Bloggers like Nikki Finke have been nimble and fast, and while an L.A. Times reporter is on the phone waiting for confirmation, Nikki puts it up regardless if it’s right or wrong.
So perhaps in an attempt to combat Nikki Finke, the L.A. Times has restarted Company Town, which will be written by Joe Flint, a former Wall Street Journal reporter.
“We’ll be able to do things like a rumor of the day,” said one staffer. “Newspapers need to figure how to do this, to report on the things that we know—we know— are true, but that no one is confirming. And that’s where Nikki kills everyone. She goes out there and says it, and sometimes it’s true, and sometimes it isn’t, and no one holds her for account for what’s not true. And everyone credits her when she’s right. Hopefully, [Mr. Flint] will be able to figure it out.”
The Replacement Killers
“The trades have become increasingly irrelevant,” said Sharon Waxman, the former New York Times reporter who has started a blog of her own, The Wrap. “I used to get the trades. I used to get Variety every day and it’s been a long time since I got Variety every day.”
“When I started the Web site, I think people were—not surprised— but I think people realized ‘Oh my God, here’s the truth! This is not the pabulum that I’m getting every day,’” said Nikki Finke, the writer behind the daily blog Deadline Hollywood.
“The L.A. Times has a very strange relationship in Hollywood,” Ms. Finke said. “Sometimes it’s in bed with them, sometimes it’s not. It’s changed owners, changed editors, changed focus and—along with The New York Times—the L.A. Times has desperately needed advertising by the studio and networks and they have become more groveling. You just don’t see those negative stories that you used to.”
Whether it’s true or not—she would argue that everything that she says is true—it’s what gave her an opening and a following.
The Web site launched in March 2006, and by time the writers’ strike hit in the fall 2007, it was a bona fide hit and a must-read among everyone in Hollywood (and earned Ms. Finke our Media Mensch of the Year award).
“Nikki is the one to beat right now,” says the now-retired longtime Hollywood reporter Anita Busch.
Ms. Finke reported on her blog that Variety wanted to buy her (Mr. Stiles, the Variety Group publisher, said there was an early conversation, but it didn’t get much farther than that). Business Insider reported that Arianna Huffington was interested in buying Deadline Hollywood as well.
“We are not in any conversations to buy Nikki Finke,” Ms. Huffington said when we asked her about it. But had she ever entertained the idea? “We’re not in any conversations now. That’s all I can say.”
It might have been a good move.
“What is clear—what is absolutely clear—is that people in Hollywood have been hungry for an alternative,” said Ms. Waxman.
Ms. Waxman has a full-time team of six people, and a series of other contractors, many of whom are on one-month contracts, and her largest single investor is the venture capital firm Maveron, which was co-founded by current Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz and Dan Levitan, a former managing director at Schroders who helped with the Starbucks IPO.
In her office, in her West Coast home, she’s got a list of words up that can’t be used by contributors at The Wrap.
“We are not the trades,” she said. “We’re just not. Inevitably, people have come to us who are from the trades. So if I have to beat it out, I will do that! I do have a sign up that says I don’t want to see any of that industry jargon that is incomprehensible to the average reader. ‘A starrer! A helmer! A lensman!’ None of that stuff goes in The Wrap.”
She said she wants to watch her spending because when there’s a shake-out, which she said will inevitably happen with the trades and the broadsheet papers, she wants to be there. “They’ve come to The Wrap in great numbers because they want to read a site that doesn’t have an agenda and doesn’t have a nasty tone to it that is interested and knowledgeable about their lives and their business and their world and wants to report on it in a way that is lively and has a pulse, but isn’t mean-spirited.”