This week we hear from Popbitch co-founder Camilla Wright about the origins of the influential celebrity gossip site, whether celebs ever try to plant stories about themselves, and the romanticism of clandestine meetings in dark pubs.
In the news roundup the team discusses the NME’s return to profitability and future success, the disappearance of the LADS from Facebook’s engagement rankings, and take a quick spin through a lot of other media news. Chris will buy a pint for the first person to send him every Rihanna song title he mentions this episode.
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In our own words: Chris Sutcliffe
Regularly published, edition-based newsletters are all the rage now – some new media businesses have made it the basis of their entire model. But, as my interview with Camilla Wright demonstrates, audiences’ desire for that sort of content isn’t some new phenomenon – in fact, it’s remained remarkably consistent ever since Popbitch was founded back in December 1999.
Since then the site has gone on to have outsized influence within the celebrity gossip niche, led to Wright speaking at the Leveson Inquiry, and any number of clandestine meetings in dark pubs. But the basis of the site, and the reason for its continued existence, is still its newsletter. Wright says:
“There’s only a certain amount of information you can consume…. and if you’re not constantly trying to update, then people maybe take you a little more seriously. People are more willing to give you 10 minutes a week.
We put out a newsletter on Thursday in the in the hope that we’re providing 10 minutes of kick back, a bit of joy.”
Since its founding Popbitch has been constantly trialling other forms of communication and products, but Wright believes that the core proposition of Popbitch – accurate, fun celebrity gossip – hasn’t changed in that time. One thing she mentioned has changed is how the team sources stories: As people became aware that digital communication wasn’t as secure as they thought, it went back to the days of shoe leather journalism. With the advent of dedicated, secure messaging systems, the pendulum is swinging back the other way:
“The use of closed messaging groups is really useful. WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, things like that where it’s perhaps slightly less risky to share information to us, and it’s coming straight to my phone or to my colleagues phone and we can kind of disappear articles or messages quite quickly after they’ve arrived.
“So it’s come full circle, we studied digital, and now we’ve come back into the real world, and now we’re quickly going back into a sort of upgraded digital world.”
Most publishers would kill for the sort of direct reader relationship that Popbitch enjoys. With around 150,000 subscribers who open the newsletter within the hour it arrives in their inbox, Popbitch has a stable core of readers on which it can build new products. Not bad for something that began as a celebrity news email, sent to a small group of friends, that began as “a punt”.
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