October 22, 2007
Be Somebody: ClipStar, and the Myth of Internet Celebrity

Coming off of my Soulja Boy run (look here and here), it seemed appropriate to bring up a new UK-based video sharing community, ClipStar.

Unlike YouTube and other established video sharing sites, ClipStar sets out with the explicit purpose of being a channel for self-promotion and publicity. It's not just about sharing your videos, but sharing them with the right people (ClipStar appears to be affiliated with a number of talent agencies). They're even pushing it one step further than other self-promotion sites by introducing a talent competition, starting at the end of October, with an annual pay-out of one million dollars.

The contest features a quarterly competition every three months with a prize of $10,000. The winners from each of the nine categories from every quarterly competition then has their votes reset and battle it out over the course of two weeks for the grand prize at the end of the year.

What sets ClipStar apart, however, is not just the competition, but the way it explicitly links online networking to monetary gain, assigning value to internet notoriety. It also unabashedly pushes one of the great myth of web 2.0: that you can become a celebrity just by "being yourself." The ClipStar main page features an ad in which Ozzy Osbourne tells you that there's two ways to fame -- starting a band and spending 20 crazy years with groupies and Nutella, or the "easy way," with your digital camera. But it remains to be seen how viable this model of instant fame and fortune really is.

As much as I've talked in recent weeks about the pervasive success of Soulja Boy, the fact remains that his album as a whole received mixed reviews, and it's still unclear whether he'll really graduate from the ranks of a summer novelty hit. It's also fairly uncertain how well internet fame translates into traditional modes of media distribution.

After all, it's one thing to watch Chris Crocker crying over Britney for a few minutes, but how many of us are actually going to be able to sit through the so-called "Chris Crocker experience" of histrionics and armchair social commentary for the entire length of a TV show? When it comes down to it, how much are we really going to be willing to pay for something we used to get for free?

If it were me, I'd take the groupies and Nutella.