Pop culture’s obsession with celebrities is evolving along with technology. Ashton Kutcher reached 1 million Twitter followers and Oprah is now part of the Twitterati. And there is never enough news or information about celebrities to satiate the thirst of fans; they want more and more insight into celebrities’ lives, especially online. The startup that created Zivity, the adult social network and media site which debuted at TechCrunch40, is hoping to create the next-generation of digital fan clubs with its new site, TopFans.com. The site lets fans create celebrity “fan pages,” and then add content, such as images, video, and news, to the fan page. And the celebrities can also interact with their pages by adding their own content, commenting on content and interacting with fans.
The pages themselves are similar in theory to a MySpace page or Facebook pages for celebrities, but Top Fans hopes to differentiate itself in several ways. First, celebrities can directly import their Twitter feeds into their Top Fans pages. Like on a Facebook fan page, there is the ability to import RSS feeds into an activity stream. But Top Fans’ technology also crawls the web for news and images of the celebrity that will be imported into the main news feed on the page. Fans can also contribute comments and content to the site feed. The pages include a Digg-like button next to each piece of content that allows fans to vote whether they like the content or don’t like it. The highest rated content goes to the top of the feed. And unlike Facebook, where celebrities often have an “official” page and unofficial pages that have been created by fans, Top Fans ensures celebrities that they only have one centralized page with no duplicates. Pages can be created by fans or the celebrities themselves.
Fans are also rewarded when they contribute content to a Top Fans site, thus having the ability to differentiate themselves from other less-passionate fans. Fans are ranked, according to how much content they have contributed, which also gives celebrities a way to see who their biggest fans are. This feature can be especially attractive to a fan of a celebrity with hundreds of thousands of followers, who wants to stand out as one of the most loyal of all the fans.
Currently, Top Fans is launching with just “teen idols” and “professional baseball celebrities” (which amounts to 5,000 fan pages) but the end-game is to include Hollywood, internet celebrities, politicians, musicians, bands, etc. TopFans also also created profiles for the Top 1000 Twitterers, ranked by number of followers. This list includes Shaquille ONeal, John Mayer, Chris Sacca,, Ashton Kutcher and TechCrunch’s own Michael Arrington.
One potentially problematic issue for Top Fans is how to control the enormous amount of questionable content that’s on the web about celebrities, such as content that is taken by the paparazzi or speculative gossip about celebrities. Celebrities would most certainly not want this sort of content on a fan page. Top Fans CEO Jon Elvekrog says that all questionable news is flagged but said that many celebrities have the feeling that “any press is good press.” I’m not so sure that’s the case, considering the growing amount of lawsuits that celebrities are filing against publications that print misinformation.
Top Fans is run by Top Fans Inc., which also owns Zivity . Zivity’s adult site has been able to raise $8 million in funding from top Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors and received widespread press since its launch at TechCrunch40, especially after its co-founder, Cyan Banister, bared all on the site.