On December 18, 2009, The Superficial.com tried serious journalism and the result was so embarrassing for them one can only hope they'll never try it again. The writer watched a 2007 video of Tiger Woods where, according to the writer, Tiger makes critical remarks about Michael Vick that proves Tiger is a hypocrite. (ESPN actually replaced originally lead in commentator with a new one prior to 're-releasing' the 2007 interview, and have since replaced the link with an ad. Sorry).
There are so many things wrong with the writer's logic in making his arguments that a separate post is required to deconstruct it. Suffice to say it went something like this:
Bulldog fell in a well.
In trying to get out, Bulldog just made the well deeper.
Tiger told Bulldog how to get out of the well without making it deeper.
One time, a weasel threatened to push Tiger in the well, but Tiger gave it a bone so it didn't.
Therefore, Tiger is a hypocrite.
Makes no sense when you think about it, does it?
But of course, The Superficial.com isn't about that. Thinking, that is. It prefers visceral wit over critical thinking, that's how it's advertised and that's how it acts and that's how it became the success it is today. It's a different sort of intelligence. Given The Superficial.com primary subject matter, it's the best way.
Everything The Superficial.com stands for is documented over at Anticlown Media. Good stuff. Noble, yet tempered with irreverence. Irrepressibly spirited, unapologetically free spoken, and let's not forget brutally honest.
You can find everything Anticlown Media, an LLC owned by Karl Wang (who is also the founder of The Superficial.com), stands for right here. It reads like a Values and Mission Statement, although Anticlown Media wants nothing to do with that sort of language. Mission Statements. Marketing Strategies. Buyout Contracts. That's all business stuff. And Anticlown is all about being impulsive idiots. Not calculating capitalists.
We're not business professionals or publishing professionals or any other sort of professionals.
Nope. To read Anticlown Media's self-portrait, 'positioning' is what adds variety to random sex with strangers. 'ROFR' is how a really drunk guy calls his dog. You'd bet they wouldn't know a 'Breach of Contract' if it bit them on the ass.
Say One Thing, Do Another:
The Double Life of a Superficial Hero.
In 2007, about the time Tiger Woods was taping the ESPN video The Superficial Writer would claim made him a hypocrite two years later, Karl Wang, founder and owner of The Superficial.com, was being named one of NxE's Fifty Most Influential Bloggers. According to the editors at northxeast.com, Karl Wang mattered because The Superficial, part of Wang's blog brands under the Anticlown Media umbrella, was 'a biting commentary on the excesses of celebrities that doesn’t pull any punches and is widely popular. It has grown steadily into a superblog...his growing family of blogs including Geekologie, iWatchStuff! and Hedonistica now serve some 14 million visitors and 16 million pageviews a month and growing fast.
'We don't know what sells to an audience. We only know what we like.'—Anticlown Media
Ironically, it was around this time that Wang had sold an equity stake in The Superficial.com to 'social media' mogul Buzznet (later to change its name to Buzz Media), in negotiations that granted Buzznet a Right of First Refusal (ROFR) on the purchase of The Superficial.com should Wang ever decide to sell. This would also be around the same time, according to The Superficial, that Tiger Woods was negotiating to keep certain pictures out of the National Enquirer behind the back of his trusting fans.
'We spend half the day running around the office with underwear on our heads.' (Anticlown Media)
On ('or around') July 10, 2008 Karl Wang approached Buzznet and announced his intention of selling The Superficial.com. He had another offer, and it was a good one. If Buzznet could match it, according to the terms of the ROFR, The Superficial.com was theirs. If not, the other guys got it.
'In fact, we have absolutely no idea what we're doing.' (Anticlown Media)
On September 15, 2008 after 'intense negotiations' Wang and Buzznet entered into a contract. The contract called for Buzznet to acquire the website and all rights and assets in Anticlown Media's (Karl Wang's) possession connected to the website. In return, Buzznet gave Wang $2.7 million as partial payment towards the purchase of the website.
'At the end of the day it's about doing what we believe in...' (Anticlown Media)
On ('or around') July 10, 2008, the same day Karl Wang notified Buzznet of his intent to sell the site per the terms of their previously negotiated equity agreement, The Superficial.com posted a story on Pamela Anderson who delivered a letter of protest to KFC as part of a PETA rally while she was in Australia filming Big Brother. The Superficial Writer pointed out that Anderson had received half a million dollars for appearing in the show Big Brother, and that its biggest sponsor happened to be KFC. "Pamela Anderson is Kind of a Hypocrite" was the headline.
On October 15, 2008 Buzznet issued this press release, announcing the arrival of The Superficial.com into the Buzznet family:
THE SUPERFICIAL JOINS LEADING SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANY BUZZNET INC
Trailblazing Site Becomes Part of Celebuzz, Creating Unrivaled Advertising Opportunities.
The Superficial.Com: Owned by the Company
who Owns the Celebrity Blogs
The Superficial Pretends to Despise.
The BuzzMedia Brand family includes the celebrity blogs of Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, Tila Tequila, Khloe Kardashi, Nicole Richie as well as 'leading opinion' celebrity websites like WWTDD, Just Jared, Go Fug Yourself and Celeslam. A selection of popular music blogs like Absolute Punk, Idolator, rounds out their list of rapid fire acquisitions made in the last few years of sites popular with a 'young and influential' audience attracted to such site's irreverent, brash, and independent tone and manner. The cumulative audience gives BuzzMedia bragging rights to more than 40 million visitors, according to the BuzzMedia Homepage.
According to the press release, the acquisition of The Superficial provided Celebuzz (BuzzMedia's 'social media destination dedicated to celebrity news and culture') with '7 of the top 10 celebrity and entertainment voices on the web.'
Celebuzz is the umbrella under which BuzzMedia incorporates all the content from its 'celebrity culture brands' including The Superficial.com. According to BuzzMedia press releases, Celebuzz's audience drives over 4.8 million unique monthly visitors, making it 'the fourth largest destination for celebrity news and culture.' Every Buzz Media-owned site dedicated to celebrity news and commentary bears this mark of BM:
As part of the 'deal' with The Superficial, BuzzMedia Inc. ('buzznet' in the press release) takes over all advertising sales responsibility for The Superficial. BuzzMedia Inc. also provides engineering, design and marketing support, and expands The Superficial's base by marketing it throughout the BuzzMedia pop culture community. Most importantly:
"...The Superficial has built a large and loyal following of millions of young men and women who visit the site multiple times a day...it has created enormous engagement for marketers who benefit from The Superficial's audience, brand and influence."
The BuzzMedia Business Model: It's About 'Social Programming'
According to its own reports, each Buzz Media property is made up of a professional editorial team, which encourages contributions from audiences. This approach is designed to 'cost-effectively' program thousands of topics to drive large and engaged audiences across its branded properties. (This is very likely how such a flawed and inaccurate article like "Tiger is a Hypocrite" came to be replicated across thousands of blogs and websites in a matter of a few days).
“In these challenging economic times, it’s also extremely efficient,” said Tyler Goldman, CEO of Buzz Media, referring to the company’s business model.
The BuzzMedia CEO insists that it's not about 'social networking.' It's about 'social programming' for the next generation under the banner of a new force in new media. The banner, of course, is BuzzMedia.
Who's Your Daddy? Buzz Media CEO Tyler Goldman:
'Not to Sound Like the Carpenters,
but We Have Only Just Begun.' —LA Times
According to the L.A Times article BuzzMedia sees itself as 'a one-stop shop for pop culture' and in this AFP article covering the acquisition of The Superficial.com by Buzznet in 2008, CEO Tyler Goldman says Buzznet's goal is to become "the de facto pop culture community" for users looking for 'more and more' on celebrity topics.
"If Britney Spears goes for a Frappuccino in Century City, lots of people care. They want to know how many calories are in the Frap, where to get one, how they are made and more," explained Goldman.
According to a reader commenting on an April 10, 2008 article on the Business Insider website about Buzznet's rapidfire and aggressive acquisition of music topics:
This insider knows for a fact Buzznet...pretty much own everything not named "Perez" - and they're silently sitting on all the titles with a MONSTER unveiling on the horizon.
This coincides with the information Pull That Thread has that, in April of 2008, Buzznet already had equity in The Superficial.com.
(That BuzzMedia has been 'silently sitting on all the titles with a monster unveiling on the horizon' may explain why so many of The Superficial.com readers could be so oblivious of The Superficial.com's sale: it's a logical strategy to keep changes to a minimum while new advertisers are lined up.)
Then, on September 11, 2009, BuzzMedia filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court suing Anticlown Media/Karl Wang, and 20 'Does' for, among other things, 'violations of their contractual duties.'
And that's when the marketing shit really hit the fans.
From Hero to Six Zeros:
Are Superficial.com Readers BLIND?
The Superficial.com homepage on December 30, 2009
"We believe in connecting special marketers with a special audience. Are you in the business of scamming people with a free iPod gimmick? Then shoot yourself in the face and never come back here ever again. Anticlown Media only accepts advertisers that complement our sites."—ANTICLOWN MEDIA ADVERTISING PAGE
|Coming across this ad, squatting in space that has always been reserved exclusively for content was like walking into my bathroom and finding an evangelical christian using my toothbrush and acting like I was all glad to see him. And to add insult to injury, the insult (comment) button is gone. How UNSUPERFICIAL IS THAT?
Putting the ads directly into the content space, mimicking all the familiar elements of the content space but removing the COMMENT Button says all I need to know about the new values driving the Superficial, and who's in charge.
"And because we hand pick our sponsors, marketers can feel confident they've got the endorsement of our writers. And our readers love what our writers love." -Anticlown Media message to Advertisers.
Recent ads featured on The Superficial.com: endorsed by writers, as claimed?
There are many factors that likely contribute to the fact that it takes readers of sites like WWTDD and The Superficial.com so long to notice the changes inherent in buyouts. The first is, of course, the trust garnered over long years of being trustworthy. It is a logical strategy for both the seller and the buyer to not alienate the readership they mean to bundle and sell before they have the chance to hook some big paying clients. So changes are kept at a minimum, and readers are 'weaned' on changes over time.
The second is the lack of sophistication of most readers when it comes to marketing strategies, aided even further by the reader's self-image of being marketing savvy. As long as the writers of The Superficial.com are insulting, crass, and despicable to celebrity stars, the naive reasoning goes, they can't be selling out. A company wishing to promote its stars wouldn't allow it.
The Superficial Continues to Mock Celebrities,
Celebrities Laugh All the Way to the Bank.
This is, in many ways, the exact opposite of the truth. Sites like The Superficial.com are desired exactly because they offer both advertisers and stars the eyeballs they would otherwise never have without The Superficial.com style of ruthless critique. They aren't buying The Superficial.com to silence them. Rather, they are buying its readership, and telling The Superficial.com writers NOT to change their style but use it to send readers in the direction of the new ownership's objectives.
On Kim Kardashian's Favorite Site list? The Superficial.com!
This includes eyeballs. Indeed, what promoters of wannabe celebrities have learned is that any PR is good PR. The fact that The Superficial.com's remarks are nasty is not what counts. What counts—literally—are eyeballs. And in that regard, The Superficial.com and its readers have probably contributed more to Kim Kardashian's rise to fame, and advertiser's willingness to pay her $10,000 per tweet to promote their products—than any traditional PR firm could have achieved.
And since the sale of The Superficial.com to BuzzMedia, the evidence of The Superficial acting in servitude to the Buzz Media Marketing Overlords is easy to spot—if you know what to look for. Consider Kim Kardashian's Queen of the Kims contest as just one example:
See how many more you can find on The Superficial.com these days.Post them here, please. They're multiplying like rabbits.
Of course, not every Superficial fan is clueless. There are numerous posts where readers are raising red flags but, given that the opportunity to comment is only available on specific topic posts, these quickly get lost, as this comment found buried among those related to a Kate Gosselin story shows:
'So What's Going On? Did You All Get Bought Out?'
In the early evening of December 30, 2009, readers trying to access The Superficial.com site were greeted with a "Working on Site" notice, with a promise to return shortly. A fan on the Superficial Facebook page posted the following query later that evening, and The Superficial Writer's response represents The Superficial.com's first publicly known statement this writer could find that openly acknowledges its relationship with BuzzMedia, but not the full truth.
After posting his reply to Doug, The Superficial Writer immediately made another post strongly hinting that he was he hoped Rush Limbaugh, who was rushed to the hospital that evening with chest pains, would drop dead. If it was meant to distract the fans from asking more questions, it worked.
The New Facebook Fan Page:
Another Sign of a New Superficial Era?
Launched in October 2009, The Superficial Facebook page already has over 14,500 fans, and their comments suggest a fan base that is very loyal and eager to embrace a of brash, irreverent and especially, 'singular' notion of The Superficial Writer.
That the current Superficial Writer who moderates the Superficial Facebook page is most likely not Karl Wang and most likely not the only writer to write The Superficial posts is unimportant. What's important is that the existence of The Superficial Writer as the mouthpiece for The Superficial.com feeds the reader perception that The Superficial.com is One Guy or, at least, is controlled by One Guy, and that he, not some big media company with numerous other brands in its portfolio, drives the site content and represents its values.
That the new Facebook page is really a BuzzMedia strategic move to more aggressively drive The Superficial readership toward acceptance of a more 'mainstream' Superficial is suggested in the very fact that The Superficial Writer is engaging in direct, active and 'lovey-dovey' communication with the site's readers—not a consistent characteristic of The Superficial Writer in pre-sale days:
The Superficial Writer has also just added 'favorite pages' to the Superficial Facebook page, including Geekologie (another Anticlown Media site and one known by readers as a 'sister site' of The Superficial.com) and "Celebuzz" and "Celeslam"—two other BuzzMedia properties.
It seems as if BuzzMedia—perhaps aided by its 'big stick' of a lawsuit—is making its move to 'win' readership acceptance of The Superficial.com sale by first using The Superficial Writer and the trust Superficial fans so clearly place in 'his' opinion to see the other BuzzMedia brands as 'one of us' rather than seeing The Superficial.com as having sold out to 'one of them.' Its move to Facebook may also suggest a strategy of 'moderating' the inevitable fanbase reaction when the news of The Superficial.com sell out—which has always been right under the readership's nose, is suddenly made clear.
Learning from Experience?
What Happened at WWTDD.
It's a move that could be considered well-informed from previous experience. There is a Special Hell reserved for 'sell-outs' whose reputations are built on being Untouchable. Consider these examples from WWTDD when readers finally realized that their buddy "Brendon"—the owner of WWTDD and a former writer at The Superficial.com—had 'sold out' (a revelation that took WWTDD a year or more to realize):
'Underwear on Head' Covers Calculating Mind
To see Karl Wang and Anticlown Media as some small, independent talent who built a website out of nothing more than grit and love, lured by promises of hands-off resource support, perhaps tricked by some calculating high-powered executive in a three-piece suit using sneaky legal maneuvers to surrender his life's work for a few extra dollars is to see him in the light that he intended.
Ironically, being tricked into a Sale Contract is exactly what BuzzMedia is claiming happened to them in its negotiations with little Anticlown Media and Karl Wang for the acquisition of The Superficial.com, according to a lawsuit filed on September 11, 2009.
The Superficial.com uses its ‘irreverent’ and ‘brutally honest’ commentary as skillfully as an A-list airbrush artist to create the perception that they’re just regular sophomoric guys with acerbic wit who ‘spend half the day running around the office with underwear on our heads’ and, in fact, 'have absolutely no idea what we’re doing’.
Why would Anticlown Media go to so much trouble to make the explicit point that ‘We’re ‘not business professionals or publishing professionals or any other sort of professionals’?
Because they know readers are highly distrustful of the motives of business professionals, publishing professionals or any other kind of professional. And for good reason. They do trust talented guys running around with underwear on their heads, though.
The culmination of which allows the image savvy Karl Wang to point out to advertisers in its Advertising Info section ‘which is why Anticlown Media has emerged as a premiere online publisher.’
And why 247wallst.com named The Superficial.com as one of the 25 Most Valuable Blogs in America: they know how to sell an audience. You know this is true because Anticlown Media makes a big point of saying it doesn't know how to sell an audience. After all, as they point out to potential advertisers, reflecting such attitudes ‘ is a clear example of why we’re able to reach such a young and influential audience.’
So when The Superficial.com is trashing the rich and the famous when they're not running around with underwear on their heads, and being all irreverent towards the icons you despise because they're just doing what they believe in and hope people who get it stick around, remember that they’re also selling your fidelity in three convenient sizes.
On September 11, 2009, BuzzMedia filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles Superior Court suing Anticlown Media, Karl Wang, and 20 'Does' for, among other things, that Anticlown Media Karl Wang made 'false, fraudulent, and misleading statements' to induce BuzzMedia to purchase The Superficial website "for an inflated and fraudulently induced price." Here's the AP story. Get a link to the original court filing here.