Sept. 11, 2007 -- It's the modern day diary, online personal journals or blogs attracting millions of viewers to the Internet. But it's the people behind these blogs who have access to the hottest events, keep tabs on the haves and have nots, and can make or break a career and influence an industry with just a stroke of a keyboard. They are blogebrities -- writers, thinkers and gossipers who have branded themselves by taking over the Web, and have thousands of people awaiting their next postings.
Mario Lavanderia, also known as Perez Hilton of PerezHilton.com, is a member of the small community of blogebrities. He has built a career out of writing about celebrities in an unmistakably sardonic style. "Blogebrity to me means someone that has a readership," he tells i-CAUGHT. "Anyone can be a blogebrity. You could have a readership of a couple hundred, a couple hundred thousand, or you could have a readership of several million people a day -- like myself."
Bloggers like Lavanderia, Faran Krentcil of Fashionista.com and Luke Ford of LukeisBack.com top the list of an estimated 101 million blogs that social-media company Technorati tracks. According to Aaron Krane, resident blog expert at Technorati, the blogesphere doubles in size about every six to eight months, to the tune of about 175,000 new blogs every day.
In 2004, after landing a job at a fashion trade magazine, Faran Krentcil started an anonymous personal journal, the Imaginary Socialite, to chronicle the adventures she was having but could not talk about among family or friends. Fast-forward three years and the once-anonymous blogger now serves as editor for a commercial fashion blog and hosts a Web-based show, Girls Gone Styled.
"I think that right now there's still a stereotype that bloggers … are all self-made, the way that Perez Hilton is, that we sit in Starbucks in our pajamas and, you know, we write on our computer for eight hours," says Krentcil. "And that's sort of not true. … I sat down with a group of investors. And they said, 'We want you to write about the world of fashion.'"
With blog popularity comes criticism. Blogebrities often bypass the normal rules and answer only to themselves. Lavanderia, for instance, has been sued by photo agencies for using their pictures without permission. More recently, he has been criticized for insisting on his blog that the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was dead. "I take what I do very seriously and I only put things up on my Web site that I believe to be true, 100 percent. I still stand 100 percent about what I wrote about Castro. … I know for a fact that he is dead. I can't reveal my sources, but my sources are impeccable," Lavanderia tells i-CAUGHT.
Luke Ford, who dishes on the adult entertainment industry, admits that there are flaws in the medium of blogging. "The overwhelming opinion of blogs is that they are not accountable, that they are not credible and that they're flaky and unreliable and pesky, if not downright malicious, vicious, libelous, irresponsible, just wreaking havoc, divulging all sorts of personal information that doesn't need to be made public and I agree. Almost all the criticisms of blogs are accurate. But just because a medium has flaws, which blogging does and all the criticisms I basically agree with, that's just one side of the story."
Whether or not bloggers are accountable, they do have a voice and some are making millions from the industry. One popular tech blogger claims to make nearly $3 million a year, mainly from ad revenues. Lavanderia says his site registers an average of 6 million to 7 million hits a day and with a new VH1 show "What Perez Says," a spot on MTV's "Celebrity Rappers" and a book deal, he clearly has taken his image and branded it like no other blogger.
"I never thought that that loser from that blog would get his own TV show," says Lavanderia. "I never thought that that loser from that blog would get a book deal. I never thought that that loser from that blog would be doing half the things I'm doing. … I'm living my American dream!"
And to aspiring bloggers, Krentcil says this, "The one thing I would tell anybody who wants to start their own blog is that they should never put something on their blog that they wouldn't say out loud in person. You may feel like it's not connected to you, because you're behind a computer screen. But really, in a different way, it's one of the most personal connections you'll ever have."