Remember Ugly George? In the '70s and '80s he was a common unsightly sight around New York, resplendent in a silver space suit with a giant Sony camcorder propped on his shoulder like a bazooka, hounding innocent women on the street, basically trying to get lucky.
A peripatetic peep show, George talked women into candid disrobes in alleyways, vestibules, and (if he got real lucky) bedrooms, then aired the footage on late-night public-access TV. George was ahead of his time.
There's a new wave of peeps out there. They're called camboys, camgirls and lifecasters. These youngsters turn the cameras on themselves instead of others, opening up their bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, backyards. They don't get naked, but they do expose themselves in other ways, ushering viewers into their private, often awkward, little worlds, their idiosyncrasies, their goofy humor and their circles of friends. Lifecasters distribute these exhibitionist clips on their own sites and on YouTube, MySpace, Veoh or blip.TV. Most of these lifecasts are canned but some are live and viewers can interact with lifecasters via texting or IM.
The quality is pretty poor - lifecasters mostly use Webcams - and the subject matter can be pretty damn tedious, but check this out: On YouTube a camgirl called HappySlip claims over 130,000 subscribers. Each of her individual videos gets 500,000 to 4,000,000 views. Not surprising, then, that lifecasters are quickly becoming minor celebrities - you might call them "i" list stars - appearing in segments onToday, Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Lifecasting content, like YouTube content, is free and lifecasters have not been able to survive on lifecasting alone. That is changing. Several top lifecasters are now represented by their own version of CAA, a management group called Digital Content Partners, created by online veterans Daniel Spizer and Richard Frias and dedicated to representing Internet celebrities.
The first brand integration deals for DCP clients are being brokered by Corey Weiss, vice president of integrated marketing at Palisades Media in Santa Monica. He and Daniel Spizer go way back, pre-Internet. "We were in Y Indian Guides together," explains Weiss. "He was Little Sitting Bull; I was Little Big Foot."
Justine Ezarik, aka iJustine, is a top DCP client. She's an Internet comedienne who finished as a runner-up in the Yahoo Talent Show by streaming her life online for over 100 days. Her clips have been viewed over 25,000,000 times. Palisades got iJustine an integration deal with American Eagle Outfitters, who sponsored a spring break trip for the lady lifecaster in Cancun. Videos of her trip posted complete with American Eagle pre-roll and post-roll tags.
Rhett & Link, an Internet singing-comedy duo from Buies Creek, N.C., is another top-drawer DCP client. They have millions of views and fans, hosted Online Nation for the CW Network and have partnered with a wide range of companies from General Motors to TurboTax. Palisades linked them up with iResQ, an iPod and iPhone repair company, for which they taped a parody music video about dead iPods. "Within every electronic device there is a seed, dormant and waiting to be released," they sing to iJustine, who makes a cameo appearance and quickly logs onto iResQ before the "doom seed has germinated" in her device.
"Lifecasts are produced and directed by the stars themselves," says Weiss. "They are very nimble and they can customize a program to meet an advertiser's needs and turn it around quickly."
And costs are low. According to Weiss, they run from $8,000 at the low end to $100,000 at the high end. Not a bad deal if you go with someone like HappySlip, aka Christine Gambito, whose 30-plus videos have been viewed over 27,000,000 times across the Web. In one month last year, happyslip.com drew 206,600 unique visits with 658,908 page views.
Other hot i-list celebs on the DCP roster include 17-year-old Kevin Wu, aka KevJumba, who has 95,000 subscribers and using a standard Webcam has created 29 videos that have been watched more than 12,000,000 times; and 21-year-old David Choi of Los Angeles, whose original song and video "YouTube (A Love Song)" has generated over 1.8 million views.
Richard Linnett is director of entertainment marketing at Fathom Communications. (firstname.lastname@example.org)