A kid from Nebraska shows up in New York City to make it big. This kid was Bryan Odell, a 21-year-old college dropout who lived with his parents. Gangly, with curly blond hair, he looked and talked as if he arrived straight from central casting. (“I was just a kid from Nebraska,” he says.) But central casting had nothing to do with it. As an aspiring YouTuber, he cast himself.
Odell’s destination was the Manhattan office of Google Inc., YouTube’s corporate parent. He was among the 25 winners of a competition called Next Up, which is aimed at “accelerating the growth of the next big YouTube stars,” as an official YouTube blog explained. The prize included four days of tips and training from “YouTube experts” in New York. It also included a $35,000 check, no strings attached.
Founded in 2005 and owned by Google since 2007, YouTube today contains multitudes: 72 hours of video are uploaded onto the service every minute. For some, it is an infinite museum of moving images: Patti Smith singing “You Light Up My Life” on a 1970s kids’ show; Mike Wallace puffing Luckys through an interview with Salvador Dalí; forgotten teenage dance shows. For others, this is the medium of the one-off “viral” video — the often accidentally funny home movie or blooper that is e-mailed, linked and tweeted into collective consciousness. There is also an endless variety of produced material: “supercut” mash-ups, TED Talks, book trailers, brand campaigns.
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