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Showbiz industry sites expand

In the latest example of Hollywood embracing the Net, the bibles of the entertainment industry are offering more content, some of it for a fee.

In the latest example of Hollywood embracing the Net, the bibles of the entertainment industry, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, are quietly gearing up to expand their Web sites with more news, entertainment, and features--some of it for a fee.

The competition is stiff among these dueling Tinsel Town sites. The blending of Silicon Valley technology with Hollywood entertainment, affectionately known as "Siliwood," already has affected moviemaking. Now it is being extended to communications in real time, just as with technology, business, and sports news.

"Insider information and timely information is what makes this town run," said Scott McKim, who edits the "Hollywood Hyperlinks" section for the Reporter's online site. The Web site will help by bringing information to people faster and extending the reach of the publication throughout the world, he added. Besides expanding the audience, it is an opportunity to generate more sales.

The Reporter's online site has been up and running for about two years, and it averages about 500,000 page impressions each month from users in more than 100 countries. The site is being expanded to include features such as "World Watch," breaking press reports posted by bureaus in London, New York, and Los Angeles; and "Sound Off," a poll that lets users vote on news-related questions and see the results posted immediately on the site.

Other features will include a stock ticker, providing a rundown on entertainment company stocks; more color photography and graphics; live news photos; and a film reviews page.

For free, the Reporter offers users the top headlines of the day, along with a paragraph of each story. The full text is available for $9.95 per month. The first five stories or reviews are free; after that, the charge is 25 cents per story or 75 cents for archived stories.

As previously reported, the Hollywood Reporter's rival, Variety, is planning to launch a Web site by year's end, which also will offer free and fee-based content. According to the site, "www.variety.com," the launch is "coming later this fall," but sources said it is expected around December 3. Prelaunch discounts are being offered for the paid content.

Free access, aimed at the "showbiz buff," will include top Daily Variety stories, box office charts, columns, and reviews. The fee-based version called Variety Extra (pitched at the "industry pro") will feature the full text of stories, archives, box office and production charts, and reviews.

The expansion by these Hollywood publications is another example of the migration of print media companies to the Web with paid content. Others include the Wall Street Journal and Playboy.

Companies have had mixed success getting people to pay for their online content, but analysts say those with brand names or a loyal audience stand the best chance.