Are you one of the millions of viewers who tune into Home Improvement just to keep tabs on that dimpled ragamuffin Jonathan Taylor Thomas? Well, fire up the modem–Taylor Thomas is leading a celebrity kid charge into cyberspace as a new site devoted to teen thespians debuts on the Web tonight.
Called Celebrity Sightings, the site features pages designed and approved by teen stars of Full House, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Boy Meets World and Home Improvement. Users can read features and bios, view photos and autographs, download audio and video clips and participate in live chats.
But access comes with a price, albeit a kid-sized one. You have to cough up $5 a month for full access to the site ($50 gets you a year’s membership and a t-shirt). After launch, the site will expand to include other actors, musicians and sports figures.
Why the charge? “Celebrities can reach out to and interact with their fans. In return, fans know they are receiving accurate information since the site is endorsed and designed by the celebrites,” says creator Robert Landes. A chunk of the profits will go to selected youth charities.
The price might be too steep, even for rabid fans. “If every site charged that much, way too few would be able to afford to surf the internet. Plus, how would I know how often we’d actually be able to interact? Would it be worth $60 a year?” asks Eric Hasselwander, who says he’ll keep his own fan pages up as a free alternative.
Landes also asserts that some unofficial sites “charge money for their fan clubs, leveraging celebrities’ star power without ever compensating or obtaining permission from the celebrities.” He will reimburse actors for revenue generated from the site.
A search of renegade fan sites, however, found only a few that charged. The president of the unofficial “Ashley & Mary-Kate’s Fun Fan Club,” which costs $2 every other month, says membership has expanded so much that “it is just getting TOO expensive” to send out the newsletter, maintain the club and keep on top of Olsen twin trivia gratis. Other fan groups request between $1-$5.
Landes says his site will also be a “safe haven.” Stars, especially younger ones, and their handlers have been sensitized to the dark side of the Net. When Full House actress Candace Cameron participated in a Prodigy chat, she was mercilessly flamed. A fake nude photo of her co-star Jodie Sweetin has circulated through the teen starlets news group. Some actors fear over-zealous fans might turn into stalkers.
Still, most of the fan sites go out of their way to be wholesome. “As far as we know, there is no sexual, violent, perverted, or obscene content on this page! There is also no, and never will be, anything that will attack, insult or otherwise hurt the feelings of Candace,” assures her unofficial homepage.
Source: E! Online
<bAuthor: Marcus Errico