Charlie Sheen, ‘tigerblood’ and Twitter’s future
[By Candice Jones]
Remember a few years ago when young starlet Britney Spears shaved her head and drove with her baby on her lap? The world rushed out to buy tabloid newspapers and magazines to gossip over the pictures.
Poor Britney had no real way of putting across her side of the story as her Hollywood meltdown hit the yellow papers in full force. Online blogs lifted the pictures and e-mails were rife with Britney jokes.
For tabloid journalists working during that time, any one-liner that came from Britney was an instant headline and story, complete with paparazzi shots.
At the time, YouTube was just emerging as a force in the online space and one poor “emo” kid in the US published a lengthy tirade telling everyone to “leave Britney alone”.
Since then the rise of social media has not only given embattled stars a chance to express their side of stories, but also given us a very public view of their meltdowns.
Lindsey Lohan is one of the stars that has used her public blog as a way of “setting the record straight” and at the same time give tabloid journalists a handy source of quotes from her.
Remember the age-old adage that even bad publicity is good publicity — well this maxim is proving truer by the second as bitter, ageing Hollywood star Charlie Sheen takes to the Twitterverse.
Less than a day after @charliesheen’s account went live he had more than 1m followers, a new record for the micro-blogging service. He now has 2,5m followers.
Within hours, his famous hash tags, #winning and #tigerblood, have become Internet memes and hundreds of fake Charlie Sheen accounts sprang up.
TV’s highest-paid star, famous for his former role in the hit comedy show Two and a Half Men, has now become a global sideshow.
In the past few years, Sheen has become increasingly volatile, engaging in binge drinking and abusing recreational drugs. Social media services like Twitter give people, fascinated by celebrities, much more intimate insights than any tabloid could hope to.
Sheen’s now very public mid-life crisis has become a potential cash cow. Internships.com reportedly paid him to drive traffic to its site, with Sheen tweeting he was looking for an intern with “tigerblood” and providing a link to the recruitment website. Almost half a million people have applied for the job.
Others are also taking advantage of the Sheen mania, using #winning and #tigerblood in Twitter-based advertising campaigns.
But it’s Twitter itself which is probably the biggest winner out of all of this as millions more people join the service on the back of the Sheen publicity machine. As the company inches its way to an expected initial public offering, some reports suggest Sheen has boosted the value of the micro-blogging site by more than a third.
Valuations are streaming in from faux share trader SecondMarket and from Sharespost, a site for exchanging privately held shares. Sharespost users currently value Twitter at US$7bn.
Of course, Twitter still hasn’t figured out how to make a profit. It has considered various options, including “promoted” (paid-for) tweets — effectively advertising in people’s message streams.
But direct targeting of millions of people who are also willing followers of celebrities may be where the real money lies.
And companies don’t need Twitter to do that; they only need people like Charlie Sheen — an ageing, out-of-work actor with millions of followers who will happily swop their cash for tweets.
- Candice Jones is TechCentral deputy editor