July 31st, 2006 - Open Knowledge
Jul. 31st, 2006
Moguls of New Media
The MySpace member with a million 'friends.' The receptionist with a production deal. Some of the Web's amateur entertainers are becoming powerful players.
By JOHN JURGENSEN
July 29, 2006; Page P1
On the popular Web site MySpace.com, members set up profiles with information about their interests and then network across the site, recruiting other members to link to their pages. Often, the teens and 20-somethings who dominate the site have dozens or hundreds of these registered "friends."
Then there's Christine Dolce, whose MySpace page boasts nearly one million friends -- making her arguably one of the most connected people on the Internet. A 24-year-old cosmetologist who until a few months ago worked at a makeup counter in a mall, she now has a manager and a start-up jeans company and has won promotional deals for two mainstream consumer brands.
As videos, blogs and Web pages created by amateurs remake the entertainment landscape, unknown directors, writers and producers are being catapulted into positions of enormous influence. Each week, about a half-million people download a comedic video podcast featuring a former paralegal. A video by a 30-year-old comedian from Cleveland has now been watched by almost 30 million people, roughly the audience for an average "American Idol" episode. The most popular contributor to the photo site Flickr.com just got a contract to shoot a Toyota ad campaign.
While online stardom can sometimes be fleeting, and some measures of audience size are subject to debate, a look at the rising stars in this world shows how the path to entertainment success is being redefined. Traditional media companies and marketers are already in pursuit of some of these new faces.
"It's an awesome feeling," says Ms. Dolce, who built her MySpace profile with a page that panders to the site's young demographic with a mix of confessional commentary, provocative photographs of herself, celebrity images and music.
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