3 Lessons to Learn from 100 Years of Variety

In 1905, Sime Silverman had an idea to launch a weekly entertainment newspaper that would the only source anyone would ever need for entertainment information. He wanted it to be the one resource that entertainers, entertainment business professionals and fans used to find out what was going on with the world of radio, movies and print. To satisfy his dream, Silverman founded Variety Magazine and he was off and running. By 1933, Variety turned into a daily paper and cemented its status as the only place to get accurate entertainment news.

By 2013, Variety had run its course and it was time to move to an online format. On March 13, 2013 Variety printed its last daily newspaper and announced that it would be going back to a weekly format online. Initially, Variety was charging for online subscriptions. But in early 2014, the paper announced that it was going to offer its content for free.

Despite some initial struggles, Variety has been able to thrive online and make a successful transition. If a print icon like Variety can make that transition, after over a century of printing daily papers, then it is doing something right. There are several important business lessons everyone can learn by watching Variety make its successful transition.

Know Your Product

Tim Gray is the editor-in-chief of Variety and he did an interview with the Chicago Tribune in February 2013 that summed up why Variety was able to make the transition from print to digital so successfully. “People still love to see their names in print and frame it, and a screen grab is just not the same thing,” Gray said. This understanding of Variety’s status in the entertainment industry explains why Variety is, and probably always will be, the primary resource for people in the entertainment world.

How has Variety been able to survive for so long? Because it has always understood that it fills a need that people have. Celebrities want to see their accomplishments celebrated and fans want to read celebrity news. Variety has developed a product that is in demand and it never did anything to lessen the value of that product in the eyes of its audience. That is why Variety was able to survive for over a century and why it was able to make a successful transition.

Change Is Inevitable

When Variety entered the newspaper world, there was no other publication like it. There was no paper covering the entertainment world in the way that Silverman wanted to. In 1933, Variety saw that its customers needed daily information, so it changed its format to a daily. In 2013, Variety moved to an online-only format to accommodate the changes in the world.

When business owners look at Variety and wonder how it has survived so long, the simple answer is that Variety understands that change is inevitable. The businesses that embrace change are the ones that survive.

The Customer Really Does Come First

When Variety initially launched its online-only format, it had a subscription program in place that charged for its content. Some publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, have been very successful at charging for online news content. But Variety quickly learned that charging for its online content was not working for its customers. Variety decided to drop the paid subscriptions and move to an open business model.

The important thing for business professionals to remember is that the customer is what matters. Variety can increase its advertising rates when it increases its web traffic. The only way to increase web traffic is to give the people what they want. If there is one thing Variety has learned in its 100+ years, it is how to give the people what they want. Whether it is online or in print, Variety remains a resource that people want to use.

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