Comparing dirt

On: November 6, 2007
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About Maarten van Sprang
Maarten has a Bachelor degree in Communication and Multimedia Design and is working for Humanique as an interaction designer. Right now he is also finishing his thesis on the New Media Master at the University of Amsterdam. He's is very interested in new media (obviously), gaming and music.

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http://www.maartenvansprang.nl/wordpress    

Like blogging about cats, gadgets, or iThinkthereisyetanotherappleproducttoblogabout, another one of the most popular blog-phenomena can be found in the celebrity gossip corner. In contrast to the paper tabloids these weblogs can be way faster with the latest gossip and are generally more sarcastic. I will bring forth 4 different digital tabloids and introduce all of them before concluding on the differences and similarities. Between brackets is the Technorati listing and below the title is the description of the website according to the owners.

What Would Tyler Durden Do? (nr. 549)
“What Would Tyler Durden Do? (WWTDD) is a blog focused on bringing you the latest gossip and news about rich and famous celebrities. And then making fun of them. Why? Because fuck them, that’s why.”

WWTDD is a blog with fast new items which feature suggestive titles accompanied by large photos of the celebrity in question, or a close-up of a bodypart of that same celebrity. Examples of headlines are: “Jennifer Lopez is a pain in the ass”, “This ho has nog legs” and “Paris love jesus, drinking, climbing.” Popular victims include Britney, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson and any other popculture Hollywood darlings, which he gives their own nicknames like El Chupacabre (Nicole Richie) and freckletits (Lindsey Lohan) The website is the product of a guy named Brendon Donnelly and he supplies every blog entry with his own personal opinion, for instance:

It’s with no small amount of pride that I mention I’ve hated Dane Cook since the first minute I saw him. He’s always sucked, he’s never been funny. This dude couldn’t make me laugh unless he got me high and tickled my feet while puppies licked my face. And before anyone defends him, watch the video Best Week Ever put together for Danes new single. You read that right, by the way. Dane sings. Not only that, but he sings some emo cry baby nonsense. All he’s missing is eyeliner and a heart filled with doom. This couldn’t be any gayer unless he sang it with capri pants on and some snakeskin boots with little bells on the tips.

The user comments show that the site is visited by regulars and they know the blog and the other users well and have the tendency to post multiple time on a single blog post. With an average 100+ comments to each blog post it seems a like a well read blog.

The Superficial (nr. 61)
“The Superficial is a brutally honest look at society and its obsession with the superficial. It is not satire. It is not social commentary. It is the voice of our society at its worst. It is first impressions without sense of social obligation. It is the truth of our generation. It is ugly racism. It is jealousy. It is honest…Just kidding. Our goal is to make fun of as many people as possible.”

The Superficial is the former employer of Brendon from WWTDD, who was the main writer there, and it’s easy to see where they got each others writing style from. Not only the style but the threads are similar as well, same subjects same witty comments and absolutely no problem to show what they think of Hollywood. With a name like this they have to NOT be subtle in their tone of voice and here’s an example to show that they absolutely have no problem to live up to that expectation:

Sweet mother of Jebus, Britney Spears doesn’t have a driver’s license? How is that even possible? I mean, I’m not surprised, but how did it take the authorities this long to figure it out? You’d think they would’ve cracked the case when she was caught driving with her baby on her lap, or when she had her baby seat strapped in the wrong way, or basically every time she has ever been behind the wheel ever. I could blindfold a monkey, punch it in the head, and throw it in a car and it’d end up driving better than Britney Spears. Probably take better care of her children too.

As with WWTDD the Superficial also targets on the bad behavior of spoiled celebrities and as said before they are strikingly similar. The only real difference is that The Superficial is bigger and launched spin-off sites targeted at gadgets and movies which make use of the same tone of voice.

TMZ (nr. 11)
“Named one of the year’s 50 coolest websites by Time magazine, TMZ- a joint venture between Telepictures Productions and AOL- has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence by breaking the biggest stories in entertainment. From Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest and subsequent encounter with law enforcement to Michael Richards’ ill-fated trip to the Laugh Factory to the breakup of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline’s marriage, TMZ dominates the entertainment news landscape by changing the way the public gets their news.”

Tmz is definitely one of the weblogs which bares the most resemblance with the paper counterparts, it’s more formal and calls itself an entertainment news source rather than a gossip weblog. It’s more diverse in their choice of celebrities, not as sharp and biting as the Superficial or WWTDD. Which is logical, because TMZ is owned by AOL. Comments on TMZ vary between the occasional “first post,” celebrity-support comments and sarcastic reactions.

Perez Hilton (nr. 13)
“He is the Internet’s most devilish gossip columnist. He currently resides in Manhattan with his pet poodle Mariel. His signature colors are blush and bashful. His favorite drink is a Viagra Martini, and his motto is “I’m gay, but I’m not as big a slut as Paris.” He loves animals, enemas and animus.”

Again a one man blog, the creator Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr. is one of the most notorious celebrity bloggers. The tone of voice is not as bitey as the first two blogs, but he does have a very distinct style, it sounds a lot more queer than comparable sites such as WWTDD. The imagery he uses to support his blogposts are accompanied by MS Paint styled drawings, which are mostly added arrows and penises. The style, the writing and the images are all over-the-top gay which gives the same old news a different feel.

Conclusion

Celebrity gossip blogs have got a diverse audience and are not as dependend on their publishers as paper tabloids, that said, they can be a lot sharper and bitchier than the normal gossip magazines. TMZ is the one which has the same content and tone of voice as the tabloids magazines, the only advantage that the blog has over the paper equivalent is that it probably costs less and is more up-to-date. The Superficial, WWTDD and Perez Hilton are in my eyes real sarcastic internet blogs. They know how to appeal the internet audience and entertain the visitors with (sometimes) hilarious posts about (almost always) non-news. The news is quite similar on most of the sites, same with paper tabloids, so the style really makes the difference. Being quite similar in style, The Superficial and WWTDD actually complement each other, it’s entertaining how eacht of the blogs manage to write something funny about the same news. If you are looking for a more screamish and camp weblog, Perez Hilton is here to satisfy your needs.

Socially speaking gossip magazines are located at the bottom of what is considered decent, but that doesn’t mean that a lot of these blogs are located on the top of the Technorati ranking. Due to the fact that people can limitedly and anonymously access these sources without having to fysically buy tabloids, celebrity gossip is still very popular. Especially in it’s digital form, it is able to entertain very diverse audiences without the costs of having to print expensive magazines. Welcome to the new dirt!

p.s. This article is a real spam magnet as I have experienced on my own site, sorry for that…

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