Motivated by interest, money, bloggers offer a gossip fix

August 12, 2005|By Kim Hart | Kim Hart,SUN STAFF

Before having coffee on a recent summer morning, 24-year- old Kate Lanahan sussed out the full story of movie star Jude Law's affair with the nanny. At lunch, she nibbled on salad and details of Jessica Simpson's rumored divorce. As dinner approached, she scrutinized the latest photo of a very pregnant Britney Spears, and at midnight, just before turning out the light, she went online one last time: For once, all was quiet in Hollywood.

Though her days are studded with names like Tom Cruise and Lindsay Lohan, the Montgomery County native is not a high-profile publicist. She's one of a new breed of paparazzi, a celebrity gossip blogger who tracks the latest doings of the stars, often from the comfort of her Washington home.

And she earns money doing it.

Though traditional gossip rags have long been a staple of supermarket shelves, in recent months the Internet has blossomed with Web sites dedicated to tracking the stars. Though an exact count is hard to make, an online tour shows their growing popularity.

Want to know where Jennifer Garner shops for groceries? Check www.hollywoodrag.com. Wonder what Tara Reid looks like after a night on the town? Take a peek at www.celebrityscum.com. With names like Glitterati, Famed Trash and Junk Feud, blogs air juicy snippets of celebrity life such as the latest romance rumors and photos of the stars' dirty laundry.

Celebrity gossip blogs "have just exploded this summer," said Lanahan, who is a newsletter editorial assistant in Rockville by day and a gossip blogger by morning, lunch hour and night. "It seems like everyone is doing it."

Unlike conventional paparazzi, who tail celebrity entourages and dish over drinks, gossip bloggers comb the Internet to collect photos and stories from secondary sources and repackage them for their own readers. David Hauslaib, editor of the New York-based gossip blog Jossip, gets several e-mails a week from bloggers interested in starting a gossip blog. "They're realizing there's money to be made."

Blogs, short for Web logs, are online journals.

Hauslaib, who also runs a network of 25 celebrity gossip sites for Blogads, a company that offers advertisers special rates to work with the top blogs in several categories, says this may be the year of the celebrity blog. His three-month-old network earns more than $2,600 in weekly ad revenue - up $500 in the past month - and attracts 5.3 million page-views each week, according to the Web site. And in the past month, the gossip network has added more than a million weekly viewers.

Americans, it seems, can't get enough of the mundane personal details of their favorite stars.

The not-so-glamorous side of celebrity life is big news these days, says Mark Lisanti, editor of the Hollywood blog Defamer, which is part of the 13-blog network Gawker media and logs 200,000 daily visitors, according to the site's tracker. "For every one magazine in the checkout line, there's 150 blogs," he said. "It kind of fuels people's need to get more information by putting more of it in the pipeline."

`Picking up ... laundry'

"Blogs have definitely brought down the wall between the average person who works at Wal-Mart and sees these celebrities on the newsstand and the celebrities themselves," Hauslaib says. "We're no longer bombarded with who was walking the red carpet but who was picking up their laundry. ... It allows more intimate contact between the readers and celebs."

Celebrity gawking is a long, lurid and growing tradition. People magazine, which leads the celebrity magazine pack, with 3.7 million readers, has half a million more readers each week than Newsweek and 1.6 million more than U.S.News & World Report, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations data.

In Touch, a three-year-old publication that focuses on the "real" lives of celebrities, saw its readership more than double from 2003 to 2004, with subscription sales rising by 135 percent to more than 27,000. Star's subscriptions grew by 50 percent in the same period.

This year newsstands have been bombarded with new magazines that take an insider's look at celebrity life. Bauer Publishing, which owns In Touch, started Life & Style Weekly in November. The magazine, which covers celebrity fashion, shopping and lifestyles, has reached a circulation of more than 500,000, says spokesman Eric Chandler.

Inside TV, covering only television personalities, became the newest competitor in April, and OK USA, the American version of the popular British celebrity magazine OK, was started last week.

In contrast, Entertainment Weekly - which traditionally covers Hollywood's industry without delving into gossip - has begun to lose out to publications that expose the stars' secrets. At the end of 2004, that magazine's single-copy sales showed the least growth among magazines - about two-tenths of a percent - and it had lost about 1,000 subscriptions.

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