Of all the categories, entertainment and celebrity media has generally seemed the most protected from the wrenching pressures of the economy and the move from traditional to digital. Ken Sonenclar, managing director of DeSilva+Phillips, opened the media investment bank’s Future of Celebrity Media conference, by pointing out that entertainment mags are down 18 percent, not as bad as magazines in general. And as more bloggers create their one celeb-focused sites and media stars like Ashton Kutcher and Martha Stewart are reaching to fans directly via Twitter, bypassing the traditional avenues. It’s getting so bad, Sonenclar said, “Even paparazzi aren’t being paid well anymore. They’re competing with too many so-called amateurs.”
As for online, Yahoo’s OMG leads by far when it comes to uniques, Sonenclar said, showing a bar chart of celeb sites. OMG is distantly followed by TMZ and People, and Microsoft’s Wonderwall, which has come out of nowhere. However, 90 percent of Wonderwall’s traffic comes from people clicking on the “celebrity” channel on MSN’s homepage. The same is true for OMG’s success. While that may skew those sites popularity, versus celeb mag sites run by People and Entertainment Weekly, advertisers don’t really care, Sonenclar said. Still, whether those sites can create brands as well known as People and EW, remains a very open question. Ultimately, the power of celebrity brands still make it possible for established media to hold their own in terms of attracting users and sponsors.