Photo: Steve Rosenbaum
At first glance, David Caruso hardly seems like a micro-celebrity. After all, he’s the star of the CBS hit series CSI Miami. He’s got instant recognition, fame and that thing that Hollywood calls “box office.” He sells tickets. But on the panel at Digital Hollywood last week, Caruso’s Senior Corporate Advisor for Digital explained: “David knows he’s got millions of fans around the world. But he doesn’t know who they are, know their names, or have any way to connect with them directly. That’s why he’s exploring Web properties to build his fans into an audience he can connect directly with.”
David Caruso wants to disintermediate network TV. And he’s not alone.
Jon Caplan is the former head of Ford Models. If anyone knows the power and the issues associated with famous faces – it’s Caplan. But he also knows the power of fame and it’s ability to translate into direct relationships with fans who trust celebrities that they follow. Caplan took his understanding of the power of celebrity, and merged with his previous gig as the CEO of About.com. What he came up with was an engine that embraces the increasingly “nichified” world of the Web, and turns experts and celebrities into self-created marketers. Says Open Sky: “Buy great products from the people who know.”
Here’s how Open Sky describes itself: “We’re all about the amazing feeling you get when someone you trust hooks you up with something you love. We’re bringing humanity back to shopping. We realised that we learn about the stuff we really love from friends, blogs, or experts in magazines or books or on TV. So we thought: What if we could just shop directly from the people we already like and trust?”
Open Sky powers shopping for some celebrities you know, but also for tons of celebs you’ve never heard of. Why? Because in the world of ‘micro-celebrity’ you haven’t heard of Kathy of Kathy Eats Real Food unless you’re into food bloggers. Even then, you’d need to be into her kind of food blogging —crunchy, granola, photo food blogs.
What Caplan seems to have been able to figure out is that About.com’s 750 “guides” were each micro-celebrities, people who had trust and fans within their narrow domains of expertise. And each of them has credibility that makes their recommendations. Now take that, layer on top the fame and celebrity of Ford Models – and you end up with Open Sky, a shopping platform powered by micro-celebrities.
So, back on the Digital Hollywood panel, the thing that became clear is that as mass media shifts from broadcast to niche casting – and the world is full of opportunities for individuals to excel and emerge as celebrities in their world.
The panel explored the changing dynamic that is facing formerly teflon celebs like Lebron James. It seems his decision to abandon Cleveland for Miami has done more than dent his image. Fans see this decision as a fundamental abandonment of his roots – and in turn his fans are turning on him.
Which brings me to the worlds first iPod DJ. Bet you didn’t even know there was such a thing. Well, there is. And her name is Rana Sobhany – and since the iPad has been in existence for just six months, it would make sense that she’s been an iPad DJ for six months. She was on the panel at Digital Hollywood too – and she’s a celebrity for sure. If you’re into the Apple iPod, DJ tech and electronic music – you’ve heard of her. You may have seen her in this video:
Photo: Steve Rosenbaum
After watching Rana on stage – and on video – I wanted to see her spin in person. So just two days after our panel, I went down to the Apple Store and watched her demo her DJ’ing skills and show off her tech.Afterward, I asked her if she’d ever considered putting the software she uses on her website – using her experience and endorsement to help sell iPad DJ tools and apps. She said no, she thought it would damage her credibility.
You see, as a celebrity, she knows that she needs to be very careful with how she merchandises her trust with her audience. Her fans and followers know she’s found a new way to use new tools to make music. Her appeal is her genuine excitement for innovation. If she turned that passion into an overtly commercial enterprise – her “celebrity'” might well melt away. What’s cool is that she knows that – and respects it.
Photo: Steve Rosenbaum
I wonder if today’s Hollywood Celebrities understand this emerging dynamic?
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