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People Cuts Out the Middlemen -- Its Own Editors -- Letting Celebrities Post Directly to Its Site

Time Inc.'s publishing powerhouse gets free design advice.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Celebrity publications and the celebrities they cover have a snug symbiosis: Celebrity publications need celebrities to do things, so they can write about them or print their pictures. Celebrities need celebrity publications to write about the things they do and print their pictures, so they can continue to be celebrities.

As tight as that link is, it could be even tighter. Instead of paying someone to write about the celebrities and take their pictures, why not have the celebrities supply that stuff themselves?

That’s exactly what People magazine is now doing on its website, with a section that lets famous people publish their pictures and thoughts directly to the site.

People has partnered with WhoSay, a startup that helps famous people push out their photos and musings to social networks, as well as WhoSay’s own app/magazine. Now, celebrities can also use a WhoSay app to publish directly to, where their stuff will show up on a dedicated “celebs unfiltered” page, without getting approval from any editor at People.

Here’s a mockup of the page, which should be live now:

Liz White, who runs People’s digital operations for publisher Time Inc., says her staff will keep an eye on the page, and reserves the right to pull down any problematic postings, although she doesn’t think she’ll have any. People employees will also pull out the most interesting celebrity postings for use elsewhere on the site.

People also intends to sell ads against the celebrity-generated content, and will share the revenue with WhoSay, which in turn shares some of the money with the celebrities.

All of this might have seemed revolutionary a few years ago, but now it seems logical, and likely overdue.

Celebrities have been going direct to their fans, via social platforms like blogs, Twitter and Facebook, for years, providing new competition for the Peoples of the world. And the idea of opening up your publishing platform to outside contributors is also old hat: See and LinkedIn — or the comments section of most websites, for that matter.

WhoSay CEO Steve Ellis says his company might strike similar arrangements with other Time pubs — you can see an obvious fit here for Sports Illustrated, for example — but the two companies say the deal isn’t exclusive.

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