The Hachette Filipacchi-owned site, launched by co-founder Neil Wilkes as a tiny independent ten years ago, saw unique users soar to 6.3 million during October.
'The site was originally about digital TV, hence the name,' says Wilkes. 'It just kicked off from there.' The site now covers all aspects of entertainment news including TV, radio, showbiz, music, movies, soaps, cult, gaming, comics, Bollywood and reality TV.
The turning point for Digital Spy was Big Brother, says Wilkes: 'We were the first Big Brother news site in the country. We even beat Channel Four to it. That helped our traffic and that continues to this day, with The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent and the massive audiences reality shows attract.'
For those working in the entertainment media Digital Spy is a crucial tool, says Tim Cole, a former radio presenter and now an account manager at Lexis Media: 'I used it all the time as it is a great source of entertainment and showbiz news. The stories are short and have all the information you need in a few short paragraphs.'
From a PR perspective this makes Digital Spy a valuable target in itself and for reaching other media. However, Cole warns the content is very much gossip rather than a 100 per cent reliable source of information. The active forums on Digital Spy attract posts in their thousands and sometimes even millions, and Cole says: 'They are useful for knowing what people are saying.'
The site was one of the first to report on the undisputed showbiz story of the year; the hospitalisation and death of Michael Jackson. However, Gwilym Hookway-Morgan, account executive at Blue Rubicon, points out the site does not quite have the clout of TMZ, which broke the Jackson story first: 'I would say TMZ is a better site and the Michael Jackson story put it in the spotlight for being the celebrity site. Digital Spy does need those exclusives.' However, he adds: 'It is very good at what it does and I can get every story that would appear in the middle pages of the red-tops simply by having Digital Spy's RSS feed on my Google reader.'
The site is widening its scope and recently launched in the US, with plans to launch more global sites imminently. It also runs awards events including Digital Spy Movie Awards and this year launched the Reality TV Awards, which were hosted by TV presenter Claudia Winkleman.
Despite its subject matter, the PR scope is not limited to showbiz. Laura Emmerson, media and PR officer at charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, says: 'I regularly give it stories of our celebrity supporters or comment pieces and opinion on disability issues in the soaps.'
Staff: Fifteen in London, 15-20 working from home, four in the US, two in Australia
Unique users: 6.3 million in October 09 (Source: Google Analytics)
Launched In: 2000
Acquired In: 2008
Forums: More than 253,000 registered users (Source: Big-Board.com)
A MINUTE WITH ... NEIL WILKES, EDITOR, DIGITAL SPY
- What does the site cover?
We have channels on entertainment, showbiz, music, TV, movies, soaps, cult, US TV, gaming, comics, Bollywood, reality TV, Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor, I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, an Odd Section, Gay Spy, media, broadcasting and digital TV.
- Please define your agenda
To tell the facts of the day as they are. We have no bias in our stories and we don't use colourful language on the site. Our role model is the BBC's straightforward, factual reporting.
- Describe your relationship with PR professionals
Our relationship is extremely positive and I don't have any complaints. I deal with a lot of PROs and I cannot respond to every email but generally they are very positive about us and I have a good working relationship with them.
- Having started Digital Spy as an independent business, how did you feel when it was acquired by Hachette Filipacchi?
The most significant change was that Hachette gave us a 24-hour newsroom. We had felt the site needed investment to get it to the next level. Three years ago we were writing 40 stories a day - we are now doing more than 160.