net.fameJuly 5, 2008
The internet has caused a lot of upheaval to a lot of long held business practices & consumer behaviors, etc, but one of the changes that has been largely overlooked is the creation of niche fame. When I was younger, it seemed like “famous” people were either legitimately famous, like Elvis Presley or Michael Jordan, and you could reasonably expect that everyone had heard of them, or they were not, and at best had a cult following like Negativland, or the Church of the SubGenius.
Nowdays, the worldwide connectivity of the web, niche targeting capabilities & extremely low barrier to entry have given rise to a new kind of “non-boolean” fame, where you can be REALLY popular among MILLIONS of people but completely & utterly obscure to the rest of the world. A couple examples:
Magibon is a young Japanese (see update in comments) woman who has uploaded 55 videos of herself to YouTube. They get millions of views, with the most watched video having accumulated nearly 3.4 million views. In most of these videos Magibon stares silently at the screen, blinking & smiling for about a minute or two. Over 55,000 people have signed up to be alerted via email the moment she uploads a new video. Never heard of her, right? Me neither.
Fred, who I just heard about via this LA Times article, is WAY more popular than Magibon, and several billion times more annoying. 14 year old Fred has over 260,000 subscribers, itching to be alerted if he should upload a new video, and his most popular video has been aired over 5.8 Million times, and yet it’s completely unsurprising that I’ve never heard of him, and probably neither have you.
The internet is far from overrun with these semi-famous folk, but just like musical “success” got heavily balkanized over the last decade, where having a decent sized MySpace following carries the same weight today as getting a record deal did back in the 80s, the quality of fame & celebrity itself is being heavily distilled, thanks to Reality TV & the internet.
For a better illustration of what I’m talking about, a brief rundown of YouTube’s “most subscribed” list is a veritable “who’s who” of “who now? seriously?,” with perhaps no one more suprising than Smosh, the most subscribed entity on YouTube. Smosh has nearly 13 million views of their most popular video, and over 420,000 subscribers for any updates. To put that in perspective, more people have seen a video by Smosh than any episode of any show that ran on the CW last season, despite the several million dollar disparity in production & marketing budgets, and yet I’ve heard of the shows on the CW, and until just now had never heard of Smosh.
I can’t wait until my now two year old daughter is old enough to start making me feel lame for never having heard of any of these people.