It was only two years ago that many of us sat glued to our computers and televisions for hours waiting for news about singer Michael Jackson after word hit that he was suffering cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, TMZ.com was already running stories with the “Michael Jackson R.I.P. 1958-2009″ banner as we refused to believe he had passed until a ‘legit’ outlet like CNN or ABC told us so. That scoop was a sign of things to come for the brand which had also been the first to reveal Mel Gibson’s racist tirade following his DUI arrest in 2006.This week, TMZ founder Harvey Levin had the opportunity to address the National Press Club, which is not the sort of privilege typically befitting someone who is essentially a celebrity blogger. And he had a strong message: newspapers and magazines should leave print altogether if they wish to survive, for the internet takeover is only going to go deeper, get stronger. Hmm…As the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi points out, its a bit out of the box to see Levin “ go all media visionary” while addressing the press, considering that his brand was built off of the backs of the Kardashians, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. However, Levin is one of the most successful entertainment news entrepreneurs to emerge from the internet. The New York Times lists TMZ.com as the 10th most cited source by other news orgs, besting the Los Angeles Times, ABC News and the Financial Times. Something is working in the house Levin built…or people have just gotten a lot less ‘serious’ when it comes to the sort of news they prioritize. Or, most likely, a combination of both.
Levin also had advise for television news outlets, suggesting TMZ TV’s conversational and humorous approach to reporting would breath new life to the long-standing newscast format.
Despite the fact that 45 million people still purchase print papers each day and Americans purchased 325 million magazines last year, the 61-year-old insists that print is dead. “What is the magic of holding a piece of paper in the air when you read?” he asked. “You [in the news media] think you have to preserve this? Why?” Young people aren’t interested in the traditional media,” said Levin. “It doesn’t speak to them.” He told the press corps that as television and internet continue to merge “This is a revolution. And also, an opportunity.”