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As Ads Shrink, Is Billboard Becoming Rolling Stone?

image from The fate of Billboard Magazine is tied to the same downward forces as the recorded music industry. Shrinking major labels buy less advertising, the lifeblood of the trade magazine. We've seen hints of how Billboard may try to stop the bleeding for months, but a major indicator came last week with the makeover of sister publication The Hollywood Reporter.

A Shift To High-End Hyrbrid Fanzine

Like Billboard, the film industry focused Reporter has provided favorable coverage of the films and studios that pay their bills. But since they're no longer a reliable source of revenue, the magazine is retooling to serve the advertisers of fashion, consumer electronics, liquor and other high end products. That means, as the savvy bloggers who have become the trade's biggest competitors know, serving fans, as well as, the industry.

To remake The Reporter, Janice Min has been hired away from tabloid weekly US. She will take the magazine from daily to weekly and include a mix of analysis, features and glitzy photo spreads alongside a redesigned web site focusing on breaking news. “We’re not going to be a product that purely strokes the industry because the industry won’t respect that,” Charles Beckman, a former top executive with Condé Nast who now runs E5 told the New York Times.

Over at Billboard, as revenues have fallen so has coverage of jazz, new age, classical and other genres less likely to buy ads in the publication. Several tech savvy bloggers have been added; and the free has become more fan oriented with most industry content kept behind a paywall at  But changes in the print version have been slower in coming. 

Rumors have been flying for months that a much bigger shift is imminent.  The makeover of The Hollywood Reporter provides the clearest glimpse yet of how a remade Billboard may look.  But the jury is out on whether a transition from trade publication to high-end hybird fanzine can save either magazine.

Would you subscribe to the new Billboard? Do you subscribe to it now?