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Media

The Problem with Being YouTube Famous

Here’s an issue for all those media firms jockeying to cash in on the enormously popular YouTube stars and their giant audiences: is the nature of the medium making stars out of people too early, stunting their chances of growing into sustainable acts?

That question came to mind at last month’s Vidcon—the annual conference of online video stars, where Youtube fans get a chance to interact with their favorite personalities, while media executives watch from above. (Literally. All the media industry panels featuring media company executives are held on the Anaheim Convention Center’s top floor).

One evening at the nearby Hilton, I saw a young guy making his way up the escalator. He was a pudgy kid and awkward in a way that’s particular to middle school boys. But there was something about him that displayed an underlying confidence. Soon it was clear why. At the top of the escalator, a girl went up to him and said that she loved his Vines. He thanked her, they took a picture together and parted ways. Then another girl came up to him and said he was hilarious. Thanks! Selfie! Goodbye. That happened at least three more times in as many minutes.

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If you go with the premise that this moment (and entire convention) is a testament to the technology of the era, then it becomes an interesting thought experiment to wonder what would happen if YouTube and smartphones were around at another time.