Life at Hollywoodlife.com

Life at Hollywoodlife.com

Coverage of this weekend's Oscars will generate a multitude of digital media. Bonnie Fuller's  Holllywoodlife.com is a newcomer to online celebrity news , launched November 2009. They will be generating their own fair share of buzz. After the jump Wilbert Gutierrez, the Creative Director, talks about life at Hollywoodlife. 





home.jpgThere are a lot of Celebrity News sites out there. What does Hollywoodlife do differently than other celeb and gossip sites?
Hollywoodlife is a celebrity news, style & beauty website. Our target audience is women ages 18-35. That might sound like, well, every other celebrity site out there, but Hollywoodlife is much more than just that. It is written in a very personal way; our editors speak directly to the reader, giving advice, asking what they think about our stories. So there is a constant and direct conversation between the editor and the reader.

Bonnie's (and my) background is in the magazine industry. The one thing that she felt was always lacking in print was that direct communication with your reader. A website, specially a blog, allows us to have a one-on-one conversation with them. Therefore, we are taking full advantage of the tools available to have that conversation, from commenting on the site, to uploading video, to using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. We make a direct connection to our audience by using headlines such as "Want to flaunt your figure like Kim Kardashian & Jennifer Love Hewitt?" and "Instant Poll! Would you forgive Tiger Woods if you were Elin?"

Celeb news is 24/7. I'm curious to hear about the pace and how your role factors in.
Working for a celebrity news site is a superfast fast paced environment, it is like publishing a weekly magazine on a daily basis. As the Creative Director, I have to keep an eye on the overall production of the site, from the posts the editors are creating, to the Facebook and Twitter pages being maintained, to video producing and editing and that the photos that are coming in from the agencies are the best and represent the celebrities being covered in the best way.

We do an average of 30-40 posts daily, not including a number of photo galleries. The crew in our photo department is looking for new images all day, looking for trends in what the celebs are wearing, what parties they go to, who they are dating; basically stories that can end up as galleries or in posts.

Take us through the "life of a post."
In a monthly magazine, you may have up to an entire day to work on designing a single story. In a weekly, you have a few hours. Not here, the pace is fast. Here's what happens:

- I have an initial conversation with the editor about a post, he/she goes off and starts researching, calling in sources.

- Photo department gathers images.

- We, in the art department, are preparing the post, most times using Indesign (yes, I decided to keep using Indesign, as our posts are very editorialized, it is easiest for us to concept in Indesign). The layout is then exported to Photoshop, where it will get sliced and prepared for web.

- We then move to Wordpress, where we have to build using the post tool within it, and raw HTML and CSS, depending on the complexity of the post.

- All the elements are gathered, text, photos and code by our designers and placed in the posts.

This process takes place in approximately 15-20 minutes. The post will be in the site for a couple of hours, before we do it all over again. That is, unless news breaks, in that case we have less than 15 minutes to post.

The site's style is bight, bold and loose. What did you have to consider about your audience when developing the look and feel?
The average reader spends approximately 1 minute in a typical website, unless they find something that grabs their attention. Using this as a guide, we decided to make the design elements scream out for attention. Our headlines and editorial style have to be loud and bold. That is the same way of thinking that is applied to the photography and the graphic style that was developed for the website. We use bright colors, bold big headers and we have the biggest pictures you will find in any other celebrity website.

As you scroll down the page, you have a ton of links that take you through the different parts of the website. Our side rails are used as small advertisements to galleries and other important stories.

rail_modules.jpgAbove: The hard-to-miss left and right rail modules.
Selecting the logo was the most crucial part of the design, as it needed to be friendly, feminine and unique. We selected a handwritten logo, which then turned into the leading element in design. We had the illustration created along with an entire font to be used throughout the site.
alphabet.jpgAbove: Handwriting is used for the logo and throughout the site.


In surfing through the site (um, as research, yes) I came across the "Shop the Look" callout. It is a nice "hidden" feature. What's the basic idea?
Service, service, service! This is a principle that is instilled in a magazine wherever possible. Well the same is applied here. We have the "Shop the Look" feature, where a user hovers over an image, and they see a box that shows where you can buy what their favorite celeb is wearing. If they click on the product, they'll be taken to a partner site where they can shop the products. Another way we feature products is through the "Get the Look" links. If we feature, for example, celebrities wearing Birkin bags, the "Get the Look" is applied to the post, so the reader can shop for similar, more affordable products, one click away.

HollywoodLife-shopthelook.jpgAbove: The "Shop the Look" feature allows a User to find the clothes, or a close match, that the Celebs wear. Rolling over a photo reveals blue-dot highlights that correspond to available products in a hovering pop-up.


The big event is almost here. How will Hollywoodlife cover the Oscars? What does it take to cover this event?
This Sunday, March 7th is Oscar night. This is the biggest event of the year. To prepare for it, we created a dedicated channel where we feature everything Oscars. From the predictions, to the weekend parties, red carpet, the gala and the after parties. We also do this every time there is a big event, such as the Golden Globes, Grammys and other events that are of special interest to our readers, such as the New Moon premiere, or American Idol.
 
In terms of the workflow, the photo department is working extra hours during the weekend, gathering images during the parties, shows and all the events leading to the big night. Sunday night, images start to flow in to the stock agencies approximately 60 minutes after the paparazzi snap them. Monday morning we are in the office around 6am, to try to be the first to publish the best dressed, the winners and all the news.

There are so many ways to publish and communicate content online and for mobile. What are some of the ways you are taking advantage of these options?
In trying to communicate to the reader in every way possible, we have to use different tools, be it by publishing our posts in Facebook or doing constant feeds in Twitter. We are also now moving into video. Using handheld Flip cams, we do video posts where Bonnie rants about a certain subject, or the editors talk about a show. We, in the art department, edit those videos using Final Cut Pro.

What is it about the blogging platform that suits your needs so well?
When we started thinking about the design of the site, we knew there would be restrictions, as we would be working with a blogging tool. We decided to use WordPress as a starting point, and our developers created a CMS (Content Management System) that fit our design. Wordpress was selected because it is very customizable, so there couldn't be any of the old reply "well, that cannot be done in web" that developers tend to use. Wordpress allows us to write a post, design it, put links and publish in a matter of minutes, and still mold the information to fit the editorial. In the end, we have full control of the website, which allows us to keep the website looking fresh on a daily basis.
 
Hey, best of luck this weekend. To borrow a phrase from Vancouver 2010, "Let the games begin!"
Well, that is Hollywoodlife in a nutshell. Fast, Bold, Friendly and Pink! Gotta go, there's Tiger Woods news breaking!


The creative team at Hollywoodlife includes:
Creative Director: Wilbert Gutierrez
Designer: Carlos Mena
Photo Director: Christina Creutz
Photo Editor: Kelly Sherin


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If you have a content Web site redesign, feature, applet or new product that is noteworthy or has recently launched, email me at schrynemakers@gmail.com.

Paul Schrynemakers is a longtime SPD member and has been an product developer and creative director of interactive media for 17 years at Voyager, Time Inc, iVillage, and currently Rodale's digital media group.

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