Variety will lose paywall; staffers rejoice

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Variety staffers applauded when new owner Jay Penske told them he’ll begin dismantling the publication’s paywall, Ben Fritz reports:

Many Variety reporters and editors have been frustrated that their content is less read online than that of competitors such as the Hollywood Reporter and Penske-owned Deadline, in part because it is only available to paying subscribers.

Variety will keep its print edition, Penske reportedly told staffers, though people at the meeting told Fritz it’s “likely Daily Variety will not continue publishing Monday through Friday for too long, as most Hollywood professionals now read breaking news online.”

Also in monetization news, Jason Del Rey reports Business Insider will start implementing a “variety of sponsored-content elements.” Under a cheeky Business Insider-style headline, Del Rey reports BI “has sold sponsored posts and emails in the past” and is now

doubling down on those efforts with what it calls “Brand Insider,” which will allow advertisers to buy sponsored slideshows, videos, and even create their own blogs on subdomains within Business Insider that would mix branded content with relevant Business Insider editorial.

The company isn’t yet profitable, Del Rey writes, but it projects $12 million in revenue this year. And it’s growing traffic like crazy: 19 million unique visitors in September, the company says.

How did it achieve such growth? One way is by embracing a loose definition of what business news is as it continues to expand into new verticals. For example, a recent post on the home page offered readers advice on fantasy football. Ms. Hansen said the site will continue to push the boundary on what it deems relevant to its audience as long as people are reading it and the composition of its readership doesn’t shift drastically. But only to a point.

“We’re not posting viral kitten videos,” she said. (Except a quick search on the site for “cats” turns up a post from last month titled “15 Pictures of Cats Saved By Firemen“; it’s been viewed nearly 10,000 times.)

More money news: Gawker Media has improved staff benefits to include sabbaticals and free meals, Jeff Bercovici reports.

Just how generous you think Gawker is now depends on the context. Gawker competes with newspapers for writing talent, but on the technology side it competes with the sort of Silicon Valley firms that boast in-house massage therapists and weekly skeet shooting trips.

Related: BuzzFeed’s big bet on shareable sponsored content (The Wall Street Journal)

Correction: This post originally misspelled Del Rey’s last name in several places and also credited Adweek instead of Ad Age.

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