Justin.tv helped make Justine Internet famous. Ezarik has been a professional (albeit one who hastens to say, “Put that in quotes: ‘professional!’”) video blogger for the past two and a half years, but her celebrity got a boost when she approached Justin.tv founder Justin Kan at last year’s Macworld conference. “He was wearing a camera strapped to his head, and I was like, ‘What is that?’” she says. She says she asked to try the camera out, after which she and Kan decided that she would either wear the camera or be on camera all the time–with exceptions for the bathroom and meetings–for the next six months, becoming what she calls a “beta tester” for Justin.tv. (She was never paid by the site, which makes money by embedding ads in and around its user-generated–that is, free–content.)
By now, Justine has reduced her lifecasting to a few hours per week. (Justin.tv is now leaning away from it, too: “In our experience, there are less broadcaster-intensive uses–cases that produce more interesting content for the end user,” Justin.tv CEO Michael Seibel obscurely explained in an e-mail.) In part, this is simply because Ezarik needs Justin.tv less than she once did: she has 50,000 MySpace friends, she long ago reached her limit of 5,000 Facebook friends, and she has about 23,000 Twitter followers. Two hours ago she informed them that she was “LOL”ing. Twenty hours earlier, she was eating a “really good cookie.”
Ezarik backed away from lifecasting–well, for a lot of reasons. She says she quickly became immune to the nastier anonymous online comments, but she did feel sorry for friends who would stumble into the frame and wind up as collateral damage–mocked or, worse, vetoed by her viewers. “Someone e-mailed and was like, ‘We’re going to have to vote [a friend] off your show,’” she says. “And I was like, ‘Actually it’s not a show; actually, this is just my life.’”
But was iJustine.tv really just Justine’s life? Explaining how lifecasting has led her to new opportunities–like a series of video advertisements, to appear on AT&T’s website, that she’s just finished shooting in Alaska–Ezarik describes how living under constant scrutiny helped her hone her dramatic skills: “I had to be ‘on’ at all times. It was kind of like a résumé-building experience. I mean, I wasn’t acting, but I kind of was.”
This kind-of-acting is all over YouTube, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s hard to describe. Women like Justine seem to be imitating hot-yet-funny comedian-actresses like Chelsea Handler and Anna Faris, making goofy expressions and doing silly voices. Unlike those comedians, however, they’re looking at their own reflections in the camera’s viewfinder and posing ceaselessly, the way you do when you look in a mirror. But it’s hard–maybe impossible!–to be funny when you’re worried about looking pretty. Justine compensates for her unfunniness with bug-eyed, squealing enthusiasm. Wheeee! She’s chased down an ice-cream truck! Eeeek! She found an Apple store with the new iPhone in stock! Oooooh! Yes, she is finally, ohmygod, going to get her glossy lips around a cheeseburger! Yay!