SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Coming up, Japanese diaries tell the story of Hiroshima, but first, there were blogs. These are online journals that anyone can read. Lots of luck. Then there's podcasting, online radio made by non-broadcasters. Now there are video logs or vlogs, a blog with homemade video. NPR's Laura Sydell reports on how this latest online development is catching on.
LAURA SYDELL reporting:
Written Weblogs or blogs have been around for a few years now. Their subject matter ranges from daily reports on the family cat to political diatribes. This holds true for video logs or vlogs with a V. Just add the moving images.
(Soundbite of vlog)
Unidentified Woman: Why would anybody follow somebody around while they buy a microwave? Who cares if your mother buys a microwave?
Mr. SCHLOMO RABINOWITZ: It's the Internet. They all care, Mom.
SYDELL: That's vlogger Schlomo Rabinowitz's mother. Off camera, Rabinowitz admits that most people probably don't care about her shopping habits, but a few might.
Mr. RABINOWITZ: You have grandchildren and they'll be able to see your mother without worrying about a house fire. See, I had a house fire and lost all my stuff. Now this stuff won't be lost. It's up there; I don't have to worry about the tape anymore.
SYDELL: Rabinowitz was never the kind of guy who kept a written Weblog. In fact, that's true of many vloggers. There's something more intimate about videos that attracts people like Rabinowitz and Ryanne Hodson. Hodson, who lives near New York City, says she's made friends with Rabinowitz, who lives in San Francisco, and many others around the country.
Ms. RYANNE HODSON: I've seen their faces and I've seen where they work and what they do every day and, I mean, really, really who they are. You know, you feel like you're with them and you feel like they're opening their lives to you and it's almost like you're a part of their lives.
SYDELL: Entries on Hodson's vlog range from political commentary, travel diaries, satire and the joy of finding comfortable, attractive shoes.
Ms. HODSON: When you go into a shoe store, when you find a pair of shoes like this that fit you, it's like a miracle. Are those not the sexiest (censored) shoes you've ever seen?
SYDELL: Hodson, who's done some television production work in the past, says vlogging has given her newfound creative freedoms that she could never have on television.
Ms. HODSON: You have to go through all these barriers to entry, and right now we're just able to do whatever we want. You know, I can talk to whoever I want. I can say anything I want. I can show anything that I want.
SYDELL: Hodson and Rabinowitz were among those who came to a recent gathering at the Apple store in downtown San Francisco for vloggers from around the country. They were there to teach and spread the word. The gathering felt like a cross between a political rally and a self-help group. One speaker said since he started vlogging, he stopped watching TV and lost 40 pounds. Vloggers like Chris Ritke preached to an audience of some 40 people about how vlogs could change the world.
Mr. CHRIS RITKE (Blogger): Connecting with the people, to listen to the people themselves and to see what they have to say because that is just so much more exciting and so much more insightful, and I think that's going to help out the world a whole lot.
SYDELL: Exactly what impact video blogs will have on traditional television isn't really clear yet. Like bloggers, that's with a B, video loggers may play truth squad to the mainstream media, but Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications School, this ultimately vlogs will change television altogether.
Professor CLAY SHIRKY (New York University): Almost all models for producing anything on a screen, whether it's a movie or a television show or what have you, have all of these assumptions about how it's done, how long it lasts, how much it costs, and all of that is now in question because you can have interesting, small, cheap bits of video. You can have interesting, small, expensive bits of video. You can have interesting large bits of video.
SYDELL: Vlogs are drawing the attention of artists, who bring unique voices and collaborative efforts to the form, such as in these two projects. The first, started by Danish vlogger Kristina Rapacki, is meant to get others to make videos about what they like.
(Soundbite of music; vlog)
Ms. KRISTINA RAPACKI (Danish Blogger): I like reading and thinking. I like my ...(unintelligible) a lot. I like taking pictures of strange things.
SYDELL: And artist Rene Amini has created The Green Thing project.
(Soundbite of vlog)
Ms. RENE AMINI (The Green Thing Project): What if you could watch your idea grow and evolve online? The Green Thing project is an experiment in collaboration to create and locate green things all over the world using today's latest available technologies.
SYDELL: Amini sends out pieces of green cloth in the mail and asks the recipient to add a video or photo to her vlog that incorporates the green thing.
Ms. AMINI: People are having video diary conversations with one another and they're doing collaborative art pieces together and that's something that really inspires me. You put an idea out there and you bounce it back and it bounces around and other people's ideas come at you. And so now I see it as more of like a studio space.
SYDELL: Although it's been possible to put video on the Web for a long time, it's only over the last year that amateurs have started doing it in large numbers. The widespread adoption of broadband has made it easier, and so has something called RSSVs that allow users to automatically receive updates from vlogs they like. Jay Deadman, who moderates a vlog group on Yahoo!, says since the beginning of the year his group has grown from about 20 people to more than a thousand.
Mr. JAY DEADMAN: There is such excitement and it's such a hot space right now that it's kind of freaking a lot of us out because it's been such a nice, personal, intimate space that it just feels like there's this mad rush for a lot of people to come in here because they see a lot of potential.
SYDELL: Deadman admits that, for him, putting videos of his life online has become something of an obsession. In fact, when we spoke, I was in San Francisco and he and Ryanne Hodson were in our New York studio. Suddenly, I heard a strange sound.
Mr. DEADMAN: I'm sorry. We're actually video blogging as we're doing this. We're filming each other talking.
SYDELL: In fact, our conversation appeared the next day on Hodson's vlog. Most vloggers admit they have a limited audience. However, among the vlogging community, there's a saying. Andy Warhol believed everyone would have their 15 minutes of fame. Vloggers say everyone will be famous to 15 people.
Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.
SIMON: And you can find some vlogs on our Web site, npr.org.