“High School Musical” didn’t just create its own insanely successful empire; it helped inspire another one, too. The Disney Channel franchise prompted Jared Eng to build on his popular celebrity gossip website, Just Jared, and begin creating a far-reaching brand.
According to Eng, he launched Just Jared Jr. because “Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens were basically taking over my main website. All the regular readers were like, ‘Stop posting about these kids!’?” So Eng decided to create a home for the teen and tween set, Just Jared Jr., and it was an instant hit. Eng estimates all his properties draw 16 million unique visitors a month.
From the start, Eng adopted a “nice guy” approach to covering celebrities. At the time, around 2005, the Internet celebrated snark. But Eng found he couldn’t manufacture the mean.
“It wasn’t really me,” he says. “I did a better job being myself, being more respectful and being more kind. That’s how I was raised.”
That positive approach is noticed by the celebrities he covers. When the Kristen Stewart cheating drama broke out, Eng handled it gently. “News is news. I wouldn’t have broken that news personally, but it was out there,” he says. “Her publicist actually thanked me for the coverage I did on the site because it was very respectful.”
These days, celebrities break news themselves on Twitter and Instagram, but even as the landscape changes, Eng says, “People still look to Just Jared and Just Jared Jr. to be the voice of that generation.”
Impact: Eng covers the who, what, when and where of young celebrities for millions of readers.
Next: Building relationships with industry insiders now that he’s based in Los Angeles; considering potential spinoffs.