Eleven days ago, 23-year-old Justin Kan was just another no-name startup guy with big dreams of the small screen. Then he and his friends launched Justin.tv, an Internet reality show chronicling their adventures as young San Francisco entrepreneurs that, at least for now, is proving to be a smash hit with online viewers.
Kan calls it “lifecasting.” The concept is simple: Using technology his team developed, Kan has strapped a camera to his head to capture every moment of his existence in live streaming video on the Internet. Viewers literally see the world through Kan’s virtual eyes, which broadcast his life onto the Web 24/7. He interacts with his audience through 21 chat rooms and hundreds of e-mails each day. He even took their calls on his cell phone until he got overwhelmed.
Well, this concept is not something new, given the success of Jennicam, Anacam, and numerous other camgirls who led the way with lifecasting some 11 years ago or so. My colleague Terri Senft has a book coming out later this year about camgirls actually, as this was the subject of her PhD thesis.
But Justin.TV is more of a business venture – with making money and launching a company the prime goal. It doesn’t seem nearly quite so interesting or “researchable” to me because it lacks the honesty of the other sites which were there solely to lifecast, and not to make money. But what is interesting is the phenomenon of spectatorship, and even in the screenshot I took above where I was watching Justin apparently on a date, one of the viewers in the TV room with me said this was more interesting than TV.