FEED Spring 2022 Web

RR: I knew I was going to write about the entertainment world for people who work in the industry. That was all I knew. I was just going to treat this like a job, and went to a little shared office space every morning to work.The idea was that I would send out one a day, with ten things on it. Four of them might simply be links to a story, plus a brief essay, and maybe a top ten list or a funny video. I sent it out to five friends to offer feedback – the early ones suggested a lot less writing and a lot more aggregating. But, pretty quickly, it became clear I was not going to pull it off every day. I added another five friends every week, and when it hit 30 people, I said: ‘If you like this, feel free to forward it. Just don’t tweet about it or say anything publicly.’ It became this thing that was passed along – and the numbers started going up. Because I always felt like I was writing for five friends, I’d spout off and say obnoxious things about all sorts of people in the industry. People would say, ‘wow, look what he’s saying, no one at the studio will say that’. It fuelled all of the early viral success. FEED: What was the format you started with? Was it always going to be an industry critique? “I WAS JUST GOING TO TREAT THIS LIKE A JOB, AND WENT TO A LITTLE OFFICE SPACE EVERY MORNING”

FEED: At what point did you realise The Ankler was making an impact?

RR: That’s why there was the opening for me, because the trades were torn between chasing that wide audience and serving their home base, and started siding with that broad readership. Also, they had no subscription model any more, making them completely beholden to the people they were covering – not just for advertising, but for people to appear on the covers, for exclusives – which completely defanged them. FEED: What is the state of trade publications now? Variety is read by people all over the world. It’s no longer an insider magazine for the industry. Netflix was putting out these crazy statistics – even crazier than they do now – that were going completely unchallenged in places like the NewYorkTimes . I took a sceptical view towards their business model, which no one was doing.That first year of The Ankler was fuelled by people saying, ‘...finally, someone is calling them on this’. People in Hollywood were in disbelief that everyone was swallowing this fantasy Netflix was spinning. Now, clearly they have done well for themselves. But I think people were amazed and relieved that there was someone injecting scepticism into the conversation. Then, the week I put up the paywall, the HarveyWeinstein story broke and, of course, that set up a whole round of things to cover. Again, the Hollywood press didn’t know how to address it.There were these big investigations, but I was able to do a more critical appraisal of things than the trades could at that time. RR: Big executive and producer types would say, ‘let me take you to lunch and tell you what is really going on’. I would retort that I’m just a guy writing a stupid newsletter to his friends! Sure, I’ll take a free lunch. So, I started talking to people who really could give more perspective. That year, it was the height of Netflix-mania. Everybody was shouting, ‘My god, this is the biggest thing that’s ever happened onTV! Every other network needs to just shut down and give itself to Netflix!’


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