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Fans go crazy for international YouTube stars

Crazed-fans of YouTube star Rubius wait for his delayed appearance outside a downtown hotel in Buenos Aires.
By Julio Nakamurakare
Herald Staff
Spain’s online phenomenon Rubius expresses shock at overwhelming reception

Launched in 2005 as a small Internet application carrying, mostly, homemade video content of no interest to people outside the family group of the nerd who uploaded the inane material, YouTube, thirteen yers later, is the platform of choice for anything from cuddly kittens, videoclips, movie trailers, and countless audiovisual pieces that would otherwise get no exposure. Things may be ignored when first uploaded on YouTube, success is never guaranteed in spite of the quality of the uploaded material. The weirdest video, though, may go viral (a term probably coined by YouTubers or other social media platforms) and attract thousands, even millions of followers around the globe, prompting tecchies to kickstart their own attempts at advertising-beacon videos that will land them a fortune.

Now it seems decades-long news when we first heard about “floggers” (photo bloggers) catching the attention of multinational companies which vied for an advertising spot on the most popular flogs. That era is long gone.

You’re either a YouTuber or you have no material, even less virtual, presence in the cyberworld of social-media savvy surfers.

In the YouTubers’ universe, the most glittering star, however ephemeral, is Spain’s Rubius, a 24-year-old who has more than 10 million followers on Google’s YouTube. Traditional media seem to play no role in this Brave New World of sorts: YouTubers learnt about the conference and showed up en masse at Ezeiza Airport to give Rubius a hero’s welcome. They were all eager to see him, the headliner of the Club Media Fest held until tomorrow at the Rural Palermo showgrounds.

Of course we’ve all, at some point, shared in the YouTube experience, visiting the site out of our own volition or being redirected by a commercial site or a friend’s email or whatsapp. This does not make us YouTubers, for it seems that full membership requires not just a passive attitude, watching other people’s posts, commercials, even full feature films. YouTuber membership requires that you too make your small contribution to the online audiovisual content platform and follow at least a couple or a horde of YouTube stars. Click “like,” please.

At age 24, Rubius is a young person, and a very young millionaire, but for YouTubers (most of them kids or teens) he’s graduated past undergrad status to full professional online celebrity, with more star power than pop acts. You only had to pass by the Panamericano Hotel in downtown BA yesterday to see Rubius fans hoping to catch a glimpse of him. They waited long hours, for the Internet content developer-manipulator slept past noon and had yet to shower and have breakfast before meeting his loyal subjects.

Rubius’ first tweet on arrival in Argentina read: “Arrived in Argentina. Holy s***. Almost impossible to breathe.” The accompanying image saw him struggling to get past a crowd of cheering under 20s.

This is how intense YouTube fever can get. Rubius (born Rubén Douglas Gundersen in Malaga to a Norwegian mother and Spanish father), with more than 10 million YouTube subscribers, 3 million Twitter followers and four million on the social/gossip platform Facebook, is no instant celebrity: he spent several years shooting funny, amusing, weird videos that do not fail to catch the attention of the YouTube generation every night.

They’re normally referred to as millennials or, more specifically, as the 2.0 generation, and they have long crashed the gates of music, movie or television superstar seekers to become members of a fraternity that, though not undercover, is still something akin to an underground movement.

Rubius will not be the only headliner in this weekend’s Club Media Fest, other celebrity YouTubers include Spain’s Mangel Rogel, Mexico’s Werevertumorrow, Chile’s Xoda, and Argentina’s own Vedito, Marito Baracus, Locos x el Asado, and Alejo Valentina, among countless others. Never heard of them? Just Google or YouTube them and you’ll be showered with videos by and about them. They’re the stars behind their own videos, the subject of self-referential discussions and forums, the visible heads of a cryptic world alien to previous generations who grew up when personal computers were just becoming familiar in businesses and homes, courtesy of IBM, Radio Shack, Texas Instruments and other IT pioneers.

However innovative and creative, the YouTube event shares at least one thing in common with other conferences: it’s live, the lectures will not be broadcast on the Internet, YouTube artists will make live appearances, and YouTubers will have to make it in person to the gates of the Rural Showgrounds. The YouTube conference started yesterday and continues today and tomorrow from 2pm to 12 midnight, with tickets ranging from $350 to a $1,550 subscription for the three-day event. VIP Pass, they call it, proving that there’s no such thing as cyberdemocracy, or that there is, but it comes at a cost.

YouTubers number around 50 million around the world. The Buenos Aires conference has, thus far, attracted more than 20,000 of them, some flying in from Spain, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

Says Club Media Fest founder José Luis Massa: “This is still a very avant garde affair. It will be fully developed in two or more years, when commercial brands fully realize the value of YouTube” as an advertising platform. The producer’s words are an open statement about online advertising that inevitably accompanies the most viral videos. “There’s 440 million people in the Hispanic world, and this business is growing at a 166 percent rate yearly,” Massa continued.

“The entertainment world is fast changing,” Massa said, adding that, “It’s a more collective experience because it runs on the social networks. Young kids no longer watch television, they watch short videos on their smartphones or tablets. They become an artist’s fans without the need of a programming director, as is the case in television. This universe is more chaotic, sincere, visceral, creative, powerful, without conditions.”

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