Whisper, the popular anonymous social sharing startup that’s raised $24 million from venture capital giants including Sequoia Capital, may have just gotten its big break into celebrity gossip territory that’s typically dominated by the likes of TMZ and the National Enquirer.
Neetzan Zimmerman, the Gawker alum known for his midas touch in driving online traffic, promoted what appears to be the startup’s first A-list celebrity gossip scoop (Zimmerman says he has vetted the rumor). Zimmerman was hired last month to serve as Whisper’s first ever editor in chief.
While this particular bit of news is about as shallow and silly as it comes, in a larger way it reveals Whisper’s potential strategy for staying relevant in the notoriously fickle social app space. One of the chief criticisms lobbied against Whisper by those who have not caught on to the app is that it’s hard to really get worked up about the deep dark secrets of people you don’t know. But when the salacious secrets are about rich and famous people, they start to be a bit more interesting.
Now, this is not totally uncharted territory. Formspring launched as an anonymous Q&A forum, caught on like wildfire with teenagers and early-adopting tech types, raised $14 million in venture capital, and expanded into the celebrity space. Ultimately, though, Formspring ended up shutting down.
But these things are all about execution and timing — Facebook prevailed where Friendster failed, after all. Right now, Whisper is tapping into something really fascinating, and potentially very disruptive to the media powers that be.