TMZ has transformed itself from everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure to a powerhouse news reporting and entertainment brand. The multi-million dollar organization managed by Harvey Levin long ago shrugged off its image as a snarky Hollywood gossip site and by beating mainstream news organizations such as CNN at their own game. When Mel Gibson was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and hurled shocking religious epithets at his arresting officers, TMZ broke the news first. When Michael Jackson died abruptly in 2009, TMZ scooped the world. As Harvey Levin explained at a recent appearance at the SXSW Interactive Festival, TMZ has succeeded by covering celebrity news with the rigor and professionalism of a serious newsroom — while still retaining much of the snarky voice that endears TMZ to some and infuriates others. And yet, something else beyond Harvey Levin’s control has helped legitimize TMZ: celebrity news itself. “Celebrity” is like a vertical market akin to retail: an industry with many inter-related stake holders such as from celebrities themselves to the media who cover them, the merchants to sell them, the products who rely on them for endorsement, and the media that spin content out of their lives. As I discuss in a new post for the iCrossing Content Lab, celebrity news sites have become diversified and specialized, ranging from Egotastic, which focuses on “the sexy side of celebrity gossip,” to Bossip, which covers black celebrity news. TMZ now rules as the Time Inc. of Fame Inc. Check out my post for more insight.
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