Monday, May 14, 2007

While in Paris Hilton is my favorite hotel chain.

In his Regarding Media column in the L.A. Times on Sunday, Tim Rutten raises a number of interesting questions regarding the proper role of the media when it comes to reporting the misbehavior of celebrities. After reading books like Anger's Hollywood Babylon, I wonder if Rutten’s doom and gloom is misplaced, but I get some of his point. There are interesting legal and philosophical concerns about a judge “making an example” out a defendant not based on the seriousness of her crime, but because she is infamous enough that other people will notice her fate. I’m going to ignore all of that to concentrate on one rather minor paragraph. Rutten writes,

If you inserted Paris Hilton's name into your grocery list and posted it on the web, you'd get tens of thousands of hits. They don't mean anything, but that hasn't stopped desperate news editors from grabbing onto what they mistake for useful information the way a drowning man or woman clutches at anything that might keep them afloat.

Now, obviously, Rutten was exaggerating; there is no way that Cinerati, by posting the name Paris Hilton repeatedly in an otherwise unrelated story, would generate tens of thousands of hits in extra traffic. I think that Rutten’s point is that Paris Hilton, or Lindsay Lohan, or Britney Spears, are known brands, which, by themselves, empty of all other content, generate interest and, thus, readership. The question remains, however, how much traffic would we generate if we repeated the words Paris Hilton over and over again? Will we see an appreciable spike in readership?

So, watch this space for updates. We’ll try to keep you apprised so that if it does in fact work you too can drive traffic to your site by incorporating the words Paris and Hilton in your posts.

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