Neil began his career working for the NME, and is currently President of the Variety Group; in this capacity he oversees the considerable and influential business operations of the Variety franchise including Variety, Daily Variety, Daily Variety Gotham, and Variety.com.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Neil and get his take on his vision for Variety as the world of journalism continues to evolve to embrace new media, and also his work with BAFTA.
What made Variety stand out for you when you made your decision to take on the role of president?
It was the opportunity to work with an Iconic brand that is probably in the same league as some of the global greats like the FT, WSJ, The Times. They are a market leader in a fascinating industry on the verge of huge change.
You’ve only been on the Board of Directors for BAFTA LA for a few months but how have you found it and what does your role on the board entail?
I love the role, I’m working closely with many great people, and this year’s focus is around how can we develop much closer ties with London. It’s an exciting time, and I have picked up the chair of the New Media committee so plan on educating members around this important subject.
The world of journalism is constantly evolving. What’s your take on the future of print an online news and reportage?
Contrary to popular wisdom journalism is not dead. Society will always need people who are prepared to be the “ grit in the shoe”. We just have to figure out a way to ensure it is financed. I think that writers need to think more about what the readers will do with the information and start thinking of information in the context of a service.
Is there a conscious or subconscious pressure to dumb down the news to appeal to the wider Market?
Not here, Variety is absolutely focused on the entertainment professional. They are collectively very creative, intelligent and wealthy, We have to write to stimulate and challenge them. I think this is not however true in the consumer market.
How do you read your news? Print, online or a combination?
It’s a combination, often driven by where I am , what I am doing or how early my meetings start!
What is the key defining force driving Hollywood at the moment? Technology? Celebrity?
It’s not the power of the star as we are currently in a dip in terms of Star Vehicles, but it will come back. Right now it is economics that are driving Hollywood as people struggle to work out how to deliver compelling content and make money.
Has the globalisation of media consumption meant that you have changed your approach to your content?
Absolutely. The growing importance of non domestic box office has to be recognized in our stories. Helping Hollywood understand overseas numbers and issues is critical.
How has the world of journalism changed since your time at the NME?
I guess it depends on what perspective one takes. In some way not at all, it is still about telling people what someone else didn’t want them to know, or telling people what someone did want to know in an unbiased fashion. But I guess like all maturing industries you work harder for the same dollar than we did back in the day. I also think that there are now far more folk masquerading as journalists that are simply not driven by the same need for fairness, honesty and balance, the consumer will take time to realize this, but I do believe they will.
What is the future for the media industry?
Wow huge question, here’s my take,
1. Produce high quality content for less
2. Figure out the value proposition and deliver on that alone (stop doing things that readers don’t want)
3. Focus on your audience and stop trying to get someone else’s too.
4. Innovate and see what we do as part of the information need and not all of it.
HeyUGuys would like to thank Neil for taking the time to answer our questions.