Celebrity news agency World Entertainment News Network (WENN) has folded after 33 years, blaming the “perfect storm” created by social media and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The WENN Media Group (TWMG) has stopped producing its entertainment news wire service WENN under what was described as a “planned corporate restructure”.
The group’s company WMG Operations Ltd, which ran the wire part of the business, is being dissolved as a result. Press Gazette understands creditors owed money have been informed of the liquidation.
However TWMG plans to continue running a photo service facilitating access to its more than 10m images. It said it will launch a new agency, Meta Images, later this month.
TWMG chairman Lloyd Beiny said: “For the past 33 years it has been an enormous privilege to provide the world’s media with the World Entertainment News Network’s news service and to give so many aspiring young journalists the opportunity to hone their skills.
“However, the advent of social media, which has usurped the traditional wire service, coupled with the pandemic has created a perfect storm that has terminally impacted the economic sustainability of this division.”
Beiny added: “Meta Images is currently tooling up and will, before the month’s end, provide media access not only to the legacy WENN archive but also to the very best new celebrity images from around the world.”
Beiny told Press Gazette that WENN employed a team of around 25 journalists at its peak but that this had been eroded to “several” by the end.
Among the many young journalists trained by WENN was the late singer Amy Winehouse, who got a teenage reporting job as her childhood best friend was the daughter of founder Jonathan Ashby.
Ashby founded the WENN wire service in 1989 while he was working as a London correspondent for America’s ABC News. It started with a focus on music news under the name World Rock News Network, but was renamed the World Entertainment News Network two years later to reflect its expanded brief.
Under Ashby’s leadership the group expanded into photography, radio and TV divisions and started offices in London, Los Angeles, New York and Berlin. He remained chief executive until he was forced to step down due to ill health in 2001.
Rick Sky, the managing director of rival agency Bang Showbiz, told Press Gazette WENN’s closure was a “real blow” for the sector.
“They’re a very, very important agency,” he said. “To see someone else that’s so heavily involved in journalism suffering a demise like that is not good.”
Sky, who edited the gossip columns at The Sun, The Daily Star and The Daily Mirror before starting Bang in 1997, described WENN as his agency’s “biggest rival”.
Picture: Getty/Chris Christoforou/Redferns
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