Stephen Dare, Editor in Chief of Stars and Celebs Muses on the changing nature of Celebrity in the Brave New World.
It has been 18 months since I first took on the task of editing a publication devoted to celebrity and pop culture.
Im a Southerner, raised in church with a background in theatre and on the lgbtq spectrum. For me it felt a bit like I imagine the Haj does for a billion or so people. Something that Im pretty much required to do at least once in my life.
I suppose that I had certain expectations about how that year and a half would go. They were mostly based on biographies of Golden Age gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Loella Parsons, Dorothy Kilgallen, 70s era gossipueses like Rona Barrett; Donald Trump enablers like Liz Smith, send ups of the industry by Spy Magazine from the 1980s (which: meta. Oh so meta.)
If you mixed in a healthy dose of internet relaunches of gossip like Perez Hilton or Just Jared and radio/television gossips like our own Jimmy Star and frosted it all with 80s era Teen Beat and Tiger Magazine you would approximate my preconception of what this would be like. In short, chatty, catty and just vapid enough to be universal. Right up my alley.
What i did NOT imagine, however, was that I would be entering the industry as the very definitions of gossip and celebrity were themselves radically changing.
(And don't even get me started on the platform and format of celebrity coverage.)
18 months ago, this publication was still covering film, music and television personalities almost exclusively.
Oh...and celebrity chefs. Occasionally an author.
In this respect we were exactly like the other gazillion celebrity publications,---- distinguished by the fact that we are the oldest and most established online site. (going proudly strong since 1995, with an incredible archive of back interviews in the vaults)
But in doing that deep dive that editors have to do with all the horrifying 'big data' that we have access to (and dont kid yourself about analytics. Its next level orwellian) Our numbers showed that we our audience had shaken down to a specific age, gender, and sensibility of the market.
Because of a love of pop music, I was wondering where our coverage of Troye Sivan was.
At the time, he had just released "My Youth" and was getting ready to do a release of 'Blue Neighborhood'. He had 10 million views of the video on his youtube channel, and people were sharing it like crazy.
No one on the staff had ever even heard of him.
Our staff wasnt the only one that hadnt carried a word about the rising young you tube star. At that time, there was NO coverage of the young singer. As fas as print and broadcast television were concerned, he didnt exist.
The only way to know about his massive appeal was by being on youtube.
Within the year he played Saturday Night Live and is presently on world tour.
This weird disconnect was something with which I already had some experience whilst working with Kathryn McAvoy and Warren Skeels (the producer/creator of Siesta Key for MTV) on an online video/news site.
The entire industry was (and still is) very good at covering Cardi B, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Evans, Kanye George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. But with the exception of sites like tubefilter.com, polygon.com and a handful of others, celebrities on the rising platforms with fans in the tens of millions are being virtually ignored.
A large swath of celebrity journalism is out of step with where the public (both American and global) already is. The industry is still mostly covering the things that Hollywood and the Major Labels are putting money behind.
But the global society has moved on.
And thats a good thing.
Once upon a time, a handful of publicists, publications, agencies and studios could control who and what was produced for a a billion people.
The internet has changed that. Social media changed that. the emergence of new art forms that people over 40 dont know how to access much less participate with has changed that.
The technology that allows for distribution of media to be instantaneous and global has changed that.
It is possible for a Hollywood star like Ashton Kutcher to have a fan base of 10 million people.
But a YouTube star like Pewdiepie, controversial, right-wing jackassery and all, has a subscriber base of 80 million people. And that's just the people who actually SUBSCRIBE to his channels, not the tens of millions more who watch his videos without pressing the subscribe button.
Which is the bigger celebrity?
And how do either of them compare to the Instagram account of Brazilian Soccer Player, Neymar Jr. He has 108 Million followers.
For perspective, James Cameron became famous for a billion dollar box office with Avatar. In total, over the past decade Avatar has made almost 3 billion dollars in sales. Thats with television rights, dvd sales, merchandising and the whole shebang.
Grand Theft Auto 5 made six billion dollars in a single year.
Clearly the focus of our society has changed.
There are already celebrities within the worlds of Virtual Reality like Second Life and Sansar. VIrtual currencies that can be exchanged for real money and celebrity performers who draw huge crowds to watch and hear them perform live in vr nightclubs and venues.
With the rise of Augmented Reality and VR, more changes and sources of celebrity are coming.
And lets talk about how something as horrifyingly boring as distribution is changing celebrity potential.
If you have Netflix (and we have to assume that you do) check out the streaming of series like 'The Protector' and "1983" and "Glitch"
High production televisions shows from Turkey, Poland and Australia, respectively.
As little as 5 years ago, the complexity of distributing a foreign language television series into 100 million homes across the world would have literally made doing so impossible.
The only people with enough money, contractual obligations and network time were gigantic media conglomerates.
Now a modestly produced alt/history thriller from Poland like '1983' can introduce viewers in Scranton to actors like Maciej Musial without breaking a sweat.
Which means that our movies and television industry has been enlarged to a global pool of talent and performers who cannot be controlled or limited by the politics and soul crushing influence of the old Industry.
So, here at StarsAndCelebs.com we decided to stop thinking about celebrity from such a limited legacy media prism and started covering online video stars, podcast personalities, video game characters, indie film makers from around the world. We are showcasing the careers of documentarians who have reached millions, virtual reality torch song singers like from Second Life.
We are looking forward to even newer platforms over the next few years, from placces we cant even anticipate in the present.
But one thing I am certain of. The very definition of celebrity is expanding. Exponentially. And I for one, am delighted.
Please leave your comments and suggestions below. I look forward to discussion and debate!
Editor in Chief
@stephendare on twitter