A couple of years ago, Jordan Osher spotted Kanye West in SoHo, chomping on a hotdog and spilling mustard on his shirt. Naturally, he took a picture.
“You get a photo of it and, what do you do with it?” Mr. Osher asked The Observer. Well, put it on the Internet, of course! “The average person gets a photo of a celebrity and they save it to their desktop, they email their ten best friends and family, maybe they put it on their social networking site like Facebook (META) and the story dies there,” Mr. Osher explained. He decided to help keep these real-life encounters alive by creating MeetTheFamous.com—a site that enables its users to become their own celebrity blogger. Its tagline: “MeetTheFamous.com: Where YOU Are the Paparazzi.”
“What I want to do is provide a home for these people,” Mr. Osher, the site’s creator and chief executive, told The Observer from his Fifth Avenue office. “Instead of the story just dying on their desktop, is to share their encounter, share their experience, share their photos with the world and get paid for it.”
At MeetTheFamous.com, users can create a profile and upload their own pictures and videos of celebrities. The site has signed an exclusive partnership with a top photo agency (Mr. Osher declined to disclose the name of the agency) to license and sell their photos to sites like TMZ and Just Jared and magazines like InStyle. Whatever the photo agency sells, users receive 50 percent of the commission through PayPal. Also, MeetTheFamous.com staffers choose several posts to be featured on the site’s home page every day. Users who create those featured posts get a $25 bonus.
For “Jenny from Idaho who has never seen a celebrity in her whole life,” Mr. Osher said, she can become their “own Perez Hilton,” by blogging about photos posted on the site. There’s also a Celebrity Trivia game and a Celebrity Clue game that offers daily and weekly cash prizes. Features like Celebrity Closet also note the brand names of the clothing celebrities have on and where users can snag that skirt for themselves. The site also ranks the “most popular paparazzi” (based on profile views) and the best money-making “top paparazzi.”
Launched in mid-October 2008, the site (which is funded by V.C’s s in New York, Ohio, Connecticut and Chicago) has collected more than 16,000 photos of photos submitted by its 5,000 users. Headlines include: “Nicolas Cage Does a Hairplug Check”; “Lady Gaga Gets Horny On Stage”; and “Scarlett (Johansson) is one Transtastic Starlet.” Mr. Osher said some of the most interesting submissions include one of Gerard Butler—the Hulk-like actor who played a king in 300. An old acting classmate submitted a photo of him looking much thinner, with floppy hair and a nerdy look. Mr. Osher said publishers were clambering to create a “before and after” feature with the picture.
Another was submitted by a tattoo artist of his recent work on Rihanna—two guns on her ribcage. “This was picked up by Extra TV and TMZ was on it,” Mr. Osher said.
Mr. Osher came up with the idea for the site from his cubicle. “Just like the next person, I love the celebrity news and the celebrity gossip and I found myself going to these blogs,” Mr. Osher said. “But there was never anything to do there. I was always, 15 seconds and I’m done, I’ll wait for the next story to come. I always wanted more.”
“If someone posts something like Madonna was spotted at a Starbucks at 43rd and 2nd at 9 a.m., what am I supposed to do with that? Am I supposed to sit at Starbucks the next day and wait for her?”
Mr. Osher said users can bank on getting photos that even the paparazzi can’t get. Most celebrities know when paparazzi are watching and act accordingly. But if undercover, everyday folks are camera-ready with their iPhones, what will MeetTheFamous.com users catch them doing next?
For example, Mr. Osher used to live in Los Angeles and was “‘attempting’ to be an actor,” he wrote in an email. He had a small part in the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith, starring then-undercover lovers Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. “I filmed a scene with only Brad and Angelina when the whole rumors of ‘are they hooking up or not’ were swirling around. If I had a camera phone back then, let’s just say I could have taken a photo that would have been in all the celebrity magazines the next day. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a place like MeetTheFamous.com to go and post the photo to back then.”
Perhaps most MeetTheFamous.com users won’t be so lucky and many of their submissions will capture celebrities going about their daily routines—getting coffee, picking up dry cleaning, picking their noses. But for some reason we’re just as obsessed with those pictures as the scandalous shots—just pick up an issue of In Touch for proof.
“Celebrities are everyday people,” Mr. Osher continued. “They take their kids to school, they walk their dogs, they go to restaurants, they cheat on their spouses and they get in fights. And they’re not ghosts. People see them on an everyday basis.”
Mr. Osher might consider geo-targeting and mobile applications for MeetTheFamous.com. But for now he and his five other staff members, are focusing on getting the product right, building partnerships, and “‘getting out into the mainstream,’ of course,” Mr. Osher added. “It has to get to the point where people are like, ‘I gotta get a picture on MeetTheFamous.’”