Commentary: lonelygirl15
September 17th, 2006

Link: apophenia: lonelygirl15

I have been finding over the past year that, as “crowdsourcing” and web 2.0 start up projects begin to proliferate, investors and venture capitalists are starting to look for people who can successfully “start a fire”, or create a “buzz”.

The “buzz” that you create doesn’t even have to be directly related to your product or service, really. You just have to be able to show that you can “virally” harness the social networks out there, and get a bunch of (target) people talking about whatever you’ve put online, and linking to you. Bonus points a plenty if you can get the hype and buzz to cross over into the traditional broadcast media sphere 

Of course, There are a number of ways to do this. I previously discussed Marc Fawzi’s gaming of digg.

The blogosphere and broadcast media hype over the “Lonelygirl15″ hoax/”art experiment” seems to have overlooked that this “art experiment” was likely actually more of a career builder. It appears to me that it was an attempt to display prowess in creating an online and crossover to broadcast media buzz, and it worked.

I suspect that this is a lead-up to a Calacanis-style “crowdsourcing” business venture. The clue is in the statement that the creators of lonelygirl15 released to their “fans” (emphasis mine):

“To Our Incredible Fans,

Thank you so much for enjoying our show so far. We are amazed by the overwhelmingly positive response to our videos; it has exceeded our wildest expectations. With your help we believe we are witnessing the birth of a new art form. Our intention from the outset has been to tell a story– A story that could only be told using the medium of video blogs and the distribution power of the internet. A story that is interactive and constantly evolving with the audience.

Right now, the biggest mystery of Lonelygirl15 is “who is she?” We think this is an oversimplification. Lonelygirl15 is a reflection of everyone. She is no more real or fictitious than the portions of our personalities that we choose to show (or hide) when we interact with the people around us. Regardless, there are deeper mysteries buried within the plot, dialogue, and background of the Lonelygirl15 videos, and many of our tireless and dedicated fans have unearthed some of these. There are many more to come.

To enhance the community experience of Lonelygirl15, which you have already helped to create, we are in the process of building a website centered around video and interactivity. This website will allow everyone to enjoy the full potential of this new medium. Unfortunately, we aren’t programmers. We are filmmakers. We are working furiously to complete the website, and hope to have it up and running shortly.

So, sit tight. You are the only reason for our success, and we appreciate your devotion. We want you to know that we aren’t a big corporation. We are just like you. A few people who love good stories. We hope that you will join us in the continuing story of Lonelygirl15, and help us usher in an era of interactive storytelling where the line between “fan” and “star” has been removed, and dedicated fans like yourselves are paid for their efforts. This is an incredible time for the creator inside all of us.”-(end quote)

They declare that they hope that “With your help we believe we are witnessing the birth of a new art form.” The creators of lonelygirl15 discussed In the LA Times that:

The intent was to allow fan response posted in the comment section of lonelygirl15’s YouTube and MySpace pages to determine the direction of each subsequent episode.As an example of the fans’ influence over the story line, what the team calls “collaborative storytelling,” they pointed to an episode in which Daniel reveals his romantic feelings to Bree. “In the ‘Hiking’ video,” Beckett said, “where Daniel filmed her, there were a ton of comments saying, ‘Daniel likes you. It’s obvious that the cameraman was completely in love with you.’ We saw the comments and said this is the perfect opportunity to address this.” (via Avante Game)

This is only speculation at this point. I could be totally wrong. But, I believe that this is the future of “marketing”: seeing who can be the most effective at duping people in novel ways. That may seem negative, but I have a sour taste in my mouth in general for marketing that tries to “become” reality. It leaves me feeling less like a “participant” in an art experiment, and more like a dog chasing it’s own tail…


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