April 7, 2008 -- For a blog that prides itself on being the first of its kind to focus on the antics of average citizens instead of celebrities, it was an ironic turn of events when a scandalous photograph of pro-football player Matt Leinart brought attention to TheDirty.com.
"It wasn't our intention to become this famous," said Ari Golden, the site's president and CEO. "The funny angle [about the Matt Leinart scandal] was that [the photo showed average] 19- and 20-year-old girls he's holding the beer bong for."
The site, which Golden admits is "controversial" and, well, "dirty," depends on average Joes submitting photographs and videos they find amusing.
The site's resident blogger who goes by the pseudonym Nik Richie then posts the material and provides commentary.
It was a lucky coincidence when one of the site's average Joes e-mailed it photos -- which none of the other usual celebrity photogs had their hands on -- of Leinart partying near Scottsdale, Ariz.
The number of visitors to the site spiked after the Leinart photo appeared -- to between 200,000 and 300,000, not nearly as many as, say, PerezHilton.com, which has millions of hits a days but more than its usual number.
And while Golden is proud of his site's coup, he still asserts that it's not the celebrities his site is after: It's you and me.
Can Blogs Succeed, Sans Celebrity?
Similar to JuicyCampus.com, the controversial college gossip site where users across the country post rumors about what classmates did the night before at the bar and later in their bedrooms, Golden and his team are trying to capitalize on the embarrassing -- and often intoxicated -- moments of regular folks.
"You've got all these sites out there that are pointing to celebrities, our focus is the regular person," said Golden. "Lindsay and Britney are so distant from the everyday American and are so hard to relate to."
The photographs and commentary are definitely risque -- several girls pose on beds for the camera and have captions written by Richie suggesting the girl get a boob or a nose job.
In others, a young woman, evidently intoxicated, is helped down the street as she flashes her thong to onlookers.
"We're definitely controversial," Golden told ABCNEWS.com. "We don't shy away from it, and [Richie] says what he thinks is the truth. He tells you how he feels."
It is this honesty, Golden says, that makes his blog similar to the advent of reality TV. He hopes that people will jump on the idea of "reality blogging" just as they did with reality programming.
"It seems like every major show is a reality program -- 'American Idol' or 'The Real World,'" said Golden. "Now we're the first [Web site] to come out and say, 'what if [the photos aren't] Lindsay Lohan and they are just the guy who works in the cubicle next to you?'"
The site's rise in popularity after the Leinart photo, said John Grohol, one of the members of the editorial board at the Journal of Online Behavior and CyberPsychology & Behavior, shows that sites like JuicyCampus.com and in particular TheDirty.com will have a hard time being as successful as celebrity blogs such as PerezHilton.com and TMZ.com.
"It goes to show that people are interested in celebrities, and looking at photos of strangers who aren't celebrities isn't nearly as interesting," said Grohol. "We've all seen [noncelebrities] before -- you can go on Flicker or MySpace or Facebook and browse through people's bad party photos."
"You could put up 100 photos of 100 random people who are hanging out with 19-year-old girls and nobody will care until the minute you put up a celebrity's photo," added Grohol.
And while Grohol acknowledges that people certainly derive a guilty pleasure from seeing other people like them acting stupidly, he's not so sure reality blogging is going to be the next big blogosphere trend.
"I certainly think that there are people who enjoy funny party photos, and certainly there is an audience for that and those kinds of photos can be humorous," said Grohol. "But in terms of it being a whole new phenomenon and suddenly there will be 100 Web sites like it, I have my doubts."
Aaron Barlow, author of "Blogging America: The New Public Sphere," told ABCNEWS.com that while many blogs start off trying to be more average and less celebrity, the plan often fizzles out.
"[Many blogs] become part of the celebrity blogging culture at a certain point," said Barlow. "That's one of the dangers of blogging -- people like to say they're doing it for their own pleasure, but often it parlays into something else."
"It's very hard to resist the temptation of letting it turn into something else," Barlow added.