It can be hard to remember what life was like before YouTube. If you wanted to listen to a pop song, you couldn’t just queue it up online. You’d have to find it on the radio, download an MP3 file from iTunes (or a number of file sharing websites), or wait for MTV to play the video in its never-ending rotation. Celebrities were the only reality TV stars, and the most popular show was American Idol (won in 2006 by Taylor Hicks). In short, old media still dominated, but culture was at an odd liminal stage. Almost everything that mattered still happened on TV, but much of the talking started happening on the Internet. This is essentially the landscape YouTube entered. The site started relatively slowly in April 2005, with a video of YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim narrating a visit to San Diego Zoo’s elephant enclosure. In August the same year, the site boasted an impressive 58,000 visitors. By the end of the year, it had a traffic rocket strapped to its back: 20 million unique visitors logged on to YouTube each month by mid-2006. These days, more than 1.3 billion people use the site around the world, and five billion videos are watched daily. Contest-wise, we’ve come a long way from zoo visits today. Modern YouTube stars can bring in millions of dollars through sponsorship and companies they own and run (often built on the foundation of their videos). Polish and premise on-site can match most of what you’d…more detail
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