It's not what you know, it's who you know--and that's doubly true in Hollywood, where even a tech editor can be handed a DVD while waiting for a latte at the local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. (For the record, the movie was not good.) So I wasn't too surprised to read news that Variety, indispensable trade publication for the Hollywood machine, was launching a social network. Appropriately named The Biz, the site's described as the place where "entertainment professionals network, pitch products, exchange ideas, and search for jobs among peers and industry experts."
My knee-jerk reaction was snark, for example, how many waiters and dog walkers would I be able to find on the site? It didn't help that once I signed up I immediately received an invitation to connect with someone I had never met and with whom I had nothing obvious in common. However, after a bit of poking around I started to think that the idea makes sense. Hollywood is a project-based industry, with many of its workers moving to new jobs every few months, if not weeks. Keeping in touch with people you've met or worked with could very well result in your next gig.
The only way The Biz makes sense, though, is if it offers something different from existing social networking sites--and thus far it doesn't have much. Formatwise, the site looks a lot like LinkedIn (in fact, you can import your profile information from LinkedIn when you sign up), though it adds a few entertainment-friendly features, such as support for large headshots and the capability to embed a YouTube video of your demo reel. At this point the main benefit of the service seems to be its integration with Variety's paid job listings; once you've assigned keywords to your profile, jobs for which you might be qualified appear automatically on your landing page.
The Biz is still in beta, so there's plenty of opportunity for Variety to come up with ways to differentiate the site before its official launch. A better embedded media player would be a great start; a "pitch room" or a board dedicated to calls for submissions would also be useful. In the meantime, though, your people can call my people1--or just find me on The Biz.
1 Disclaimer: Author does not actually have "people." This is just a lame joke.