Why kids love (and hate) YouTube

It was the most disappointing news for YouTube fans when “citizen journalists” who did some online sleuthing found that popular LonelyGirl15 was not really who she claimed she was.

Silicon Valley watch did some good high-tech investigative work and found that this YouTube “next-door girl” incarnate is an actress.

Let us digress a bit. YouTube is now creating celebrities out of millions or even billions of hopefuls who produce semi-pro videos for YouTube. To the uninitiated, YouTube is a popular web-based hosting service for home-made videos (and increasingly professionally done shorts).

Of course, a lot of “pirated” content are also posted on YouTube (but that’s a different story). In fact, YouTube is now becoming an online host for do-it-yourself movies/short film productions or indie films at its rawest form.

Okay back to the story.

LonelyGirl15 makes for a good movie. Apparently, she (previously only known as “Bree”) has created a cult following online through YouTube. But some people started doubting this cute girl, and wanted to prove she was a hoax. Eventually a contest was launched to find out if she was indeed a hoax or not.

Who broke the story? It wasn’t New York Times or any big media outfit. It was an 18-year old son of Tom Foremski of the popular blog called Silicon Valley Watch . His son did some online sleuthing and found the “truth.” The story of how his son did it can be found here.

So the story goes that Jessica Rose, a 19 year old girl from New Zealand, was the actress behind LonelyGirl15. End of the story.
One of the untold stories in this online saga is the growing popularity of Internet services like YouTube. Mark Glaser of Mediashift writes:

The Lonelygirl15 channel on YouTube is the second most subscribed channel of all time on the site, with more than 23,000 subscribers. In aggregate, Bree’s videos have been viewed millions of times (the Joystiq blog puts that number at a staggering 18 million views).

Kids are viewing more YouTube than television (I do believe in this too), and this is evident in the reaction of many people when they found out that LonelyGirl15 is a hoax.

So I went to her “controversial” YouTube profile to view some of her videos, and found they were indeed well-produced vignettes of a young girl’s life. I really don’t understand why anyone would think it was an actual person. Anyway, that’s all moot and academic.

Here’s one about “My First Kiss” and a revelation about the “yawn technique.” If this is a hoax, it is now a classic one.

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Erwin Oliva

Putting a dent on the universe one day at a time

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