Today, I spoke to Perez Hilton, who is the founder of the extremely popular gossip blog, perezhilton.com. He’s also a television personality, radio show host, a clothing line, books and has his own record label. I recently featured Perez in my BusinessWeek column, which talks about how he’s expanded his brand into new areas, while staying true to his passions. In this interview, Perez tells us how he’s built his own brand, what he thinks he’s known for, how being associated with celebrities have helped him and much more. Perez is very controversial, so there have already been negative comments on Twitter about this interview. He’s actually a really nice guy, but has a persona that better matches the celebrity gossip market than his own. It’s an interesting case and something to pay attention to.
How have you leveraged your famous blog to extend into other areas, such as your VH1 series, clothing line, 2 books, record label, etc?
It happened very organically and slowly. Though I may announce things on my blog, everything took a long time to happen. Recently I announced my own record label, but it took well over a year and a half of meetings and negotiating and behinds the scenes work to get it to the point now that I announced Perezcious Music and my first artist, Sliimy, whose going to be taking part in my first ever music tour, which beings September 10th in Atlanta (perezhiltonpresents.com). Like the record label, the tour is also something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time.
It all happened organically. The music label began because I’m passionate about music, which is the most constant things in my life. I’m more passionate about music than celebrity gossip. I’ve been posting music on my site and a lot of the times the people that I would post would go on and do really great things and I noticed that and other people noticed that and I want to be more hands on and involved and help in a bigger way. The tour started out as a series of events all over the world, called my 1-night series. This is kinda like that but taking it on the road and I can’t wait for people to get to see some really great acts that they might never have had access to.
What do you feel you’re known for? Is it the drawings on your blog? Is it your personality?
I say more so my personality. I’m a very colorful character. There are a lot of gossip blogs out there but I would venture to say that if you ask 100 people out there to mention three gossip blogs, 90%+ would mention mine.
What process did you go through to jump from your blog into other “brand extensions”?
Everything has happened organically. I actually went to college at NYU to study acting. I always considered myself an entertainer. The main way I entertain people is online but now-in-days I’m entertaining them in much different capacity from the website, my new fashion blog, the radio show, the book that came out this year, my TV appearances, the VH1 special came because all of the things have happened are brand extensions that have happened because I made them happen.
Very rarely does it happen that an opportunity presents itself. These are all things that I wanted to do and I made happen. It took a while but eventually I go there. With regards to the VH1 show that aired in November 2008, I met with a production company and chose one that I loved and then I went around to a bunch of networks and ended up with VH1. It was a great learning experience. Actually, TV is most definitely one area of my hopefully budding empire that I want to work at. I’m still taking meeting with people, network and productions company because I’m good at it and enjoy doing it.
Do you have to be successful in one area to expand to others? Is it easier?
No it’s not easier. It’s like an actor trying to become a musician. People have preconceived notions of who you are so I say it’s a level playing field.
Do you still enjoy blogging over anything else? Why or why not?
Yes, because though I love the world of music, I’m also spoiled at being my own boss and having my website and working online and the internet is so fast paced it kinda jarring of working I other fields and realize that not everyone is as quick as I am.
Do you think you could have been as successful without the blog?
Hopefully, I think that the blog was a perfect marriage of talent, luck and opportunity. Not that I’m that talented, but my talent comes from my sheer hard work. I may have a little bit of talent, maybe. There are so many blogs out there that do the same thing and my doesn’t. I get as much if not more traffic that have staffs of 40+ people. I’ve recently been hiring help, thankfully. One of the reasons I did that is because I recently launched a new website.
I’ve been saying for years that I needed up but now in the past 6th months I’ve been staffing. And my new website I’m very excited about is called cocoperez.com and that happened very organically because fashion is something I already talk about on my website and it came from knowing my audience. My readers are predominantly females in their 20th. What do they like just as much as gossip? Fashion. I’m not going to judge it by traffic or advertising. I’m going to judge it by the response I get from my readers and whether I have fun working on it or not. Thus far I’m having a great time because it’s opened up a whole new world of possibility.
Why did you brand yourself as Perez Hilton instead of your real name?
When I first started my website, I used my real name until I started receiving death threats and I realized that it’s not a good idea to use my name when I’m talking about things that could really upset people. Then a didn’t use my name for a while and calling it page666.com. After a while not having a name on the site as the author, the character or persona of Perez Hilton popped into my head.
How has being associated with celebrities help build your personal brand?
When people think of Hollywood and celebrities, they think of me. I’m definitely an expert in the field and I love being known as a knowledgeable person in the world entertainment. A lot of people are interested in celebrities so there’s a lot of opportunities for me in the world.
Perez Hilton is an American blogger and television personality. His blog, Perezhilton.com, is known for posts covering gossip items about musicians, actors and celebrities. He is also known for posting tabloid photographs over which he has added his own captions or “doodles.” His blog has garnered negative attention for its attitude, its active “outing” of alleged closeted celebrities and its role in the increasing coverage of celebrities in all forms of media. As of April 2009 PerezHilton.com was ranked by Alexa as the 491st most trafficked website on the Internet. Perez was also the star of his own reality television show on VH1 called What Perez Sez in 2007. He also has his own nationally syndicated radio show called Radio Perez, which includes updates from his blog. Hilton is also a regular on TV Series TRL, Much Music, and Extra where he appears via satellite from his closet studio to talk about gossip. After graduation from New York University in 2000, and before beginning his blogging career, Hilton attempted a career as an actor.