It's Britain's greatest gossip newsletter. So how did Popbitch become the highlight of thousands of Thursday afternoons—without getting sued out of existence?by Alexis Self / February 26, 2020 / Leave a comment
For those in the know, Thursday afternoon, between the hours of four and five, is the bitching hour. That’s the time when a sound, a vibration, a salutary haptic, signals the arrival of Popbitch in one’s inbox.
Every week, for exactly 20 years last month, the email newsletter has been sating, or stoking, the nation’s appetite for celebrity gossip. As more august titles have risen and fallen—and still others have been forced to seriously change their ways—Popbitch has retained the same schedule, the same tone of voice and the same plain-text HTML format (so that people can read it at work “without being clocked by their managers.”) Not bad for a publication with a circulation greater than the Daily Telegraph.
It’s also retained the same staff. Well, sort of. Camilla Wright, who founded Popbitch in January 2000, is still at the helm. Since moving to Hong Kong last year, though, editorship has been passed to Chris Lochery, who began his career as an intern there eight years ago. His job has been to master Popbitch’s tone of voice (an arch drawl described as a mix between “an Old Soho media insider” and the 1950s Hollywood gossip magazine Confidential) and manage its cadre of sources.
Twenty years ago newspapers, then making their first tentative forays onto the web, were still the gatekeepers of our worldly information, and their denizens were numerous. Wright, a freelance journalist, would meet up with colleagues in entertainment, politics and sports reportage and swap scandalous stories that “you weren’t allowed to put in the papers.” When she began sending a round-robin email containing the most scurrilous titbits, Popbitch was born.
For a story to be ‘pop’ or ‘bitch’ enough for inclusion, Wright says, it must be funny. “There’s lots of things we don’t print, stories about ill health, family, children. You think, there’s something there but there’s no humour in it.” This seems a bit worthy from a publication which coined the acronym IDNSHC, but Wright and Lochery are adamant Popbitch maintain an affectionate tone; while an editorial ‘sounding board’ of media insiders (rumoured to include filmmaker Adam Curtis and Private Eye’s Adam McQueen) try to help it avoid the scorn heaped on other scandal-merchants.
Popbitch’s foundation year, back in 2000, heralded not only the dawn of online mass media but also a new kind of popular culture. The previous year,…