The celebrity-industrial complex is a real phenomenon, and a big part of the problem is the droves of publicists and PR people whose sole job is to shield their famous clients from saying or doing anything to tarnish their reputations. This means hawking out 10-minute, highly regulated interviews to newspapers and magazines in the hope that some of them won’t care that they’re being condescended to. And many of them don’t care as long as they get to chat on the phone with a rock star—who won’t tell them anything they wouldn’t be able to find in the press release his publicist sent along in advance. To be sure, there are some great reporters who do beautiful work on the entertainment beat. But most of the time these interviews result in canned answers to pre-approved questions, and they’re worthless.
If TMZ focused on any other category but celebrity gossip, I imagine its leader Harvey Levin would be an even bigger emblem of digital brand building than Arianna Huffington. This is one of the most amazing trajectories I have seen in the perennial (usually elusive) pursuit of digital germination of cross-media success. TMZ has a massively popular Web site, some superb mobile apps, a Sirius radio show, a nightly TV program and daily live video chats hosted by Levin and his cohort Charles. It started only six years ago and arguably is the best instance of a brand built on digital that migrated across platforms and developed a unique style that could only have come out of the last ten years of online culture and social media evolution.
Slammed for obsessive coverage and paying sources, TMZ may be shameless in its pursuit of all things sleazy, but it is a remarkable example of a fully conversational, real-time, video-powered news operation that works seamlessly across platforms. Watching a few episodes of the TMZ Live chat feed it is clear that the dynamic here is unique and former silos of TV, Web, audio, etc. are dissolved very effectively.
- Steve Smith via Mediapost