The Lonelygirl15 saga has taken some intriguing twists this week. YouTube's star attraction has been formally outed -- it's actually an experimental storytelling device created by a trio of aspiring filmmakers -- and with it, the first major flaws in the YouTube model.
Never heard of Lonelygirl15? That's the YouTube handle of Bree, a quirky character who was created through 30 different video clips uploaded onto the site over the past three months. Millions were mesmerized as Bree and her pal Danielbeast treated their webcams as video confessionals.
Granted, the videos never seemed completely authentic. The video quality, editing effects, and scoring skills were more than your garden-variety teenage angst spilled before a willing webcam.
The creators of Lonelygirl15 were smoked out before they were ready to come clean. Inquisitive snoops uncovered that 16-year-old Bree is actually a 19-year-old actress from New Zealand, leaving the conspirators of the addictive online serial with little choice but to legitimize the project and begin taking the appropriate steps toward commercialization.
This is where YouTube gets exposed, of course. The filmmakers have now created a page for Bree on News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) MySpace, in order to mass-market their creation directly to thousands of "friends." The latest video has also been uploaded to Revver.com, instead of YouTube.
Unlike YouTube, Revver places ads at the end of video streams, splitting the revenue with the video clip owner. Back in March, I had warned that video upstarts with user monetization incentives like Revver were a threat to YouTube. Clearly, YouTube is still the top banana here, but these are issues it may want to address before more amateur starlets defect.
All of the major portals -- Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , and Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) AOL -- have been promoting their video sites. Even CNET (Nasdaq: CNET ) is getting into the game, promising future video-clip uploads at its Webshots photo-sharing site. The problem? They're too plain vanilla. It wasn't until just recently that Google even allowed viewers to post comments. Let's hope that Big G is taking notes here. The Lonelygirl15 phenomenon -- perhaps the Blair Witch Project of this generation -- has shown competitors the strengths and weaknesses of the YouTube model that they seek to supplant.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz knows that you can't ignore sleeping giants, much less wide-awake ones like YouTube and MySpace. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Foolhas a disclosure policy.