Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Will this work?

George Clooney continues to try and attack the tabloid market. His latest plan is to saturate the market with gossip. He wants to:
spend every single night for three months going out with a different famous actress. You know, Halle Berry one night, Salma Hayek the next, and then walk on the beach holding hands with Leonardo DiCaprio.

People would still buy the magazines, they'd still buy the pictures, but they would always go, `I don't know if these guys were putting us on or not.'
This strategy is similar to his plan to foil Gawker Stalker's posting celeb sightings. There he just wanted to post a bunch of fake sightings. I thought this approach seemed good. I wrote back in April:
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.

Can a similar approach work with tabloids?

In economics terms, Clooney's basic approach is to increase the supply of gossip and photos, but in a way that doesn't lend itself to a believable narrative (essentially lowering the quality of the gossip). As I discussed in the previous post, I like the idea of increasing supply; however, I am not sure if trying to confuse people will help Clooney achieve his objective of more privacy. It is possible that deliberate attempts to confuse gossip consumers might lead them to reduce their demand (people demand less of low quality goods). This strategy could backfire, though, because editors and paparazzi now face strong incentives to get the "real" story and devote more resources to prying into Mr. Clooney's life.

While I am interested in knowing which of these effects is larger, I think celebrities can increase their privacy more reliably by simply increasing the supply of photos and gossip from their real lives (or by leading a boring life so that there is little demand for gossip about you).

I think the "boring life" strategy is probably the most effective. And by boring life, I mean you don't get DUIs, you don't date different people every week or so, you don't ask fast food patrons to kiss your foot.

I was trying to think of any example of the "provide lots of real gossip" strategy, but I couldn't think of one. I mean, we have lots of gossip on Lohan or Hilton, but it's not self-supplied (maybe) and it certainly hasn't made them uninteresting to paparazzi (of course, they have the young attractive woman factor as well, unlike Tom Hanks or Kevin Spacey - both of whom lead the "boring life").
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