Top Ten Internet SuperStars of 2009
I tracked down some of the Internet's biggest overnight sensations to determine just how many were able to live past their "15 minute of fame" expiration date. Some have settled into lives of quiet but sustained popularity; others are now making grand livings off their Net-based notoriety. While becoming famous for being famous and turning self-promotion into an art form is often the stimulus, there are micro-celebs growing up all over the Internet who have a lot to offer.
Like it or not, we are all public figures ever since social networks such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Flikr entered our lexicon. While some of us have attracted massive followings of hundreds of 1000s, others are perfectly content to run in smaller circles. So the old cliche' of being famous for fifteen minutes might now be defined as being famous for 15 people. "By actively keeping a blog and using Twitter and maintaining my social network profiles, I am shaping my image," says Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, an Internet marketing firm in New York and LA. "Maybe not for the general public, who couldn't care less, but for the 500 or so people who are listening and actively or passively paying attention."
My Top Ten Internet SuperStar list focuses on those that have used many of the Internet tools available to their utmost advantage. I monitored popularity based on pageviews, RSS subscriber feeds, followers, number of mutual connetions on multiple sites, retweets, Twitter trending topics, number of blog posts, attendance at social media events and sustainability over time. See if you agree with my choices and please take our poll and vote for your own favorites at the end of this blog.
The the most recent entry into my Top Ten list just made it in under the wire. It appears that "American Idol" isn't the only launching pad for aspiring singers. Across the pond, "Britain's Got Talent" scored a huge boost in their ratings when an unassuming 47-year old contestant gave her first televised performance. On April 11, 2009, the Internet went abuzz internationally with a viral video on Youtube that to date has tallied over 30 million views (as of April 21, 2009) and is climbing exponentially as we speak. Susan Boyle (remember that name) became a Web phenomenon after singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from the Broadway musical, Les Miserables. The performance brought the audience to its feet and left the judges (including Simon Cowell) in awe. What is unique about Ms. Boyle and testimony to the power of the Internet is she is a middle-aged matronly-looking woman who could have stepped out of a Charles Dickens novel. Luckily for us, Ms. Boyle who may have live a life of anonymity is now going to be able to share her rare gift with the world...in fact, she's already meeting with officials from Mr. Cowell's Sony BMG label. This may have be the first you've heard of her, but it certainly won't be the last. You can watch her stunning performance here...
Magibon (not her real name) was born in Florida, but presently resides in Pennsylvania. Before becoming a YouTube celebrity, she worked as a pharmacy checkout clerk. She learned to speak Japanese from watching Japanese television dramas and listening to their music. By October 2008, Magibon had uploaded over 60 videos onto her YouTube channel. Most of these clips are in the form of video blogs that exhibit her Mona Lisa smile. When asked whether she planned making the videos, she replied "I don't use scripts. There's no grand plan." In some of her videos, Magibon speaks or sings in Japanese. As of January 2009, Magibon leads the YouTube Japan's All Time Top Video list.
Amber Lee Ettinger (born October 2, 1982) is the Internet celebrity best known as "Obama Girl" in her online video "I Got a Crush... on Obama" — referring to U.S. Senator (now President) Barack Obama. Earning her massive media attention, she has since appeared in a comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live with Fred Armisen as Obama to an interview on Geraldo at Large with Geraldo Rivera and Bill O'Reilly's "The Factor." Beyond her Internet persona, Ettinger has launched a music career as well. However, staying true to her online roots, her first album, "Queen of the Web," will be made available only online. Ettinger's "I Got a Crush... on Obama" video was posted by Barely Political to YouTube in June 2007 and the video has caught on to the tune of 13 million viewers.
Andy Bumatai is an executive producer of Nighttime Productions, and produces and stars in his own Hawaii-based online talk show, "The Andy Bumatai Show". When I interviewed Andy most recently and asked why he switched to the Internet after a successful 30 year TV career, he was savvy to the power of the Internet: " I filmed shows on Social Media and being the Internet junkie that I am, I quickly realized that I owned what would amount to the best 'web cams' out there. So I ran the numbers and the cost savings alone was enough to sell me on an "Internet Only" talk show format. I realize that it will take a little time for sponsors to convert over but after many years in 'traditional' TV, the transition to the Internet was inevitable." With over 30,000 hits per month, its a slow build for Bumatai, but based on his talent, I think he's going to make a mark as an innovator in transitioning talk shows to the Internet.
Alejandro Reyes was selected as my Number 6 choice because of his passion and ability to generate excitement across social networks, most notably Twitter. If you have ever wanted to tap into your own desire to become Internet famous, you might want to consult with Reyes and his successful podcasts that go by the apt name of "Successfool." Alejandro is a modern day Pied Piper. As a success/life coach and online marketer, he will not only get you started down the road of success but will arm you with invaluable tools for overcoming obstacles that might be stumbling blocks. Alejandro has several mentoring programs that you can purchase, most notably his social media "Rockstar" program. Tune into his weekly live videocasts at USTREAM, where he addresses the Twitterverse and all the tweeps that are twittering in for free advice.
is self-described as "too hot for words" and a "cunning linguist (puns
intended)!" Born in 1980, she is a Russian-born etymologist who has
become an Internet celebrity hosting one of the most popular channels
online, entitled appropriately: "HotForWords."
While Marina exploits her blonde-bombshell looks to the max, appearing
scantily-clad in her video clips, she is far from being an "air head".
To the contrary, while being attractive is certainly an asset on the
Internet, many would be hard pressed to compete with Ms. Orlova on an
intellectual level. As her bio indicates, she received degrees in
philology from the Nizhny Novgorod State University in 2002, and taught
English and world literature to high school students in Moscow, before
moving to the US. And as testimony to her online popularity, her video
on the derivation of the word "HOOKER" has received over 3 million
pageviews on YouTube.
Matthew "Matt" Harding
(born September 27, 1976) is an American video game designer and
Internet celeb. Known worldwide as "Dancing Matt," his viral videos
show him gyrating in front of landmarks and famous international street
scenes in various locales around the globe. As the story goes, Harding
was known by his friends for a particular dance, and while videotaping
in Vietnam, his travel companion suggested he add the dance to the
videos...and voila'... the rest is history. Harding has since received
widespread coverage of his travel exploits in major print and broadcast
media outlets,and was hired by Visa to star in their Travel Happy campaign,
proving that becoming Internet famous can lead to a lucrative career!
His second video has been viewed over 20,297,423 times on YouTube,and
is the product of 14 months'of traveling throughout 42 countries.
The press has said that "it's easy to dismiss Julia Allison as little more than a rank narcissist" — and many of her vocal online critics have agreed. However, in Wired Magazine's August
2008 cover story entitled: "Internet Famous: Julia Allison and the
Secrets of Self-Promotion." details how she managed to storm the
Internet with publicity stunts that have received widespread attention.
Recently she invited handbag designer Mary Rambin and Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to dance in Jazzercise outfits in Times Square to Martha and the Vandellas' '"Dancing in the Street," which was filmed and documented by cameramen. Her new web sites juliaallison.com, itsmejulia.com, and juliajuliajulia.com
— are dedicated to sharing almost every waking moment of Allison's
life. Internet fame similar to other forms of fame, doesn't come
without an emotional price tag, however. Linked romantically with
former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., her relationship was
used as an attack ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee in
Ford's unsuccessful run for United States Senate in 2006
Here, Julia Allison chats with Wired's Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson about her recent magazine cover story, Reputation Economics 101 and her obsession of emulating Oprah Winfrey's business model for fame.
According to Wikipedia, Justine Ezarik, born March 20, 1984 is considered a viral video comedienne, freelance graphic/web designer and video editor. She is best known as iJustine, a lifecaster who communicates directly with her hundreds of viewers on her Internet tv channel, ijustine.tv. She has appeared in more than 200 videos, including satires on such subjects as Lost and Twitter. Her videos have received more than 25 million views, with 16 million on YouTube alone. Her popularity is such that a video about her wanting to order a cheeseburger got 600,000 YouTube views in a week. She was also featured as one of my Top Ten Twitter Song Singers of all time. Ezarik is most notably known for her "300-page iPhone bill" video which followed the first month of service after the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. The viral video earned her international attention and celebrity.The bad publicity resulting for AT&T actually led the phone company to change their billing procedures for iPhone users.
My number one pick for Top Internet SuperStar is Nick Thune. A Seattle-born comedian now residing in LA. Nick is purusing the American dream in the entertainment field, which started online. Internet Celebrity is not lost on Nick Thune. He appreciates what it has done to help mold his persona and allow him to appeal to a sizeable and growing fan base. But when asked if he tracks his website traffic, Nick mockingly points out that he has “someone monitor his websites," as he doesn’t “wanna know numbers. I tell them to tell me if the numbers are low, and then I’ll put more work into it. Do you think Picasso knew how many people had or will have seen his work? Is anyone (really) keeping count?”
On his second appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show in August 2007, Nick’s aptly named “Instant Messenger” stand up routine became an ‘instant’ success attracting millions of fans to this YouTube video clip...
More of Nick Thune's latest online exploits including his new webseries, "Nick"s Big Show" can be viewed in a recent zMogo feature and at his website.
While Internet Fame may be fleeting for some, these Top Ten SuperStars stand out from the pack. They have found new and innovative ways to go beyond the ordinary to intrigue, entertain and beguile us. They offer up content and perspectives that while off-center, strangely and astutely hit the mark! Internet fame is the new space for one to experiment and explore dreams, as long as you can come armed with ideas and just the right amount of imagination.
Take our survey and vote for your favorite Internet Celebrities. The final results will be revealed May 15, 2009.