Harvey Levin’s TMZ.com, is best known for making a splash in the overstaturated world of Web gossip, thanks to its own curious brand of investigative journalism. Those nude pictures of Vanessa Hudgens? Real!
But here’s a slightly less salacious achievement: The site is one of few outside of YouTube that can drum up big audiences for video.
Of the top 500 videos of last week, 488 originated on YouTube, according to TubeMogul, which isn’t surprising. The other 11? From video aggregators like Veoh (2), Metacafe (3), MySpace (3), Yahoo (1)… and two from TMZ — a sign of how potent its combination of suggestive-headline-plus-celebrity-video can be.
TMZ’s two hits last week were clips of Kelly Ripa’s snit with Priscilla Pressley on “Live With Regis & Kelly,” and incredibly banal video of The Hill’s stars Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag chatting with Maria Menounos at a bar, no doubt helped by the headline “Spencer’s Head Emerges From Heidi’s arse.”
We talked to Brightcove, which handles video for TMZ, as well as other Time Warner (TWX) sites like People, and Entertainment Weekly, and for Comcast’s E! Entertainment. Marketing director Adam Berrey said short of music videos, celebrity video is the biggest driver of video views, which is why TMZ’s Harvey Levin has cameras on semi-permanent standby outside LA’s celebrity hotspots.
It seems to be working. The site streamed 17.3 million videos during the month of February, according to Comscore, up from 4.8 million the year before. Of course, that’s still a fraction of YouTube’s (3.6 billion) in the same month, or Yahoo’s (293 million), but not too far behind Metacafe (20.9 million) and Veoh (31.1 million).
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