Celebrity Gossip and the Real-Time Web

Welcome to summer 2010: fans possess insatiable appetites for minutiae about celebrities, from tweens crazed over 16-year-old pop singer Justin Bieber to basketball fans fixated on LeBron James’s next move on and off the court. It’s hard to imagine, but a little more than a decade ago, celebrity coverage on the Web was as rare as a public sighting of the elusive Greta Garbo during her prime. Anyone remember back to the mid-’90s when the Internet Movie Database was all the rage?

To be sure, celebrity worship isn’t a new phenomena that started last month with Lady Gaga. Unlike teen fanzines and “The Ed Sullivan Show” from an earlier generation, however, social networks and mobile devices enable instantaneous communications among fans. And celebs can inspire or join those conversations.

From King James to John Mayer

Basketball star LeBron James created suspense earlier this month leading up to his announcement that he would leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. In addition to a one-hour interview during a special program on ESPN called, “The Decision,” James played up the news on his website, lebronjames.com, and posted a video featuring his ESPN interview with Jim Gray (Microsoft’s Bing is identified as the video’s sponsor.) Three days before his announcement, James set up a Twitter account, @kingjames, amassing 151,000 followers during the first 24 hours and more than 300,000 since then. As Christopher Heine, ClickZ staff writer, observed, response to James’s debut on Twitter appeared to have better results than a promoted tweet for the movie, “Despicable Me.”

Singer/songwriter John Mayer refuses to be benched and sit in LeBron James’s shadow. “I am going to play for Cleveland. So not to offend my fans in South Beach, I would also like to announce I will be playing for Miami. I will also be playing for New York City,” deadpanned musician John Mayer in an online video titled, “A Very Important Announcement,” promoting his upcoming tour – and spoofing the hoopla surrounding LeBron James’s move.

By doing more than post the typical music video, Mayer furthers his relationship with fans. “Fans expect more content more often, and for many artists that means creating content beyond music, simply to fill the demand,” Edith Bellinghausen, SVP digital business at entertainment firm Razor & Tie, told my colleague, ClickZ Senior Editor Kate Kaye.

Mel Gibson’s Mel-o-Drama and Advertising

RadarOnline.com’s exclusive coverage of Mel Gibson’s obscene rants are hard to ignore. “Screaming, snarling and panting Mel Gibson completely loses it in new audio obtained and released exclusively by RadarOnline.com,” reads the teaser on the publication’s home page.

Historically, brands have shied away from having their ads placed adjacent to vulgar and profane content. On broadcast TV and radio, advertisers have been protected, in part, by laws banning obscenity, indecency, and profanity on federal airwaves.

Could advertisers be loosening up? This week, pre-roll video ads for Bud Light or Snickers can be seen when a website visitor launches the media player on RadarOnline to listen to Gibson’s uncensored rant at Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of his eight-month-old daughter.


As @GerryDuggan wryly commented on Twitter: “I don’t know what kind of woman would date Mel Gibson after this, but I know she won’t have the internet.”

Snooki: Engagement Counts

A look at the social efforts by a cast member on the MTV reality show “Jersey Shore” reveals the importance of engagement and authenticity online.

“Embracing the new hair and I LOVE it! :)…And the color is…Red violet! Thank you scenses new york!” gushed Nicole Polizzi, a.k.a. @Sn00ki, on Twitter on July 14, two weeks before the MTV reality TV show starts its second season. On Twitter, she exchanges public tweets with “Jersey Shore” compatriots and other people such as singer Kat DeLuna (“so nice meeting u last nite! We took like 10 pics and I still don’t see it lol..xox!”)

On Twitter, Polizzi’s character shines through. And fans have noticed. She now has more than 300,000 followers.

Polizzi’s mention of “scenses,” or Senses New York Salon, located in New York City’s Flatiron District, is bringing new business to the salon. “A handful of girls have called in,” said Antonio Rosa, stylist and colorist at the salon, when I chatted with him immediately after the tweet appeared. More fans are certain to flock there. According to Rosa, the “Jersey Shore” cast stopped by the salon before their CD soundtrack release party; Polizzi was not paid to tweet the endorsement. (For the record, Polizzi has downsized her poof, getting rid of her trademark “bump.”)

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