Backed by two Time Warner units, AOL and Telepictures Productions, TMZ.com saw page views surge to 4 million yesterday, the biggest day in the site's eight-month history. July page views were 50 million, up 33% on the previous month.
Mel's run-in with the law, and his subsequent apology, scored the site major media over the weekend and through yesterday. According to TMZ staff, the site's Hollywood offices were inundated with media outlets battling for interviews with the site's managing editor, Harvey Levin, who ended up giving 42 interviews yesterday.
"It's huge in practical and psychological terms," said the website's general manager, Alan Citron. "It's a breakthrough moment. It also makes the reputation of the site bigger and more meaningful, and that's more important." Mr. Citron said the site had also fielded inquiries from advertisers, though he couldn't say whom since AOL handles ad sales for the site directly.
TMZ, which largely follows Paris Hilton around the mediasphere, began life in November as a joint venture between AOL and Telepictures, a TV syndication company that produces celebrity news show "Extra," along with "Ellen" and "Tyra" (Mr. Levin is a former host of Telepictures' "Celebrity Justice"). The companies established the tabloidy website, named after the "Thirty Mile Zone" around Hollywood, as a way to spin out video footage online.
It rapidly gained a following among those following young Hollywood. While the Mel Gibson arrest is the site's first big scoop, previous stories -- accompanied with footage -- included oil heir Brandon Davis unleashing a tirade against actress Lindsay Lohan and actor Woody Harrelson chocking photographers. "We have come to be defined by the edgy rawness of our videos," said Mr. Citron.
The website broke news of Mr. Gibson's arrest at noon; by 9 p.m. the site reported Mr. Gibson's incendiary comments about Jews. Asked what the attraction of the story is, Mr. Citron replied: "The story has it all -- celebrity, controversy, Malibu. We are thrilled to death it's played out like that."