a hissy fit. It’s [being done] in instances where it was obvious that the story had been fed to an outlet before everyone got it.” Gray added that he’s also talked to reps at talent agencies, a prime source for most announcement-oriented leaks.
Well… with respect to Tim, two minutes is about the length of an “exclusive” these days. And 95% of movie industry news starts – and often ends – with the “news” being “fed to an outlet.” Same as it’s been for decades… only those outlets are no longer just The Trades, the LAT, the NY Times, or Geek Site A, B or C.
Speaking to the exec that Patrick spoke to – yes, Virginia… he reported AND blogged at the same time!!! – “It’s a terribly analog way of thinking in a digital world,” said one studio PR chief. “It’s just a totally unrealistic response, since if we’ve learned anything about the flow of information these days, it’s that it gets out in all sorts of uncontrollable ways. The minute we have a meeting or make a decision, it’s up on someone’s blog. We’re not the announcer anymore. We’re the responder to what someone’s already written. All we can do most of the time is damage control.”
This is the truth. And this is a lie.
And that is a much bigger news story than the dying embers of Variety appealing to publicists to throw them a bone so the egos that need to be stroked will have something to frame that isn’t printed out from a computer.
It is true that information is being disseminated by sources that are not the studio publicity offices. For one thing, Nikki Finke won’t deign to speak to lowly senior publicists, except if she needs someone to yell at maliciously and vulgarly on a weekend morning and is afraid of burning the bridge with the boss. But more significantly, information is being squeezed out of both ends and through holes in the middle of the studio toothpaste tube. By the time the top publicist at a studio is ready to send something out – often still selecting one outlet to get “the scoop” – it’s already been leaked by their bosses or their assistants. And truly irritating to them… they almost never know which one it is.
I have learned, after a lot of loud conversations, to be sympathetic to these men and women, who are not being allowed to do their job. I have also learned to be endlessly skeptical about how each situation occurs because now there is always plausible deniability. And sometimes, it’s true. And sometimes, it’s a publicist doing what they need to do… lying.
The benefit of “breaking news” in the trades has long been that it breaks, mostly, the way the studios/publicists/agents/managers/etc want it to break. But with the print editions of the trades going to less than 30,000 people a day during the non-Oscar seasons, more eyeballs online than off, with information flying at the speed of Twitter, and a bunch of websites every bit as willing to lie down for spin as The Trades ever were – even better, some being so weak in industry knowledge that they don’t even know they are being abused – there is no reason to stick to one outlet to dump your “news.”
Of course, it’s not just Nikki. You see stuff planted all over the place, virtually every day, including the NY and LA Times. Nikki is pretty much full-time servicing her Nikki Whisperers. Endeavor (nee’) should be paying her by the hour because they work her ass and work it hard.
With Nikki, we know that 90% of the time, it’s coming from the boss, their corporate, or someone in the Ari Emanuel army. With Patrick, it’s “friendlies.” With The Wrap, it’s a mix of a more traditional trade reporter – Joe Adalian – who actually does the TV work he’s done with added speed and internet style and a parade of others who are either not breaking much or hearing it third hand. At indieWIRE, it’s almost always the publicists who chose to go there first. And the LAT it’s long relationships and stuff on the over, cooking on simmer, all the time. And NYT is rarely the news breaker, unless it’s actual news or some publicist actually got to hang onto the “scoop” long enough to get it to The Paper of Record and who has news that actually can stand up to a few real questions. (Unfortunately, the longer form coverage is almost always riddled with mistakes of fact and opinion.)
Every studio has a varying degree of willingness to feed the maw. Some bosses truly fear Nikki and/or feel they control her enough that they will put their teams in harms way to maintain that control. Some less so. They all know that if they give the “news” to someone else, they will pay a price with Nikki… more so in angry abusive exchanges than in any form of power she wields. Her actual power remains the power of a playground bully. One slap back and she folds like a deck of cards. But this is an industry of fear and self-loathing.
Agents, who have always been the primary source for leaked news in “Hollywood,” should probably just open a blog or two of their own. But why bother? Everyone thinks of Nikki as a ball-busting bitch… so her willingness to carry their water is worth so much more.
Variety can fight back in one way and one way only. And that one way would likely win them this battle. Find someone who is willing to be as pliable and vicious as Nikki. I mean, I hope they won’t. But that is the game. Roger Friedman is a bottom dweller, but he doesn’t have the stomach to be what Nikki is. Either does Wells. Truth is, I don’t know anyone ambitious and desperate enough. But there has to be some 28 year old out there who is. Do what LA Weekly did… find someone who can’t keep a job because they are abusive and unreliable. (And no, Anita Busch is not even close to Nikki in this regard.)
Maybe Tim Gray should start calling people names on the front page. Maybe run a daily rundown of which execs are screwing which stars, agents, or other execs. It wouldn’t be journalism, but it would get their attention.
All that said… what really fascinates me about all of this is… these people are all fighting over the same tract of dying acreage. Are more of us being drawn into it because it’s become such a competitive area… even though there are a fixed number of interested readers and the primary outlets for this news are slowly going out of business?
It strikes me that a lot of energy is going into a ground war in Southeast Asia. It’s not even Iraq, where at least there is some oil to consider stealing.
But getting back to the original story… this is hardly news… however much quantifying it may be. If another outlet is handed a story or an EXCLUSIVE piece of any kind of content – I consider most movie news to be about as weighty as a new poster or trailer – we’re not likely to link to it unless the elements are high profile or in some other way Important. The standard is higher. And God knows, we feel that going the other way. The amount of MCN Exclusive content that is mined, but never linked by “competitors” is endless. And that is just the way it is. For a long time, if something broke in somewhere other than Variety, it would not run in Variety or it would run days later on an inside page.
Variety is dying. And if it wants to change the playing field, it needs to rethink the whole thing in a real way. Variety suffers from what much Old Media suffers from… the combination of arrogance that domination built and is no longer valid and the comfortable relationship it has with the industry that keeps it from playing as hard as others.
But before it decides what to do, it needs to get over the embarrassment and take a hard look at the competition. Unless Variety wants to become a single page blog or produce a lot less content, there is no online-only film industry news model that comes close to covering their rent, much less the cost of operations. Be careful what you wish for.

21 Responses to “It's not what you WON'T run, Tim… it's what you WILL run.”

  1. Vic says:

    So tell us, D.P., from where your gazing once again on the whole media-on-entertainment-media issue: how’s your navel today?

  2. David Poland says:

    So glad to have a new troll, “Vic.”
    Maybe you’ll add something other than pathetic slaps at your host someday. Until then, enjoy the lint.

  3. The InSneider says:

    I’m 26, not 28, DP. Hope you’re reading Deal Central in addition to TV MoJoe at TheWrap…

  4. Vic says:

    Wow, I’m a little surprised. I thought Finke and Waxman were supposed to be the shrill ones… but you’re a new daddy (congratulations!), so maybe you’re a little under-slept and grumpy. Or maybe you’re just jet-lagged from Bermuda (I know that from my trolling). In any event, lighten up. Maybe the Hollywood Reporter will offer you Elizabeth Guider’s job, too (now that everyone else seems to have turned it down).

  5. David Poland says:

    Do you really think you are doing what Nikki does, Jeff? Is there a kracken inside of you just waiting to kill randomly for a pat on the head?
    Generally, I don’t read The Wrap, including Adalian. But when I click on something, it’s usually him.
    It’s been a long time since I have been an aggressive trades reader and so far, The Wrap is a pale, too-often-inaccurate imitator.
    But you know, build the Jeff Sneider brand… do the work you want to do… you may be around a lot longer than the outlet you currently work for.

  6. Vic says:

    If it doesn’t work out for you at TheWrap, I suggest a career in media-on-media-on-media criticism. Call it the “Haught Blog”… Find writers who annoy you and just start writing. A point will sometimes ensue

  7. David Poland says:

    Is this going to be the drill with you for a long while, “Vic.”… you tear into me on some personal level, trying to bait me with your limited knowledge of me and my career, and never actually say anything of value?
    I guess it’s time for me to handle this correctly, for once… with silence.
    Troll away.

  8. Vic says:

    OK, D.P., don’t be such a little bitch. I’m just trying to have a little fun with a fourth-tier entertainment-blog operator. Sorry, wait — Thompson’s got nothing on you. Definitely third-tier. It’s a tie.

  9. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Vic you’re a total riot. A pathetic cumquat who saunters in to spit acid as the big man on campus for three nano seconds, before going back to his creepy little online life as a full time troll. I can’t imagine the horror of you in real life. Actually I can.
    Balding, goateed, whining and sexless.
    Hey and don’t be a little bitch, I’m just trying to have some fun with ya

  10. Vic says:

    Hey, that’s not cool, Doctor. I actually shaved the goatee.

  11. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    I only got one out of four?

  12. Vic says:

    Well, that depends on what you count as “sex.”

  13. Joe Leydon says:

    You know, I’m more than a little amused by all of this — but not for the reasons some of you might expect. This whole business of wanting to have the scoop two-three minutes before someone else — that’s exactly the same competitive mentality that prevailed back in the pre-Internet day when AP and UPI were duking it out. Seriously: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

  14. movielocke says:

    nothing to do with the article, but I think BO numbers are always gobbled up here. That Hollywood Reporter Avatar Deliverables story on the front page has some very useful numbers for assessing 3d premiums. 7650 screens were 3d or imax, 18150 screens were flat.
    cue the hissy fit.
    The idea that only 33 percent of the film’s worldwide take came from 3d screens is going to piss off a lot of people intent on bringing goliath down.
    And insert caveat here about Avatar selling more tickets at 3d venues yadda yadda whatever, 3d only made up 1/3 of the available venues, even saying that 1/3 sold 2/3 of tickets and 2/3 sold 1/3 it still made a metric fuck-ton of money in an entirely legitimate way, 3d premiium or not.

  15. The problem I have, as a hobby-blogger, is that stuff that I’d love to comment on is first reported as ‘rumored’ or ‘in negotiations’ or some other variation of maybe/possibly. By the time interesting news becomes fact (such as Marvel finally picking a friggin Captain America), everyone and their mother has talked about it. I guess it goes to the whole “I’d rather be right than first” argument. But by the time you wait to see if ‘it’ is right, no one cares anymore. Minor problem in the grand scheme of things, I know, but it’s annoying as so much interesting news is reported in every stage of ‘possibly’ before it becomes ‘true’. Kinda makes the actual official word genuinely anti-climactic.

  16. David Poland says:

    Jeff Sneider = Vic?
    Or is it someone else who works for The Wrap?

  17. Vic says:

    Two thoughts, D.P.
    1.) I thought you were going to ignore me… on the count of the fact that I was rude… to the host. Please forgive me. I crave your illustrious attention.
    2.) I assumed you knew who I was… You were 97% sure, remember?
    Third bonus thought: Snider? Come on. He’s too Jewish.

  18. The InSneider says:

    No clue who the anti-semite ‘Vic’ is but I assume he wrote the semi-accurate “What’s Wrong With Variety” screed that appeared here recently, the one DP said he was 97% sure about who wrote it…
    Only chimed in for a shameless bit of self-promotion to alert your radar, DP. Will just stay asleep next time. Getting tired of the old media vs. new media story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always fun to read your perspective, but you’re beginning to sound like a broken record. Hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation and Mazel Tov (it means congratulations, Vic) on the baby.

  19. David Poland says:

    You might want to be more careful about switching your IP address when attempting to troll anonymously.
    Obviously, you were the 3%. My error. I will be sure to disregard in future.

  20. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Funny, he doesn’t look Druish.

  21. The Big Perm says:

    Hey Mirajeff, remember when you were AICN’s shittiest writer? I normally woulnd’t remember but Mira was the epoitome of horrible internet writing when he was fixating on some actresses’ teeth. You think any real critic is going to complain about someone’s crooked fucking tooth? I don’t remember who the actress was, but it was someone I’m sure ol’ Mira would fuck in two seconds if he had half the chance (he won’t).
    In this case, Old Media wins!

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