Blog Post

Online Video Brings Out the Mooch

Kids these days — they have no shame. I’ll readily admit I’m not old enough to be cynical about this, but the advent of easily accessible video posting tools seems to have brought out a surplus of me-me-me in my peers.

Almost daily, it seems, we get pitches like this one:

Three friends started up this online adventure out of Newington figuring since all of us at one time or another wished we could go on a roadtrip across the country… why not do it and have someone else pay for it, share their stories, adventures and pictures with the world. [via email]

Calling themselves “Cash Road Trip USA,” these folks are selling ad squares on their van (a la Million Dollar Homepage) and t-shirt real estate on their bodies.

The team has raised all of $54 so far, according to its website. The small print on the donation page says “as soon as we depart for the trip we will take 50% of all the money and donate it to children’s charities through the country. In other words, we might make a stop at something like St Jude’s Childers Hospital and donate a portion to them.”

They’re not alone in their desire to do something cool and have it be subsidized.

See also The Young Americans Project, Road Trip Nation, RunningFool, Where the hell is Matt?.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally jealous. In a lot of cases these projects have a higher purpose of advocacy or art. NewTeeVee contributor Craig Rubens helped found a veggie oil-powered bus trip touting sustainable energy, the Big Green Bus, which will head out on its third edition this summer. A fellow named Noel Hidalgo we presented with at the SF Video 2.0 Meetup is raising money to start “one man’s open-source journey around the world documenting free culture, social innovators and global change.” Last Stop for Paul depicts two coworkers traveling around the world to scatter a friend’s ashes and, well, see the world.

The great American road trip has been around since Lewis and Clark, but it seems to me this is a special time of personal entrepreneurship. Near instantaneous video-blogging tools make the returns to sponsors all the more deliverable. With a few hours of work setting up a free publishing tool, your personal bid for celebrity becomes accessible to a global audience.

The phenomenon is taken to its ultimate form by There’s no higher purpose here besides the human experiment of broadcasting your life all day every day. Justin Kan’s job is to be himself – which seems to entail staring at his laptop or talking to the media whenever I tune in. But the sponsorships keep on coming. If the goal is getting paid for being yourself, I guess it’s working.

11 Responses to “Online Video Brings Out the Mooch”

  1. How silly of me… when I went on my road trip, I worked hard in a factory for a year so I could buy a van and spend two months traveling around the U.S. I met all sorts of interesting people and saw interesting, off-the-beaten-path places. I kept a video journal at the time, too, but I doubt anyone will ever see much of it.

    Silly me. If I wouldn’t have been spending so much time seeking adventure and new experience, I could have gotten paid. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to settle for the hard earned personal life-changing experience it was instead of something that was just given to me.

  2. About the Cash Road Trip USA crew, i think there are a few mistakes in this post. First, they have raised more than $54, the 54 is just from side donations for people not companies that want to support the trip.

    Second they’re not sharing the stories, adventures and so on via email, but rather right on their website, via a blog and an image section on the site.

    As for everything else, come on, anything is possible on the internet now a days. And with the right type of media coverage anything can work.

  3. Isn’t this the whole point, or at least the logical next step of the digital-revolution-user-generated-content-changing-the-rules-awesomeness?

    I am completely in love with the idea that people can go out there with minimal gear, shoot something interesting on the cheap with little (if any) money backing. That someone can live passionately and share their excitement with someone out there who is too scared or too busy to do it all themselves.

    This just the deconstruction of television’s paradigm of spectacle. Watch, but do not DO.

  4. See also:

    Noel is trying to fund a trip to the 7 continents over 7 months begin on July 7, 2007 (notice a theme?). He’s trying to raise $7,777 to fund the entire expedition (he plans to do a lot of couch surfing) and donors are promised a copy of the book he intends to write documenting the experience. Go give him $11.11 :)

  5. I wonder if any of these ventures realize that to get a serious brand interested in being involved they will need to get at least a proper 3ccd camera, some serious video editing tools (even if it is open source cinerella), skills with a camera, skills in editing on the fly, decent b-roll, fitting royalty-free or paid-for music, and a proper storyboard. Still a lot cheaper than a big-studio production, but quite a bit of work that may get in the way of all that partying.