There's been some chatter for a while that broadcasters are scouring YouTube for talent, trying to find the next big thing. In June, Carson Daly Productions signed up, who is agreed to be YouTube's first star, Brooke "Brookers" Brodack to a development deal.
YouTube regulars like FilthyWhore, geriatric1927 and renetto regularly pull in many tens of thousands of views. A clip just this week by a young man mashing up the Star Trek and The Simpsons theme tunes pulled in half-a-million viewers in a day - a figure some digital TV broadcasters would be delighted with. A million views is not unknown.
However, the current hot topic throughout the YouTube community is about a young girl with the handle of lonelygirl15. It's become such a fascinating story that it's now leaking into the mainstream press (1) (2) (3) (etc). Basically, lonelygirl15 ("Bree") is a cute-as-a-button, 16-year old American home-schooled girl, who since the middle of June has been posting well crafted videos about her life, Richard Feynman and her relationship with her "friend" Daniel (handled Danielbeast). Daniel is a couple of years older than Bree and apparently a "computer genius" who helps Bree make her videos. Their intial videos were just them larking around with puppets and humorous clips of Bree "proving science wrong". The first hint of the impending drama started, though, when Bree posted a video in which she was quite upset as her religious father wouldn't let her go hiking with Daniel.
Since then, the whole thing has turned into, what one of lonelygirl15's regular commenters has referred to as, "Daniel's Creek". Believe me, it's utterly compelling. It's the first thing I check every morning, and if there's no update then the day is a right-off.
Is is real? Is it part of a very clever viral campaign? Can we one day expect to see Bree conspicuously sipping Coke, or plugging TV shows? Is it an elongated trailer for an upcoming TV show on the WB or MTV? Is its moral posturing the work of a slick religious order? Is it simply two clever kids having a good laugh at our expense, or hoping to launch an acting career? Add a supposed picture of Aleister Crowley on Bree's wall to the mix, and who know's what's going on?
Half-a-million people are hooked onto every "episode" this story. Is it for real?
My money is on it just being some clever kids having some fun. Loads of people say that it's just too well shot and edited to be real, but as a media professional I recognise this, but don't agree that it's unachievable on domestic kit by enthusiastic (albeit talented) amateurs. Modern camcorders offer great picture quality (when used properly) and iMovie and Windows Movie Maker offer editing pretty much matching what we pros use. Don't underestimate how clever young people are. When I was a teenager twenty-odd years ago I used to make quite sophisticated videos with my pal, and I don't doubt if I had today's technology then I'd be able to easily match this (and I'd certainly be posting on YouTube).
I'll tell you what, though. I could cope with it not being real, but I'll be devastated if it's a marketing scam perpetrated by McDonald's or Viacom.
Deep down I cling to it being real, but realistically I think it's a clever hoax. Not by a big big corporation, though. In my experience, they're just not that smart.