To a pessimist, the implosion of Rocketboom's initial partnership portends an idiosyncratic and limited future for the art of vlogging, as blogging by video has been termed.
Rocketboom combined the tech nerdiness of Boing Boing with the allure of a seemingly unattainable, attractive host, in a three-minute newscast format. The vlog was so popular because Amanda Congdon, co-creator and host, did not mirror the audience. It was as if the high school cheerleader approached tech nerds asking if she could play Doom with them.
When Congdon left the show, devotees mourned the departure of a bona fide talent. AOL SVP Jason Calacanis offered Congdon a job immediately, saying, "You're a great talent, everyone knows that, and you're gonna get a ton of offers over the next couple of days."
But then media wet blankets like Gawker.com (which dubbed her "Juggy McJuggerson") and Slate.com posted "yawns" that it was Congdon's looks, not talent, that earned her such a rabid fanbase. Indeed, the new Rocketboom host is in the same attractive-blonde vein.
As Rachel Sklar, a blogger at the Huffington Post who broke the story of the new host titled her post: "New Rocketboom Girl Chosen, Looks Strangely Like Old One."
Fearful new mediaites mourned the passing of the initial lineup for more than just the departure of a preferred host; there seemed a palpable fear that mainstream media would see such an acrimonious break-up and write off vlogs as bastions of the bizarre. Of course, that fear ran counter to reality; Star Jones and Barbara Walters stopped just short of keying each other's cars.
Remaining co-creator Andrew Baron claimed Congdon's departure was based on her desire to chase bigger dreams in Hollywood, where she had previously held bit parts in CSI and failed reality show The Restaurant. Whether this is true or not, there seems to be an insistence that vlog stars need validation in the traditional video world before they were "taken serious."
Ze Frank, another self-made Internet video star, has a likewise popular show that has attracted advertisers. With three-minute clips combining humor, more tech nerdery, weird news, and politics, Frank has drawn an audience of powerful online advocates; Calacanis, again, expects Saturday Night Live to hire him.
And that, it appears, is the vlogs (and much of the online community's) biggest problem with legitimacy. Few of its stars are able to see their role as anything more than the run-up to more established media. If that's the case, then vlogs are like casting calls, or online reels.
While the public doesn't know why Congdon left, I can assume it's not because immediate roles materialized in Hollywood. Rocketboom's appeal, like many blogs, was not going to reach a traditional-media saturation point. But no one should expect or want them to.
Brooke "Brookers" Brodack, a woman whose YouTube videos reached some acclaim, recently received a talent and product deal with Carson Daly Productions. While it's certainly nice to be paid, it is extremely unlikely her appeal will scale to traditional media. Frank could not do the same stuff he does on his own for SNL. Cogdon's own vlog response, sans script, was stiff, awkward, and unfunny. It's beyond me why vlog enthusiasts want to take these people out of their comfortable element and place them in TV with its clashing creative forces and market research, especially considering the fact that television is likely migrating to the web anyway.
If my logic doesn't sway you, see if you can find the irony in Carson Daly's comments to the Los Angeles Times: "I just love it that no middleman is involved."