SUNDANCE, VARIETY’S PAYWALL, AND ME
As a magazine editor I am not unsympathetic to the need to generate paid online readership. I will also admit that I didn’t get it together to work out a Variety sub before Sundance now that the site has gone paywall. Yes, I need Variety for business, our parent organization subscribes so it comes to the office, and I will arrange to get it online, but I will also say that I am irritated by the initial promise of content one sees when clicking the site that’s then followed by a black screen of death. (“Just Control-C when the screen comes up and copy the text,” one industry pal told me. Maybe my trigger finger is not fast enough, because it doesn’t work for me.)
Midway through Sundance, I am realizing that I am missing the Variety reviews. Both as a producer and a journalist, the Variety review is as part of the annual Sundance ritual as the first day’s stop at Albertson’s. (Well, I guess all things really must change.) Today, though, I noticed that the reviews are streaming not to my computer but to my Blackberry through my Google Reader feed. I can’t figure out why that same reader leads to a paywall on my laptop. So, while my iPhone AT&T pals grumble about spotty reception, I’m checking out the trade mag’s reviews. For example, our critic didn’t go for Eric Mendohlson’s 3 Backyards, but Variety‘s did: “Turning the Long Island suburbs into a surrealist carousel, helmer/writer Eric Mendelsohn returns with his first feature in a decade and the proposition that art film still has a place in the world — which is an exhilarating idea, especially as represented by 3 Backyards, an exquisite example of calculated execution in pursuit of elusive ideas.” (For some odd reason, the reviewer’s byline is not coming through on the feed.)
I’d like to think that Variety has a particular sympathy for weary returning fest-travelers in mid-American stopover cities, but I have a feeling that these reviews may be short-lived on my handheld device.