May 8th, 2007


Orson chuckles heartily

My Wired column today is about certain developments -- like YouTube's promise to share advertising revenue with video creators very shortly -- which make it more and more difficult to tell who's a "real person" online and who's selling you something, whether an actual brand or themselves-as-brand. Because, with advertisers abandoning the $74 billion TV ad industry (where ads are just too obvious to get anyone's attention) and spending their money much more furtively and covertly online basically wherever amateurs are capturing large audiences, we enter a hall of mirrors.

YouTube's founders "are open to anything, including user-generated ads, behind-the-scenes ad footage, sponsored vlogs and event marketing shoots at film festivals". And when they start paying, any of us who vlog will be vlogging for cash, and flogging -- well, who knows what? Maybe just ourselves, maybe cars and exercise machines. It's something deeply American, something P.T. Barnum and Orson Welles and Jeff Koons and Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy understand intimately. It's something I understand myself, for heaven's sake, after a lifetime of self-performance and self-promotion. And I'm not so rockist as to want to condemn it. But sometimes, when I'm watching people onYouTube, I wonder who's "real". Is Lucymisser real? Is Cutiemish? What about me, what about Marxy? An ILX thread recently accused us both of being viral marketing. This was a board I frequented for five years, and yet in all that time I wasn't able to persuade them that I was real.

Anyway, I'm proud to have got Whimsy onto the cover of Wired. Whatever he's selling.

Here, meanwhile, is the important part of today's missive. The self-promotion. I'm going to my sister's wedding in Scotland next weekend and yesterday Hisae and I went out and spent some money at the Indian shops on the Karl-Marx-Strasse. Here's how it looked!

Really, what to do? Because wearing clothes is self-promotion, but going naked is, as we saw yesterday, even more blatant self-promotion! Where is Orson Welles when we need him to explain it all? Or at least... chuckle heartily, shot in a mirror.