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The Microfame Game

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Step No. 2: Stylize.


Ze Frank made his name letting the camera get close — very close.  

This egalitarianism poses a downside for the microfamer: There's fierce competition for the audience's attention. When celebrity is reproduced like Ikea silverware, being creative isn't enough. You need to separate yourself from the cacophony by being a little weird. Scratch thatóreally weird.

In 2006, at the moment when YouTube was becoming dominant, the nascent art of video-blogging was suffering a crisis. A certain hackneyed style had become pervasive: Sit in front of the camera, talk like a newscaster, and throw in some retrograde editing. The medium had already begun to look played out.

Ze Frank struck microfame gold when he launched "The Show," his stylized take on the video blog. The episode about MySpace pages is typical: It introduces a cultural meme (ugly personal pages), proposes a new way to talk about it (an ugliness contest), and then quickly subverts itself with an intellectual discussion of the topic (ugliness as a democratizing force for artists). Ze's idiosyncratic style of close-ups, fast edits, and a dumb-smart pop philosophy eventually developed a strong cult following. The audience was large enough for him to introduce his own personal sponsorship platform in which fans could buy something called "duckies," icons with personalized messages. When duckies started to fill the page, some quick math showed that Ze was making upwards of $1,500 per day.

Developing a definitive style might sound daunting, but there are myriad ways to go about it. Just remember that Ana Marie Cox did it by mashing ass fucking with politics, while Perez Hilton drew cocaine scribbles on celebrities' faces.

Clearly many styles remain to be perfected.


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