On Monday, Feb. 23, the perezhilton.com website received 14 million page views.
This number is staggering. To put things in perspective, popular website huffingtonpost.com barely attains half of that number on a daily basis. So what is it about Perez Hilton (real name Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr.) and his site that keeps people coming back?
Is it his tireless work ethic, his style of writing, or the sheer volume of celebrity gossip that has the online world at his feet?
I must applaud Hilton for his success. I don’t think anyone works harder to bring the gossip-craving public what they want. Hilton also manages to strike a balance with the type of stories he covers; there’s a good mix of gossip, celebrity news, movie and TV reports, and even business news.
If something’s happening in Hollywood, there’s a good chance that perezhilton.com is covering it.
However, what can be said about the quality of writing and journalistic integrity? This is where his site falls short. It would be impossible for one man to handle everything that’s involved in making the site happen.
Although he may have creative control of what ends up on the Internet, there’s obviously a team behind him that may or may not be as inventive as he is. And whatever happened to quality control? Spelling mistakes can be found far too frequently and are rarely if ever corrected.
The most questionable aspect of the site is the lack of taste. We can forgive sites like The Superficial and Egotastic for their poor taste, but for a guy who appears to be trying to be everything to everybody, his choice of words can be off-putting.
Even worse is the name-calling. I’m not a big fan of Miley Cyrus, either, but does she need to be constantly referred to as "Slutty Cyrus"? Many other starlets are labeled with the "C" word, and others with the "T" word -- a four-letter euphemism for the female genitalia that rhymes with "hot."
Hilton even declared Natasha Richardson dead a day before the actress passed away, acting upon only one source -- by email no less. In spite of -- or perhaps because of -- his verbal bashing and often inaccurate but always hyperbolic reporting, people keep clicking.
Oh yes, you can’t discuss Hilton without bringing up his insipid, childlike drawings. Is this what America wants?
I know he’s doing it to get a rise out of people, and obviously it's working. And when he’s interviewed on television he comes across as a nice guy.
Does he know something about us that we don’t?
I think the reason he succeeds is the same reason Howard Stern continues to thrive in radio. Stern has made his living by being an open book with his listeners about his life. He doesn’t filter himself and says what’s on his mind, regardless of how offensive his thoughts might be. People are going to be turned off, but his multitude of fans continues to follow him, and are even paying for the opportunity to keep listening.
Hilton is essentially doing the same thing, just in a different medium.
So should Hilton be held to a different standard just because his fan base is 10 times that of Stern? Perhaps, especially considering the permanency of the web. In either case, if you don’t like the content, just don’t listen or click.
Still, one has to be concerned about the future of journalism when newspapers are dying and perezhilton.com is winning.
Emails to Hilton requesting comment were unanswered.