Sites like learncelebrityblogging.com promise to teach anyone the tricks of the trade, but are independent bloggers losing their cachet?
I had an epiphany this year at SXSW—the era of self-made internet celebrity may be over. While at our panelist dinner, Rick Rey, from Blip TV revealed that he produced Epic Fu. One of my team members was a big fan and reminisced enthusiastically about the series and what it meant to him. Epic Fu was a popular web video series hosted by Zadi Diaz. Zadi was an early vlogger with a substantial following who became a minor internet celebrity. She now heads up online content for Disney.
Another day at the Driskill Hotel, I noticed Ze Frank sitting alone. When I pointed him out to my colleagues, no one really knew who he was, even though he was a pioneer in online video comedy. He is now at BuzzFeed. I also met the founder of ReadWrite Web (a once popular tech blog) “in real life” for the first time. We were mutual fans of each other’s work when I had my own youth marketing blog. He now heads up his own social measurement company.
As I thought about how fragmented traditional media has become and the challenges the Ad Council faces creating iconic PSAs in such a noisy media landscape, and I realized that internet celebrities are not who they used to be. There was a time when independent bloggers could own a vertical, get a book deal and transform into a recognizable internet brands overnight (at least in their own space). I was one of them. It seems like a lot of us have gone in-house since then.
The internet celebrities at SXSW this year were leaders of big institutions or founders of buzzy startups or memes like Grumpy Cat. I remember a few years ago when there were panels devoted to internet celebrity or discussion of what it meant to be A List vs. B or C List bloggers and building your personal brand online. Now it’s more about the institutions and ideas (memes included) that these people represent.
Social media has fragmented the internet even further, allowing anyone to amass “followers” with a lot less original writing. Today reblogging or retweeting on platforms like tumblr and Twitter is all the rage. The definition of “influencer” has shifted away from “professional bloggers” to professionals with large followings on social media and the originators of Auto-Tune the News, the lolcat Bible and the Harlem Shake.