The Hollywood Reporter‘s Eric Mika Wants To Conquer The World

Over at the Hollywood Reporter, they’re busy. Ever since owners VNU transitioned into the Nielsen Company and received a large cash infusion in 2006, the HR has been aiming at rivals Variety. Nielsen’s strategy?

Outflank Variety on the international market and battle them here in New York with an East Coast edition.

The new East Coast edition of the Hollywood Reporter, THR Premier Edition, launched this past Friday.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Hollywood Reporter Senior VP & Publishing Director Eric Mika about what’s going on at the paper. From trade shows to an expanded East Coast presence to boosting overseas coverage, Mika is proud of his product. And he should be.

After the jump, a look inside The Hollywood Reporter.

Note: For a West Coast perspective, check out FishbowlLA’s interview with Mika.

MB: How did the idea for the Premier Edition come about?

EM: It was a natural progression. I was bought on board in Nielsen after previously being based in London and I was mandated to take the products and publications we have here into the world marketplace. It soon became clear that the current product was a fantastic product, but that there were certain things we had to do before we went global to a degree that we would want to. I had been tapped to go out to LA to have some fun in Hollywood and to take it where we wanted to go. So the answer to your question is that it’s almost natural. It should have always been there. The moment that I was asked to go out there, it was almost instantaneous. How can we be a great, relevant publication unless we are in New York City? The answer to that question is that it is something we should have done a long time ago and with our new owners, their financial support and the faith they have in the publication… We presented a good case and here we are.

MB: Will the Premier Edition be covering the same turf as the West Coast edition?

EM: It’s going to be slightly different. One of the things we’re going through that you’ll see take place by the first quarter of next year or so is a change in the editoral approach in the news we deliver. So the answer is yes, and yes. For New York, we’re going to start with at least four pages. The first page will be more focused to New York with more news on advertising and Equity players. The first story we launched is this big global Equity story. We’re going to focus slightly more on television rather than film. But that’s mainly in complement… By the first quarter in next year, we’ll have a change in our editorial approach to reflect the change that the entertainment industry is going through anyway.

The entertainment industry is becoming more global in its approach, it needs information. We need to help their audience with trending and pre-trending reports. We are Nielsen after all, so we’re looking at having the graphs, charts, information and analysis of that. We obviously don’t supply the answers but we hope that our editorial product will help those in the industry get to where they’re trying to go.

MB: So I’m assuming, with the subjects you’re covering like advertising and Equity, you’re hoping to add subscribers from additional demographics here on the East Coast?

EM: Absolutely. We’re into growth and change. Whichever comes first, I’m not sure. We want to keep our core audience. We’re a B2B publication and never want to be anything but a B2B publication. But in today’s environment, everyone is interested in the entertainment industry. The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist… everyone.

The Hollywood Reporter is right in the middle of that. Actually, we’ve been selected by Reuters to feed their entertainment newswire. We have to be conscious to maintain our core audience, but also we have to be conscious of how the larger industry is changing… We have all these new platforms. Digital platforms and mobile platforms. We’ve created a strategic alliance with GSMA, the global mobile association of telephone companies around the world. We will be creating daily publications for them in Macao and their main event in Barcelona — which has over 50,000 attendees. We’ll create a daily publication for them to use for conferences. We’ll be moderating panels on convergence and the bridges between traditional content and mobile. We’ve bought on board a superb writer in the UK, called Mark Halper who is very well respected in the area of digital and mobile. So through change in editorial direction we hope to see growth in subscription circulation. In the last four months, through changes like a new editor and some new staff… We’ve created a strategy of daily publications around the world for various events like in Korea and Dubai.

MB: For overseas publishing, are you using US-based or UK-based staff?

EM: A little bit of everything. It depends on where, when and how. A good example is the Pusan Film Festival. It’s what Cannes used to be. If you’re a player in the film industry, especially the Asian film industry, you’re there. We created a joint venture with a Korean consumer entertainment publication. We created a Korean-language and English-language publication that went out to 16,000 people every day. At the Dubai Film Festival, we signed an agreement to be the official publication. However, we’ve also partnered with the Gulf News, the largest English-language newspaper in the region and that allows us to leverage and get further into these global industries. In Berlin, we have our own Hollywood Reporter brand with no partners. Same thing at the Cannes Film Festival. In Los Angeles, we just did a daily for the American Film Institute Festival.

In the course of under five months, we’ve produced all these different global show dailies. We’re proud.

MB: Getting back to the Premier Edition, will there be one newspaper for the East Coast or will there be seperate publications depending on the sub-market?

EM: Gosh, I’d love to do seperate things, but our industry — the entertainment industry — the largest exporting market America has… at the end of the day, it’s very small. It’ll only be one publication for the East Coast, but we’ll have hand publication in certain ZIP codes in New York, Miami, Atlanta and Washington DC. Those key cities will get office delivery or home delivery by 7am.

MB: I understand there will be a blog on the website as well?

EM: There is. The outlined proponents are important to us, obviously. As a general strategy, we are developing a newsroom which doesn’t see the difference between online and print. Towards this, we’ve hired an online editor who sits in the print room as well. They sit closely, make sure there’s a flow of news both ways. We’ve launched a Hollywood Reporter digital version that we’re proud of. These parts are real important. You’ll see us having more fun with the blogs. They’re edgier, more opinionated, but also with lot more graphics and so forth.

MB: Any other plans for the Hollywood Reporter in ’08?

EM: We’re gonna have lots of fun. I look at what we’ve accomplished so far — all the journalism, the whens, the hows, the getting things right.

We have taken a new approach at the newsroom — new hires, internal promotions, new editors. We’ve hired over 13 writers throughout Asia and opened offices in Beijing and Hong Kong. We’re opening an office in the United Arab Emirates and we’ve bought on board two writers over there… In Europe, where we have a strong staff of 5-6 individuals, we’ve bought aboard another 3. We’ve looked at circulation and everything and decided to take care of business.

Simultaneously, what we did… Which I think is pretty cool, is that we signed an agreement with BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) — all their members in the UK, New York and Los Angeles where they will receive our publication. That’s great. We’re now printing in New York too, on the East Coast our Friday edition. That means our international edition will arrive in the United Kingdom on Friday night and Saturday — that will have door to door delivery as well. We have a lot of subscriptions in London — we’re going to be able to make those deliveries a lot faster now that we’re here in New York. New York is the springboard to our future plans.

2008 is going to have lots of healthy changes.

MB: That’s perfect. Thanks.