I had a look at my historical Analytics data last night.
In the nearly two years I’ve written this blog, my most popular post is my analysis of why I read LaineyGossip and five things it can teach you about writing a decent blog.
It accounts for a tenth of my traffic with an average time on page of 4:42.
That statistic and some of Elaine (Lainey) Lui’s recent activity suggested it was time for a follow-up post.
1. Website: Redesign and More Writers
In the year or more since I wrote that post, Lui has redesigned her website. The look and feel is largely the same, though there is more coherence in the style sheet.
Click through if you want more details about what was changed.
The one thing missing is clarity at the aggregate level about who has posted what.
That clarity is important since Lui’s experiment with secondary content providers continues to evolve. She recently added a new writer to target the Mini-Van Majority demographic and talk celebrity parenthood (Maria).
During the redesign, she moved the fashion, fitness and personal advice (Sasha, Hayley McGowan, etc.) to a new Lifestyle section.
Lui continues to feature Duana on television and Sarah of Cinesnark on the film industry. Their writing styles generally mesh well with Lui’s and provide go-to content when she is traveling.
But for all this activity, there’s no easy way to track columns by the guest writers in an accessible way. Individual articles have clear identifiers, but if you want to see all of Duana’s posts, for example, you’re stuck with a basic site search.
About information is also hard to find. You have to take it on faith that Lui’s contributors are who she says they are.
None of her contributors include thumbnail photos of themselves in their posting bios, either. Clicking the random images doesn’t take you to an archive or provide a standard bio feature.
This strikes me as bizarre since Duana and Lui work in television and have pictures available on other websites.
If it’s not a secret, why by secretive?
2. Media Activity
After her recent role in breaking gossip from inside the Holmes-Cruise divorce, Lui gave an interview to the Globe and Mail, who are part of the same media conglomerate that owns CTV (same station that produces eTalk, the entertainment show she moonlights on).
It’s somewhat rare to hear her describe the site and her process, though I wonder if they would have featured in this way and others if not for the corporate relationship.
Depending on when you read this post, the article may be behind a pay wall.
3. Greater Content Interaction with Sponsors
Getting more money out of online advertising is a challenge across the Internet.
Lui’s most recent foray is a content-generation strategy with vitaminwater zero, including writing copy for the bottle labels, writing a life-advice column for the vitaminwater tumblr account and soliciting questions by Twitter.
Partnering with Lui is a no-brainer for vitaminwater.
Ten seconds on their site is enough to tell me and you that their demographics are nearly identical: young, stylish, professional women with an appetite for cultural trends and, hopefully, enough disposable income to buy chemically-altered water.
I don’t care much for the lack of capitals in the content (in Lainey speak, it’s low-classy), but that seems to be a branding choice she has extended into her work for them.
Again, this initiative continues Lui’s pattern of talking about her life when there’s a profitable reason to do so. The exclusivity of that perspective may help sweeten the deal for advertisers who know she has an ardent fan base.
4. The Faculty of Celebrity Studies
Over the last year or so, Lui has occasionally blogged about launching a Faculty of Celebrity Studies.
When it first started appearing in her articles, I didn’t pay much attention. It seemed like another angle for analyzing gossip problems with Lui as the self-styled professor and her readers as the students.
Over time, it’s become clearer that she has genuine ambitions to see this sort of silliness actualized.
Taking a note from her popular SMUT soiree events (held each year in Toronto and Vancouver and sponsored by a boatload of companies), vitaminwater is footing the bill for a traveling series of Faculty of Celebrity Studies events.
The first one will be held at the end of this month.
They even made a Potter-esque crest.
I support the analysis of cultural events and normally Lui’s brand of insight entertainment works for me, but something about this project rankles.
It smacks too much of the self-obsession Lui decries in celebrities (Google fontrum or SIT DOWN on her site for a laundry list of examples).
Maybe I’ve spent too many years working in academic cultures to take this with the grain of salt I normally would, but the idea of some university making Lui a dean of gossip is so childish I roll my eyes every time she brings it up.
I guess it’s an experiment in university cash-flow constraints versus the guarantee of a ready-made audience with the deep pockets the advertising pitch section mentions.
I will be watching the vitaminwater tumblr account to see where it goes in the short term.