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The CNN of celebrity

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As OJ Simpson was held in prison last week as a result of what went down at The Palace Station casino in Las Vegas, US TV networks had an audio tape recording of the alleged incident on high rotation.
But it wasn't CNN, ABC or CBS who originally obtained the tape, but AOL-owned TMZ.com (it is pronounced zee, not zed). The entertainment blog bought the audio tape from Thomas Riccio, who set up the casino meeting for OJ and secretly recorded what transpired.
It's unclear how much Riccio was paid for the tape, but TMZ have the ability to write big cheques these days - the celebrity gossip blog in August attracted 9.5 million unique visitors a month, more than People (6.7 million), E-Online (3.4 million) and TV Guide (4 million). There's plenty of advertising on the website.
After hearing endless references to TMZ in cable news reports (the Alec Baldwin voicemail rant was another TMZ release), I finally checked the site out last week. It's exactly what I expected - an online extension of thrash celebrity magazines, pretty much an online NW.
And judging by the feedback the stories generate, people are lapping it up. TMZ also isn't afraid to make itself part of the story - see this headline: Snoop Dogg Puts Hit on TMZ Producer!
Of course, these sites sit at that point where the trivial and celebrity meet: As one TMZ story recently noted: "Russell Crowe had a root canal today in Beverly Hills. Almost as painful as 'A Good Year.'"
But TMZ is leveraging web 2.0 tools very well - in addition to blog comments, polls, numerous video clips, it also allows clips to your Facebook or Myspace pages.


It's constantly looking to boost the number of eyeballs looking at the website and is willing to spread its content around the web to attract a growing audience. Its latest development is to allow readers to leave 30 second remarks on certain stories, rather than submit written feedback.
As such it has blossomed as a community for people who want to live their lives vicariously through those of a motley bunch of Hollywood celebrities. Forget the E Channel on Sky. If a celebrity slips up and there's a microphone or camera in the vicinity they'll likely end up first on TMZ.com.

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