5 years gone: lonelygirl15

Lonelygirl15 - first Youtube star

Skimming the front page of Gigaom today the headline “Happy birthday, Bree! lonelygirl15 turns 5” jumped out at me. I remember lonelygirl15 well.  At the time I was doing a multichannel story telling experiment with Project Serpo.  When the lonleygirl15 story broke I didn’t know if that meant that my project would be better understood by my fellow industry workers or if it meant that my little idea was going to be crushed by the wave of talent from Hollywood.

As with many things, it turned out neither of those things really happened.  The best accolade I received about Project Serpo was from Terry Heaton.  I followed Terry’s blog back then because I was involved in local broadcast and because I liked the way he thought about “new media.”  I sent him an email and he wrote back and posted about my project.

Terry wrote back: “This is pretty fucking amazing, and I absolutely love it. So who’s “Bill Taylor?” If you’ll get me a little more background, I’d love to do a post about it.” He did do a post about it but has since changed companies and blogging platforms and like so many things the post has slipped back in to the ether.

I did save some of his copy on this post:

“What you’re likely not to notice — unless I point it out — are the numerous product placement ads mixed in with the ongoing story. This is not only clever but, I think, an acceptable form of advertising within an entertainment project. I’ve had this discussion with a major ad exec, and he wasn’t as bullish on the idea as I was. This creative effort by Daniel suggests that we are right and he was wrong.

So once again, we have ideas bubbling up from the bottom that will capture the imagination of users and spawn countless others. Call me a nut, but I think this is a new form of entertainment.”

That was it in terms of industry recognition for my work and as for the wave of Hollywood talent, it took a while before lonelygirl15 went from being a novelty stunt to spawning web series.  I guess that’s still in progress even today.

From Gigaom:

“Of course, Bree turned out to be a fictional character played by actress Jessica Lee Rose. Her YouTube moniker lonelygirl15 turned into the first major web series success story, amassing more than 257 million views on YouTube, when counted together with various spinoffs. Her identity was revealed by a journalist three months after that first video, and her story took a turn for the surreal, complete with crazy cults and mysterious disappearances, once the illusion of authenticity was off the table.”

Jessica talks about her experience:

You can still visit the Project Serpo blog and see the original story. The most successful video of the series was by Paul Pendergrass as a military debriefer.

While Project Serpo came and went I would like to thank the people that helped me create it, even though they didn’t really understand what we were doing they played along and I am grateful for their support.

It all reminds me of a song:

“Then as it was, then again it will be
An’ though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea
Blind stars of fortune, each have several rays
On the wings of maybe, down in birds of prey
Kind of makes me feel sometimes, didn’t have to grow
But as the eagle leaves the nest, it’s got so far to go

Changes fill my time, baby, that’s alright with me
In the midst I think of you, and how it used to be”

About Daniel Davenport

Daniel is a digital media executive with internet and broadcast experience. Daniel is currently the executive strategy director at THINK Interactive.

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