Here's a story far more interesting than anything you'll watch on YouTube: A prodigal scion of a wealthy family, pitted against his powerful father and an ambitious blonde. It's not a pilot for a new courtroom procedural — it's the tale of Andrew Baron's Rocketboom, an online-video startup held up, inexplicably, as an example of the potential of the medium. Sony's seven-figure deal to distribute Rocketboom is seen by some as evidence that the industry is growing up. But what it really tells us is that having access to a credit line backed by Daddy is as sure a recipe for success online as it was in the old Hollywood. The exciting plot twist: Baron's father was not always happy about the arrangement. We've only learned how daddy-dependent Rocketboom was because Fred Baron loaned his son's company a total of $810,300.40, and then took it to court in order to force repayment last year. If you think it's strange for a father to go after his own son's company in court, then you don't know the elder Baron.He's a leading Dallas attorney who even sued the firm he cofounded, Baron & Budd, and is a regular on blog Overlawyered. More interesting is that Amanda Congdon intervened in order to protect her claim on part of the company. Meanwhile, the younger Baron complains all this legal wrangling tied his dealmaking hands, and that the company nearly went broke twice this year. The Rocketboom episode neatly explains why the world of online video so resembles film school, a parent-funded enterprise of self-indulgent auteurs with macroambitions viewed by microaudiences (including yours truly). Sony's deal doesn't affirm the potential of online video as a means of creative expression; it simply tells us that the rich, despite themselves, can't help getting richer. (Photos by Eric Skiff and Alex de Carvalho)
The whole Xeni Jardin / Violet Blue thing continues to backfire on us. A female editor at Playboy.com alerted us to a "Who's the Web's hottest blogger"? contest they thought up after ogling last week's photos of the two cozied-up lady bloggers. The prize? Playboy will offer the winner a "topless or nude" photo shoot for their site. I fact-checked it with them, and let's be clear: Topless, nude, or forget it. The contestants are Jardin and Blue, plus Julie Alexandra, Veronica Belmont, Amanda Congdon, Brigitte Dale, Sarah Lacy, Sarah Austin and Natali Del Conte. I know what you're thinking: Good luck getting the winner to take it off. As a former Playboy reader (many of the articles are good) I wish they'd asked around first. It'd be easy to solicit nine very photogenic girlbloggers eager to claim the prize. Who'll be #1? Right now the obscure-but-well-shot Brigitte Dale is ahead, but I expect Veronica Belmont's Gadgetboy Army to mobilize today and sweep her to a decisive win — and a decisive NO. Sarah Austin sums up her cognitive dissonance: "Not sure how I feel about being in Playboy's popularity contest. Maybe I'd feel better if I was winning?"
In a wonderful piece of linkbait, Vanity Fair produced an illustration featuring a number of popular "blogs" arranged in a cartesian graph from "Scurrolous" to "Earnest" on one axis and "Opinion" to "News" on another. While we're trying to grasp how the 'Wag ended up on the earnest side of the scale, more confusing is the inclusion of Salon and Slate. Apparently, if you're not printed on paper, you're a "blog" — even though both publications predate the term. But where the chart really gets things wrong is in using the disembodied head of Amanda Congdon to illustrate online video program Rocketboom. If the authors or illustrator actually watched the show or read many of the listed blogs, they'd know that Joanne Colan took over as host after a very nasty and public departure from the show by Congdon. Keep trying, guys, you're bound to figure out this Internet thing eventually!
According to a source at the Creative Artists Agency, host Joanne Colan is leaving Rocketboom, one of the Internet's first prominent news videoblogs. During her tenure, Colan never managed to transform the show (directed by creator Andrew Baron) from a quirky but inscrutable cult favorite into a mainstream online news source. (See for yourself below by watching today's weird episode.) Nor did she achieve the same web fame as her predecessor Amanda Congdon, who left a job with ABCNews.com last year.
Jeez. Busty Amanda Congdon left her gig hosting internet video time-waster Rocketboom back in 2006? Has it really been so long since anyone's heard from her? Well, you know the story. She moved on to bigger and better things, on proper television. An HBO development deal and a gig with ABC news. Neither went anywhere. ABC had no use for her, and they were also a little peeved that she was doing "freelance commercial work" for DuPont. Her development deal developed nothing. So now she's hooked up with some production studio called Media Rights Capital to make another cheap web video program. Hooray! Did you know Congdon invented being internet-famous, btw?
Remember Amanda "Rocketboom" Congdon, that thing with boobs that did stuff on the internet and parlayed her success into a job at ABC News? Yeah neither do I. Well, whoever she is she lost her job at ABC because nobody cared and she's now returned, sad little pink hat in hand, to the internet. She's launching a new blog news internet website called Sometimes Daily. And she would like to market it to you! Mostly via a completely nonsensical video featuring her brother (?), a strange park bench, and a dildo with little fans attached to it. If someone could please explain to me what is going on in the video, it would be greatly appreciated. I think it has something to do with Amanda Congdon? Maybe? Please watch, after the jump, and elucidate. [Thanks Jossip!]
Thank goodness! Just a day after our missing-persons alert on former videoblogger Amanda Congdon, she turned up on her blog with a 794-word entry she's been working on for a month. Here's a version she could have fit in a Twitter: "I'm going daily on a new videoblog in 2008. I'm in pre-production for the new project now." More Amanda, coming to you live in less than 11 months!
We are growing concerned. After her career as an ABC nonjournalist fizzled, the formerly famous, generously-racked host of Rocketboom has been absent from her own blog since November 27. An "under development "show with HBO has gone nowhere. On January 23, Congdon Twittered that she was "writing monster blog post reflecting on ABC and talking about what's next." Amanda, 28 days is more time than even Scoble puts into a post. Just press Publish, ok?
Valleywag is of course known for its dead-on accuracy, so our predictions for 2008 need no introduction. Inside, my 25 predictions (made without inside information) cover the futures of Facebook, Google, Digg, YouTube, Twitter, the Wall Street Journal, Apple, Yahoo, Gawker Media, AOL, Dell, LOLcats, the president, and more.
Jason Calacanis's human-powered search engine Mahalo is "fundamentally flawed," says videoblogger Andrew Baron. Well, we could have told you that: It's basically Yahoo's directory, 12 years too late. But Baron, best known for creating Rocketboom, trashed Calacanis's service not for its lack of originality, but for its lack of critical applause. "Mahalo is not a worthwhile product," Baron wrote, "I have never seen a single positive review of the site." What's got the guy so worked up?
"The journalistic culture in which columnists were the only ones allowed to have a personality, and everyone else's bylines were practically interchangeable, is practically gone," wrote Doree Shafrir in the New York Observer yesterday about how "personal branding" has infected even that holiest of holies, the New York Times. She uses the success of former 'TV Newser' turned Times blogger Brian Stelter as an example of the reversal of protocol that's recently taken place—reporters must now market themselves as specialists from the jump, instead of spending time working different beats until finding a comfortable "sincecure" later in life, in order to prevent themselves from being seen as interchangeable and therefore, redundant. The piece is exactly the kind of thinky, finger-on-pulse thing we've come to expect from Doree Shafrir, who also really likes 'The Hills'!
"Whatever happened to Amanda Congdon's HBO deal?" asks Broadcasting and Cable today. Last November, the videoblogging web star, whose contract with ABC News was not renewed, said that her HBO project was "going to be comedy, and I know it's going to be cross-platform." But it's almost a year later, and B&C suggests that the deal will shortly expire. Well that's good—Amanda might have overextended her mindshare with so much cross-platforming vertical integration and new media brand synergy interaction! Also: Paradigm shift!
There's the fact that it's an old joke. That it's mostly humorous because Congdon is usually incapable of humor. That I laughed because she is defying her image as a vacuous, uninteresting shill attempting to make her way in the world of "legitimate journalism." That lightning doesn't strike twice. On second thought, who knows what the future will hold for Amanda Congdon? All I know is that if it looks anything like this, I'm wishing the videoblogger all the luck in the world.