Perez Hilton, self-proclaimed "Queen of all media," launched his celebrity blog/news site, PerezHilton.com, two years ago. He runs the site out of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf restaurant on Sunset and Fairfax in LA. He spoke to PRWeek about publicists who lie and why Brangelina was the best story of 2006.
PRWeek: What were you doing before you started your blog?
Perez Hilton: I've done everything, and I think one of the reasons why my Web site is well read is because I'm good at it and I make it enjoyable for people. It's different than everything else out there. The Web site is the perfect marriage of my skills, interests and experience. In the past I've been a publicist, I worked in the non-profit media sector for a gay media advocacy organization, I worked as a journalist and I was an actor. So having been all that, I know how those people think, behave, what they want and need and that informs me now doing what I do.
PRWeek: How long has the site been up?
Hilton: The site's been up just over two years. I started it in September of 2004.
PRWeek: Why did you initially launch the blog?
Hilton: I thought it would be great to have an outlet where I could write whatever I wanted and didn't have people telling me what I could or couldn't write about. When I was working as a freelance journalist and had to pitch stories, a lot of times [I'd] hear: No, no, no, and no. The biggest factor was that it seemed easy and fun.
PRWeek: Why have celebrity blogs and Web sites become so popular?
Hilton: Because of the immediacy of the media. Why wait a week to read something in boring People, or wait a day to read it in the newspaper, or wait several hours to watch it on Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight when you can read about it instantly online on my site? People have a thirst for this kind of information. I feed it for free.
PRWeek: Are most of your stories driven by sources?
Hilton: Yeah. I just posted an exclusive story about Teri Hatcher's new boyfriend and it's causing a little scandal on the Desperate Housewives' set. I live in Los Angeles, and I know a lot of people, and all my friends are my sources and my sources become friends. I know a lot of people and I have a very useful address book.
PRWeek: What kind of treatment do you get from the entertainment establishment?
Hilton: It depends. I think and hope most of them enjoy it and get a kick out of it, and find it entertaining and informational. Some may not. Some may find me threatening because I speak the truth. I sometimes render publicists useless. Before, publicists could do damage control and spin things and use their tricks to make sure that information that got out was information they wanted to get out, and it got out the way they wanted it to. And that's not necessarily the case anymore. Now they can't threaten me and they don't have any control over me. I'm kind of like this renegade doing my own thing. But I think now they have resigned themselves to my existence. If I was a celebrity weekly, a publicist would be like: If you continue to write this about my client then I'm going to cut off all my other clients and none of them will talk to you. But now, I can say "I don't care because I don't need access to your clients."
On the other hand, you have the publicists who do more corporate PR and they love me and can't get enough of me. All they care about is making their clients happy and what their clients care about is getting their brand exposed to as many people as possible, and I make sure to mention on my Web site how many people are coming to visit me.
Last week I set a record and this week my numbers have been hovering right around there. Last week I got 2.66 million unique visitors in one 24-hour period, and that means more people read my Web site that one day than read US Weekly and Star magazine in the entire week combined. I monitor my traffic obsessively and that number has stayed up there.
There's a variety of reasons people come to my site. I give them what they want when they want it. I break stories. It is exclusive stuff. It's not just a blog, I'm not just a news aggregator. I have that original content that keeps them coming back. And I work my butt off. I don't update it once a day like [the New York Post's] Page Six or [the New York Daily News'] Rush and Malloy, I update my site several times a day, several times an hour, several times every ten minutes or every five minutes. And I'm dong that from before the sun rises until after the sun sets. I have 19 hours days. I'm at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at 6 a.m. before they even open and I'm here until 11 p.m. or midnight. I'll be gone for an hour or an hour and a half during that time to meet my trainer or do a TV interview, because I do a lot of talking head stuff now. I don't have a minute to myself except on the weekends, when instead of working 19 hour days I work 10.
I love what I do and I'm in build mode and I see the results, they're tangible and people are noticing and acknowledging and appreciating it. I get so much mainstream media attention, and that's probably why I get so much traffic, and why it sets my site apart from all the other blogs. If I didn't get that respect and recognition from the newspapers, TV shows and magazines then I would be just any other little blog out there.
PRWeek: What's your take on celebrity publicists?
Hilton: Some are great, honest, and won't lie. That's important to me. A lot of personal celebrity publicists lie. I hate that more than anything. If I'm calling or e-mailing you for a comment, don't lie to me. It burns bridges. Just don't respond or make yourself unavailable. That's better than a flat-out lie. It's crazy to me that it's almost accepted for publicists to lie. I hate that.
PRWeek: How would you sum up your relationships with publicists?
Hilton: Love/hate. Some hate me and some love me.
PRWeek: What do you think the tipping point was in terms of the rapid rise of your profile?
Hilton: I've been doing it for over two years now so it's been a while in the making. I don't know if there was one incident, it was more like a series of incidents and acknowledgements and other things.
PRWeek: At what point do you look to and say this is when the site really started to become popular?
Hilton: When it got me on TV. Less than six months after I started the Web site the TV show The Insider contacted me saying they were doing a segment on Hollywood's most hated Web sites and "We want to name yours Hollywood's most hated, the most hated, number one." I didn't necessarily agree with it, but I loved it. I was like, "Oh my God! Sure, call me that. Put me on your show. I'll put it on T-shirts and on my [Web site's] banner."
At that point I was doing it for fun. I didn't think any of this would happen, I didn't think I could make a living doing it. And when it got me on television I said, "Wow, people are reading this other than just my friends. They're paying attention." So I thought there was potential there.
PRWeek: Do you like that image of most hated?
Hilton: I don't care because people don't know me. They think they know me and I'm fine with that because I'm laughing all the way to the bank, and laughing all the way to more readers and more success, hopefully.
Just like Paris [Hilton]. People think they know Paris Hilton but they really don't. The real Paris is different from the image or images that people may have in their head of her. And it's a character. My real name is not Perez Hilton.
PRWeek: Who's got the best publicist in Hollywood?
Hilton: You can have a great publicist and still get bad press. You could have great publicists but they don't control their clients. And if your client is someone like Lindsay Lohan, there's only so much you can do, really. Because she's going to mess things up on her own. Not all personal celebrity publicists are bad people. Some are great and some are my friends, some are honest and won't lie, and that's really important to me.
A lot of personal celebrity publicists lie, and I hate that more than anything. If I'm calling you or e-mailing you for a comment, don't lie to me, that burns bridges. Just don't respond or make yourself unavailable. That's better than a flat out lie. It's crazy to me that it's almost accepted for publicists to lie, and I hate that. I don't print lies and I hate being lied to. It happens all the time. I may be making fun of people, I may be biting, I may be whatever I am but I don't print lies and I hate being lied to. It happens all the time. It's like this old-school notion that that's what publicists are paid for, they're paid to lie. I hate that and that burns bridges. That makes me hate their clients.
PRWeek: Who gets too much coverage by celebrity bloggers?
Hilton: Lindsay Lohan. She has not had a hit movie since Mean Girls, and that was three years ago. She hasn't had a [successful] movie in three years. That's crazy. And she's everywhere.
PRWeek: What was the best story you covered this year?
Hilton: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, because it's also the Jennifer Aniston-Vince Vaughn story. Those four are intertwined now, whether they like it or not. There were so many developments. It's the story that kept on giving.
PRWeek: Who is your biggest competition?
Hilton: I don't really have competition, because there's nobody else who really does what I do. The closest I would say is TMZ.com. But that's a multimillion dollar corporation, media outlet owned by a multibillion dollar corporation, AOL. TMZ is a joint venture between AOL and Telepictures, which produces "Extra." And they have a staff of over 20 people.
I'm really the only one doing what I'm doing. Someone similar would be Matt Drudge.
PRWeek: Are there other bloggers you consider to be friends?
Hilton: A lot. Most of them.
PRWeek: Any advice for Britney at this point?
Hilton: I think she's already won. I don't need to give her advice. The shift has happened and the comeback has begun. People are once again rooting for her. It's almost as if she could do no wrong unless she messes it all up again, which I don't think she's going to do. I think she's in good hands and I don't think she's going to jeopardize what happened again.
Name: Mario Lavandeira, a.k.a. Perez Hilton
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