Natalie Tran (pic), a 22 year old YouTube poster, won't be coopted by capital to run endorsements, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Serial tech journalist Asher Moses quotes Tran as saying "It [sponsorship money] is very tempting but it's not really what I'm looking for - I've spent a long time creating something and I don't want to give that up."
Which is refreshing. Why is this important to me? Tran is a lot more relevant, in terms of appeal, than this blog. Her YouTube channel, communitychannel, logged (at the time the story was written) "over 150,000" subscribers (155,000 plus after the story went online). Tran, says Moses, "publishes a new video every two to three days, each taking about four hours to make, including writing, filming, editing and uploading".
She works in retail on and off while studying digital media at the University of NSW, writes Moses. In homage to Nat's fame, YouTube became surprisingly nonfunctional shortly after the story went live on the SMH's website. The giant is dropped by a Sydney girl!
Nat's attitude to endorsement requests is important to me because I think there's no doubt that capital corrupts. Even LibraryThing does it. The Early Reviewer who wants to get a book requests a copy. And slightly lower down on the scale of heinous is the Member Giveaway service, where LT members who are writers solicit requests from other members for copies in exchange for (published, I think it goes without saying) reviews.
Like Early Reviewers, Member Giveaways are location specific. A small flag under the book's request link shows which country requesters are allowed to live in. The appeal of free publicity is thus entrenched, and its reach grows, like everything online, inexorably.
In a recent survey of Australian literature blogs, Perry Middlemiss of Matilda blog asked about 15 bloggers to talk about their experiences, and what they thought about blogging. In my first draft, I included a line saying "Ethical bloggers don't accept review copies". I said this because marketers for publishing companies are starting to infiltrate the scene. The kind of books, as a result, that get reviewed are frequently new releases.
And they're mostly not very interesting. Perry's blog is a case in point and I seldom read the reviews. Alternative Oz litblog Reading Matters also contains reviews copies of books recieved from publishers. It's a shame.
The blog owner wins back brownie points by regularly mooching books on BookMooch, which she reviews too. And she's got a weakness for Irish writers that is refreshing. But the main issue for me is that publishers are starting to decide the agenda, and bloggers who accept review copies of new releases are party to a confrontation between the new medium and an old, and tired, paradigm.
With publishing companies like Penguin getting on the bandwagon themselves (the Penguin Blog has run for almost two years, if my reckoning is correct) it's only a matter of time before we're all looking in the same direction. Other publishers are going to follow suit, I'm sure. Most, if not all, will be looking for bloggers to coopt.
Natalie is, for me therefore, like a breath of fresh air. She won't be corrupted by a corrupting system. Good for her. That's not all she's got going for her. She's extremely goodlooking, smart and serious, streetwise. It's a potent cocktail and it's a far cry from the goofy eye bloat of Matt Harding, the Australian who took his "viral" (and lame) dance around the world.
Natalie's not lame she's anything but.
She's not the first girl to make a splash on YouTube. About two years ago I used to watch two American teenagers goof around on video. I can't remember their names but I'll never forget the sensation of watching them fool around in their bedroom doing weird voices and faces. It brought home, to me, the type of scope we could expect from the new medium. Unfortunately there have been few successors. Nat's one.