Why there's no money in being a Web celebrity

Owen Thomas · 12/03/08 02:20PM

We like to watch people trying to be famous. And we're so desperate for a shred of authenticity that we'll watch just about anyone doing anything, as long as it's live and on the Internet. Hence the lifecasting phenomenon.

Suicide by webcam

Owen Thomas · 11/21/08 02:40AM

Lifecasting, a kind of do-it-yourself reality TV broadcast on the Internet, has thousands of practitioners. Until last night, one of them was Abraham Biggs, a 19-year-old Florida resident, who used a webcam to broadcast his death, too.Wednesday night, after he posted a suicide note on the Web, he overdosed on pills on camera as users of, a lifecasting site, watched. Some posted comments egging Biggs on. When he took the pills and stopped moving, they laughed, expecting his corpse to revive and announce it was all a joke. No one called the police until hours had passed. They kept watching as officers came to the scene and verified his death. Even then, commenters wrote "OMFG" and "LOL." NewTeeVee, an online-video industry publication, called the incident a "a striking display of the power of live video." The power, but definitely not the glory: It shows how the viewers of lifecasting devalue life. Users of sites like have grown accustomed to watching people mug for the camera. All the world's a stage, and all the men and women on webcams are merely players. But what happens when we're not playing around? CEO Michael Seibel, in a statement, didn't comment on the video, merely noting the site's policy for removing content flagged as "objectionable." The digital record of Biggs's death is just bits on a server. What about the users who cheered Biggs on as he performed a snuff film? Can we flag them, too? There will always be teenagers who try to kill themselves in awful ways. But one would hope the audience would not applaud.

China deports Twitter user for livestreaming Olympics protest

Melissa Gira Grant · 08/12/08 05:20PM

Activist Twitterer noneck (aka Noel Hidalgo) was in Tiananmen Square on Saturday for a free-Tibet protest. After he Twittered the event and broadcast it live over Qik, Chinese authorities deported him. He's one of 28 activists bounced from China during the Olympics, but the only one who documented his actions live, with over 30,000 views. Rather foolish of the Chinese government: Had they not deported Hidalgo, it's unlikely so many people would have paid attention to his lifecast. His video of the pro-Tibet die-in runs below:Click to view

Kevin Rose shaves his head, and 806 people watch

Owen Thomas · 07/29/08 03:20PM

On Sunday, Digg founder Kevin Rose went online, turned on his webcam, and proceeded to shave his head. A Britney Spears-style breakdown for San Francisco's linkbait lothario? No, it was just some charity bet. But we still wonder if former flame Julia Allison's recent run through town had anything to do with Rose's mental state. The saddest thing of it all: 806 people tuned into Rose's lifecasting session to watch. to let users launch their own home-shopping networks

Owen Thomas · 07/22/08 11:40AM

At first we found lifecasting the most depressing thing around; now, the practice of living your life attached to a camera seems depressingly popular, Silicon Alley Insider reports. has reached 1 million registered users. The site still has no business model, but CEO Michael Seibel says the company is working on an online payments system that will let lifecasters hawk wares to their viewers. Cancel that bit about lifecasting being a downer: The prospect of letting a million QVCs bloom is far scarier.

You're a star! A big, big star! No, you're just crazy

Melissa Gira Grant · 07/21/08 02:20PM

"I realized that I was and am the center, the focus of attention by millions and millions of people. My family and everyone I knew were and are actors in a script, a charade whose entire purpose is to make me the focus of the world's attention." No, it's not a new blog post by Wired cover girl Julia Allison. It's a quote from a medical patient with the newly defined Truman Show Delusion. What drives someone to believe they're the star of a reality-TV show?

Sarah Austin plurks the road

Melissa Gira Grant · 06/03/08 06:40PM

"Everywhere I go on Twitter everyone is talking about Plurk right now!" exclaims tireless neo-camgirl Sarah Austin, the videoblogger formerly known as Sarah Meyers, and before that Sarah Austin. In this video report, filed via some future-fantastic combination of Web services and mobile-phone video live from the street in Manhattan, Sarah not only gets the story, she almost gets hit by a car. Gee whiz, kids, look both ways before you blog: — one year old and still full of illegal content

Jordan Golson · 03/24/08 05:40PM

Lifecasting site has come a long way since banning a broadcaster for one night of indecent exposure — that is, sexual acts. There may be less porn now, but other illegal content now graces's servers. Right now I'm watching a stream of Fox Sports Net West's broadcast of the San Diego Padres playing the Los Angeles Angels. Last night, more than 2,000 people watched the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers play. Given Major League Baseball's draconian online reporting rules — no more than seven photos from any game; audio and video clips can be a maximum of two minutes and can't be streamed live — we doubt the MLB is happy about this. may turn down Microsoft's $50 million

Owen Thomas · 03/15/08 12:40AM

Yahoo's move into live video could have kneecapped startups like and Instead, its botched launch just proved that serving up streams is a harder business than it looks — and got Yahoo rivals like YouTube interested. We hear is now leaning strongly against taking Microsoft's $50 million bid, and going with a top VC firm instead. Cofounder Brad Hunstable would only concede that "something is going on." Anothing thing going on: Yet another new boss. "Chuck Wallace is the CEO," Hunstable told Valleywag. Note the present tense. If Wallace is replaced in conjunction with a new round of funding, it would be the third time an investor has installed new management. negotiating $50 million sale to Microsoft

Jordan Golson · 02/08/08 04:17AM

Sources tell Valleywag that lifecasting startup is in advanced discussions with Microsoft to acquire the lifecasting service for more than $50 million, but there are other companies in the bidding as well. Ustream is currently raising a very large initial round of VC financing, and Microsoft is attempting to grab them prefunding for a cheap price. Our tipster also mentions that Microsoft would use Ustream as a way to promote its Adobe Flash competitor, Silverlight. Ustream has raised around $2 million from angel investors, and seems to have hit the market at just the right time.

Yahoo's lifecasting service is Live! Sort of!

Jordan Golson · 02/07/08 09:29PM

Yahoo's lifecasting service has "launched" — if you can call it that. As we reported, Yahoo Live allows users to stream live video for users to watch, similar to the services of startups and This marks the first time that a major company has gotten into the lifecasting space. At launch, the featured user was "JT the Bigga Figga," but sadly, Yahoo seems to be running out of server capacity and is streaming only intermittently. Yahoo's Bradley Horowitz announced in his Twitter feed that " is, well, live... Help us crush it with load." I guess he wasn't kidding. If it decides to work, watch Splunk the Pony streaming live, after the jump. It's by far the most interesting lifecast I've ever seen.

Yahoo soft-launches lifecasting service

Jordan Golson · 01/29/08 06:00PM

Yahoo is launching a new video service called Yahoo Live. Initially available for Yahoo employees only, the service allows users to create their own "social broadcasting experience." Translation: Yahoo is the first major company to get into the lifecasting space currently occupied by startups like and Last week, we reported that Yahoo was looking to launch some splashy products to distract from its financial problems and layoff rumors. Yahoo Live seems to fit the bill. Catch the notice posted on Yahoo's intranet, Backyard, after the jump.

Tim Faulkner · 12/12/07 07:37PM, the company behind, egoblogger Robert Scoble's favorite drive-while-you-film-yourself lifecasting site, has raised $5.6 million from Spain's Telefonica. No wonder Scoble is yet to confirm that he'll be working at Fast Company come January. [NewTeeVee]

iJustine to run her own show

Tim Faulkner · 11/29/07 05:30PM

As reported a couple of weeks ago, Justine Ezarik, the blonde videoblogger better known as iJustine, has opened her own website, Neither of her potential suitors, and , appear to have won her heart outright. Ezarik's maintaining channels on both lifecasting startups, and also posting videos using Viddler and Revver. The girl knows how to keep her options open. Her latest affair is with, a little-known .tv domain registrar, video-streaming service, and advertising platform. Unsurprisingly, ChannelMe's site now features iJustine.