I was reminded of Lonelygirl15 recently when the December issue of Wired magazine mysteriously turned up on my coffee table. It was only last September that Lonleygirl’s YouTube videos were revealed to be a hoax, yet somehow it seems like decades. The fact that Jessica Rose finally made the cover of Wired in time for the holiday shopping issue says more about the limiting nature of print publication cycles than it does about Lonelygirl’s staying power. Wired might as well have run a picture of Ellen Feiss on their December cover.
The Wired story doesn’t add anything new to the LG saga, instead it reiterated most of what we learned during the media frenzy immediately following Lonelygirl’s unmasking. You may recall that week near the end of Summer when Lonelygirl was literally everywhere, all at once. Then all of a sudden she was gone. Except she didn’t really go anywhere. As it turns out, she’s still on YouTube right where she started, and the creative team behind the series is continuing to churn out episodes on a regular basis.
Surprisingly, Lonelygirl’s YouTube following actually grew after the revelation that she wasn’t actually a 16 year-old home schooled occultist. The series peaked at around a half million viewers, then slowly began to taper off as the holiday season arrived.
Given the number of viewers Lonelygirl has attracted during the series run, you would think that creators Mesh Flinders and Miles Beckett would have a development deal with one of the networks by now. After all, this is the year network television executives finally turned on their computers and realized why they’re losing viewers.
As it turns out, the two are still looking for a deal. Apparently their initial round of meetings didn’t go well. Beckett explained to Wired that the network suits are happy with the supplemental content they’re already creating:
“The Web isn’t just a support system for hit TV shows,” he says. “It’s a new medium. It requires new storytelling techniques. The way the networks look at the Internet now is like the early days of TV, when announcers would just read radio scripts on camera. It was boring in the same way all this supplemental material is boring.”
So while 2006 will undoubtedly go down as the year television executives discovered the Internet, it won’t necessarily be seen as the year television executives really GOT the Internet. Maybe next year.
In the meantime, Lonelygirl has served as an inspiration to a legion of creative individuals the networks previously identified as passive “viewers”. Cheap video cameras and YouTube’s global distribution have empowered a generation of new content producers who are anxious to take chances while the networks play it safe. It’s not clear whether or not the networks are aware that their viewers are slowly turning into the competition.