Saturday, April 01, 2006

Celeb Stalking

George Clooney wants to make websites like the Gawker Stalker -- on which the public post details of their celeb sightings -- obsolete by flooding them with fake sightings. This seems like a winning strategy. Celebrities get their names out (which is their goal) and/or render the information provided by these sites essentially useless.

I've long wondered why celebrities didn't do something similar to rid themselves of unwanted paparazzi. Celebrities get stalked because photographers make alot of money selling pictures of them. This creates a strong incentive for paparazzi to stalk them. How can the celebrities reduce the photographers' incentives and reduce the number of photographers following them around? Lower the market price for photographs of them by reducing demand or increasing supply.

Demand for celebrity photos is not likely to shrink, and most celebrities don't want it to shrink, so focusing on supply seems like the best approach. Given how cheaply celebrities can increase the supply of pictures of them walking the streets or driving their car, I am baffled why they don't pay one of their people to take a bunch of pictures of them every week, every day (or however often it needs to be done). Then sell these to whoever wants them. If the publications won't buy such "staged" photos, then I don't see why some entrepreneur doesn't set up the celeb friendly paparazzi group. In exchange for being polite and respectful while taking pictures, celebrities provide "exclusive" access to their schedule. Whatever. As long as the expected return to taking a picture of a given celebrity is driven to zero, they should attract few aggressive photographers.

Alternatively, celebrities could lower the expected return to stalker photos by wearing the same clothes whenever they go out. Just find a basic look, buy a bunch of the elements, and wear them whenever you want to be left alone. I can't imagine editors want to run pictures of celebs which look the same each week.

The point is that using an economic framework provides a number of feasible solutions to various problems. Celebrities concerned about their privacy might want to buy a few hours of an economists time to help them figure this stuff out.

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