Celebrity sites offer outlet for brands with irreverent appeal

As mainstream celebrity blogs - like the notorious PerezHilton.com - gain competition from newly launched sites, these underdogs are being snapped up by big networks looking to delve deeper into the celebrity-infested media world.

In the news

As mainstream celebrity blogs - like the notorious PerezHilton.com - gain competition from newly launched sites, these underdogs are being snapped up by big networks looking to delve deeper into the celebrity-infested media world.

The news of CBS paying a cool $10 million for fledgling San Francisco-based celebrity gossip blog DotSpotter.com had the public guessing their motives. The site, which launched in January, tags itself as "The Pulse of Pop Culture" and includes offerings - gossip, news, pictures, videos - similar to all the other scandalous sites out there.

While DotSpotter has a mere 350,000 visitors a month, buzz- worthy gossip medium TMZ.com boasts 1.6 million visitors every month and recently expanded with a new daily TV show.

Why does it matter?

There is a trend of big media or traditional companies looking to the Internet for fresh content and fresh ideas, "sort of the unvarnished side," says Andy Marks, MD for Matter, an Edelman entertainment group.

"If something is generating a following on the Internet, then absolutely, they're looking to those sites as new ways to appeal to audiences," he explains. And these ventures seem to attract a substantial audience. With a community built around all things celebrities, media companies will be interested, even if the audience may be somewhat narrow.

There is a PR side to this, from an unpaid media standpoint, Marks adds. "It provides new opportunities for... brand messages across new waves," he explains. But brands have to be careful to be associated with celebrities in that context.

"There are opportunities for certain types of brands - the irreverent ones that want to capitalize on the irreverent tones of the Web sites - but it's an interesting linkage," Marks says. For the majority of brands, it should be approached with caution. It won't work unless the brand is very cheeky in its tone and DNA.

Five facts:

1 In June, Yahoo launched celebrity news site OMG.com and made news for itself by garnering a healthy audience through heavy promotion on its home page.

2 PerezHilton.com, self-dubbed "Hollywood's Most-Hated Web Site," is the most popular gossip site on the Web, with up to 4.75 million people checking it daily.

3 Us Weekly debuted Usmagazine.com last fall. Along with news and pictures, it uses games, videos, quizzes, and its popular polls to attract nearly 1 million viewers per month.

4 Brands like TV show Family Guy, T-Mobile, and Garnier advertise on celebrity blog sites to attract 25- to 34-year-olds - who make up a large chunk of the audience.

5 On Gawker.com and sister site Defamer.com, visitors can view real-time celebrity sightings through its "Gawker Stalker" section, Gawker Media's trademark feature.

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