“Charlie bit my finger.”
As recently as six — maybe even five — years ago, very few people would have recognized this famous declaration. Now, boasting more than 490 million views (more views than the entire U.S. population) “Charlie bit my finger — again”is one of the most watched web videos of all time. The video of the adorable little British boys has spawned countless imitations and kick-started an era of ce-web-rities.
YouTube has launched the careers of many now-famous comedians, actors and artists (Beiber, anyone?) who would’ve gone relatively unnoticed if not for the site. So how is it that these unknowns are able to catapult into such rapid stardom? Well, for one thing, there’s Facebook. Facebook revolutionized the ability to share content to mass audiences. Say you shared a video with a friend that you thought was entertaining, who then showed their friends who proceeded to show their friends. That’s 10 unique video views right there. This ladder of content consumption manifests itself heavily in the internet age, especially through the sharing and creation of viral videos.
Previous 15 minutes of fame have turned into years of hyper-stardom and created uber-stars — all with the click of an “upload” button; no agent necessary. Take Ray William Johnson, the creator of a weekly web series called “=3”. The show takes a comedic look at trending videos of the week while still providing original entertaining segments. A mix of “The Soup” and “Tosh.0,” each “=3” video boasts more than 3 million views each and Johnson’s channel itself has more than 6 million subscribers. Johnson’s web show is unique however, because while promoting its own celebrity, it also gives prominence to many other aspiring video creators.
Ads also play a huge role in the web video world. Web stars like Johnson rake in more than half a million dollars annually simply because of the clickable pop-up ads they allow to annoy audiences while they watch. These pesky ads often become the driving force behind videos, with more and more web stars practicing product placement to keep deals coming and cash flowing. Whether or not we as an audience believe this is fair or even ethical, there is no arguing that many people have found a new way of making a pretty penny within the comfort of their own computer.
By biting his little brother’s finger, Charlie also bit into countless lucrative advertising deals. Now that’s something to chew on.