The Weirdly PG World of Celebrities on WhoSay

If you read Sarah Silverman's recent heart-rending obituary for her dog Duck, then you've probably heard of WhoSay, a startup that began as a social media dashboard ("Hootsuite to the stars!") for celebrities to control the rights to the images and words they shared on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—and, more importantly, sell ads against them.

Then again, perhaps when you read Silverman's touching eulogy on Good Morning America or Buzzfeed or New York Daily News or Gawker the name "WhoSay" got obscured in the repackaging.

Silverman's post is good illustration of problem with trying to "control" celebrity news. It has a way of getting around. And "a stack of fine print" doesn't necessarily protect you from fair use.

So today WhoSay, which launched back in 2010 from the bowels of CAA, the Death Star of Hollywood talent agencies, said that it's trying another approach. The company, which has raised $19.3 million, announced the creation of a "digital magazine" (an app, it's just a regular ole iPhone app) filled what AllThingsD politely called "dirt-free celebrity news." In other words, not the most scintillating stuff.

Naturally, WhoSay's CEO says otherwise:

But the WhoSay team, led by entrepreneur Steve Ellis, argue that while there are lots of places to find unofficial celebrity coverage, he’ll have the market cornered when it comes to celebrity-sanctioned celebrity coverage. He says fans will appreciate the clean and well-lit space he is providing. So, we’ll see.

I downloaded the app today and found a few unexpected bold-faced names, Neil Gaiman for instance, but also a lot of people I didn't know sharing very innocuous things. Reese Witherspoon's account, for example, is scrubbed entirely of her arrest footage and apology tour. Evan Rachel Wood is described as "Actress, "Thirteen", Singer" and not "Promising Child Star Who Dabbled In Marilyn Manson."

It's like reading People for the human-interest stories.

That said, a search for Say.ly links on Twitter—the URL used by WhoSay—turned up a surprising number of results. I asked the kind folks at Topsy, the social analytics company, to crunch the numbers, which shows a huge spike in July.

The first chart is a graph of activity for Say.ly links posted to Twitter since August 1, 2012. It shows a lot of initial activity, a long period of very little activity, then a big jump starting in July of this year. The second chart shows potential cumulative exposure for tweets containing Say.ly links. This metric is a count of the total number of people who could have seen a tweet containing one of these links—it's essentially the sum of the number of followers of anyone who's ever tweeted a link to Say.ly. As you can see, because Say.ly users are celebrities with millions of followers, the number of potential exposures is pretty astronomical... in the trillions. The last image shows you some of the top influencers for Say.ly.

The Weirdly PG World of Celebrities on WhoSay

The Weirdly PG World of Celebrities on WhoSay

The Weirdly PG World of Celebrities on WhoSay

Next time your agent orders you start using WhoSay, maybe you should do it?

To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.