Variety is going back to a paywall format, and I for one am happy about it.
As TV networks have begun to discover, you can't trade TV for free online viewers any more than you can trade print for free online readers and hope to sustain a business model. As I've been saying for awhile, somebody has to figure out how to get people to pay for stuff — micropayments, subscriptions, whatever — or we're all screwed.
That said, putting up a paywall means that we won't get serendipitous readers — people outside the biz who stumble across a Variety review or article. As cases in point, see the comments to my review of "Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura," or the hilarious scientific debate that ensued in response to my post about a new Science Channel program.
I've had some wonderful, hilarious and downright scary exchanges with those who encountered my work this way through the years — Midwestern housewives with a frightening passion for "Moonlight," the canceled CBS vampire drama; self-proclaimed right-wing wackos who can actually become quite pleasant if you reply politely to their first intemperate email; or even a soldier currently serving in Iraq, looking for a piece of furniture she saw in "Sex and the City."
I'll miss those exchanges. Moreover, when you spend most of your professional time talking to people in L.A. or New York who work for media companies, it's both refreshing and helpful to interact with what Bill O'Reilly likes to call "the folks" who reside outside that rather narrow bubble. It's good to remember not everyone has a DVR yet or understands why age 18-49 is considered a key demographic.
At the same time, I doubt the studios placing "For Your Consideration" ads give a shit whether people who can't vote for awards see them.
In other words, if it's finally a choice between having my stuff read by those who normally wouldn't see it and getting paid every month, I'll take the latter.