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2010 April 26

Beckman's Big Pitch

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Beckman in his new office at e5 Global Media Beckman in his new office at e5 Global Media
Giorgio Niro
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Two weeks shy of his 50th birthday, legendary adman Richard Beckman gave up his 24-year career at Condé Nast for a stable of trade mags and a piece of the action. He’s got wildly ambitious plans for the iconic but beleaguered Hollywood Reporter, and the passion to go with them. From his days selling Yellow Pages ads in East London to his seat at the helm of e5 Global Media, the man they call “Mad Dog” lays it all on the line. BY CHRISTOPHER TENNANT

The Hollywood Reporter has seen better days. How do you plan to fix it?

RICHARD BECKMAN: By turning it into the most interesting media ­vehicle that covers the entertainment business. I want to create a product that is the crack—the drug crack—of the industry, whether it’s digitally or in print. I just ask that they be ­patient with us while we do it.

How’s it going so far?

Let’s say there’s a good part and a bad part about taking over a poorly run business. The good part is you get to look around and see people who ­clearly aren’t doing their jobs so ­terrifically—that haven’t had good leadership, that are unimaginative, that have had a parent company that hasn’t invested or believed in the business—and think, This is great! I can make something really spectacular out of this. The bad part is getting there—the minutiae of laying pipe, hiring the right people, and evaluating what the brand is ready to be. It’s some heavy lifting.

Is there still room for two trades?

There has been all these years. But if I’m setting the bar at where Variety is—and this is going to sound really caustic—I’m setting the bar too low. Both businesses are, obviously, in varying degrees of trouble. But I’m going to reinvent the model, and good luck to them. I have nothing against Variety, but my team and I have succeeded ­everywhere we’ve been, and if I were the industry I wouldn’t bet against us.

You sound perfect for Hollywood.

You know, sometimes it’s like the ­moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Harrison Ford is looking for his girlfriend and he’s running through the market and there’s the guy that does the thing with the sword and he’s like, to hell with this, and just pulls out his gun and shoots him. There’ll be some of that.

It’s your first time in an editorial role. Are you nervous?

I’ve been in content creation my whole career! Ask any of the editors that’ve worked for me!

So all that time in ad sales you were really doing double duty?

No, but I’m a lover of good media, and as much as we like to classify people as vertical, or label them in a certain way, people aren’t vertical. Am I a genius creative director? Of course not. But I understand what engages consumers and how to monetize it.

Does the almost complete lack of paid ads in the current issue of the Reporter make you want to cry?

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