Blog Post

Why There Won’t Be Another lonelygirl

Pioneering web series lonelygirl15 will draw to a close today. The online show that proved the Internet could launch compelling visual entertainment that captivates large audiences will conclude with the final 12 episodes being released over its final 12 hours. This countdown to the end is a fitting metaphor.

lg15 shutting down is symbolic of web video’s changing landscape. When the show first started in June of 2006, the web video world was ruled by the users. Fueled by credit-card debt and filled with DIY spirit, Bre was going to lead a revolution, inspiring everyday people to rise up and smash the Hollywood machine. It was going to be freaking beautiful, man.

But in 2008, the story is much different. Hollywood has struck back. While YouTube is still top video dog, Hulu is the new belle of the Internet ball. Every major network has full episodes of their shows online (some of which are even in higher-def), and web videos now feature stars like Will Ferrell, Rosario Dawson and David Spade.

Even the big names from the golden age of web video have gone Hollywood. The Ask a Ninja guys are have talked about slowing down their show and are re-making a Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and ZeFrank is writing a feature film for Universal Studios. Even the lg15 crew changed their name to EQAL, raised $5 million and signed a deal with CBS.

Will anyone fill the collective void they leave behind?

There was an innocence and an excitement to the shows of this era that can never be replicated. It’s like the first season of The Real World: It was genuinely interesting because no one knew what was going to happen. The participants of every subsequent season (and every reality show that followed) knew they could get famous from it, so it became fake. Everyone knows that there is money, or a Hollywood deal, to be made on the web now, so there’s no sense of danger. The thrill is gone, replaced by a careful eye on playcounts, CPMs and creating a brand.

So I raise a glass to lonelygirl and the rest of the freshman class of web video. There truly won’t be another group like you.

Or maybe I’m just being curmudgeonly. What do you think? Is there another lonelygirl out there? Can the likes of Fred captivate a web nation the way this cohort did? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

20 Responses to “Why There Won’t Be Another lonelygirl

  1. Beth Ann

    I agree with the first commenter that LG15, as a story, featured a lot of crappy writing after the “hoax” was revealed. And what made it all seem so good in the beginning was the perception that it was created by a 26-year-old in her room: once you know it’s written by people who consider themselves screenwriters, the whole thing pales – a lot. As far as innovation goes, the guys that made it took their cue from the “Blair Witch” playbook. There was nothing particularly original about any of this: only the timing of it made it a success story. Now that the LG15 ‘creators’ have turned into EQAL, they have shown their true colors by revealing that they are more interested in becoming social networking entrepreneurs than in telling stories or creating compelling videos.

  2. I’d say Lonleygirl15 was a member of the Sophomore class of videobloging. Prior to that the class of 2004/2005 were people making authentic videos of their lives. Telling real stories. Many of those early innovators have gone on to create shows. Some still also make and share personal stories.

    The web is a changed place. Now it’s much easier to record and post a video. Although I love the quality of the videos on Hulu, both the production and content, I’m still happy to watch authentic videos too.

  3. “LonelyGirl15” is a lightning-in-the-bottle event. It’s just as lucky as it is “groundbreaking”. It’s creators saw an opportunity, spun the falsehood of it being real into publicity and largely created its audience on a distribution network called youtube because there really wasn’t much engaging content up against it at the the time. Same for AskANinja. They’ve got a great, smart bit, but they also timed it well. If they started it today, no way it gets the same traction. (Anyone really think Smosh can hold a candle to Human Giant?)

    I 100% agree that the novelty of over-hyped user-generated video is coming to an end. Online audiences will never be duped and the press will never be as great again if a “real girl’s vlog” is unmasked as a contrived show. But likewise, the splash event of a celeb online won’t be the same — Will Ferrell won’t get 50 million people to watch a simple sketch again. Part of that hype was the largest comedic actor in the world doing an online sketch – that was the news. And oh, he’s partnering with Silicon Valley to make a Comedy-YouTube? Wow! That was the novelty – it won’t happen again, even for Will.

    And so at the end of the day, people want to watch something good. Hollywood is good at that. The biggest misconception about web video is that it operates by unknown rules — it’s just good storytelling on variable lengths of content, most of it short-form and all of it on the user’s schedule. And yes, there will still be links to guys getting kicked in the balls, or maybe getting punched by me – Punchy. Ah-doo-ba-de-doo folks. I’m writing a screenplay too. ;)

  4. Patty Masters

    agree with moreartplease… theres a wave of cool stuff on horizon – more ambitious, more interractive and maybe more eyeballs! think its less about “landscapec changing” than expectations of audience changing. user gen videos like LG15 pretended to be (when it was cool!) were just like old nickelodeon movies – a stepping stone to better things

  5. moreartplease

    I think there will always be a place in any art form for waves of innovation that allow new talent and fresh voices to emerge. Any artform that is closely meshed with a means of distribution (ie, TV, web shows, etc) will always be changed and challenged by revolutions within that means of distribution. Look at all the positive effects the growth of cable has had on serialized drama. When there wer only 3 networks, the goal was to not lose market share, then cable exploded that model. Perhaps we are moving towards a less exciting crop of online shows, but I believe that, if anything, this is a small retraction before the next big wave.

  6. Patty Masters

    for me LG15 was only ‘pioneering’ when story was compelling, which was long, long ago. The next LG15 only has to be compeling and make the web appointtment viewing like LG15 did at start – when enuf web series do that, THAT is a revolution! doesn’t matter to me who producesnext only that its cool & compelling and unlike LG15 (and Lost) knows where the heck its going!!