Is Sony's Crackle video site attracting real talent?

You can find some great stuff -- and a lot of terrible stuff -- on the video site Sony says can make you a star.

By Farhad Manjoo

Published July 16, 2007 7:57PM (EDT)

Sony wants to make you a star. The Internet has already proved that it can vault lone creators to fame and/or infamy -- just ask Mahir, the Numa Numa dude, Star Wars kid, and, in a different class altogether, the geniuses at Lonely Island -- but still, hitting it big remains a dodgy, imprecise affair. Crackle, a new video site put out today by Sony, aims to change that. By offering top-flight rewards for videos -- among other prizes, a pitch meeting with execs at Sony's Columbia Pictures or theatrical release (and the chance of an Oscar) for your animated movie -- the company says it can rocket brilliant people to the big time.

Crackle is the reincarnation of Grouper, a YouTube-like site that Sony bought for $65 million last year. The site was an also-ran in the "user-generated" video market, which is why Sony has decided to ditch it. The company is now leaning on what MBA-types might call "synergy." Sony owns many entertainment properties -- movie studios, record labels, a huge video game business -- and can thus offer attractive rewards to creators looking for more than YouTube fame.

Crackle's not the first firm to offer such benefits to artists. The popular video site Revver gives creators a cut of the ad revenue it earns while showing their videos; the lab-coated men of Eepy, who popularized the Mentos/Diet Coke fountain experiment, earned more than $30,000 from this deal.

This morning I browsed Crackle to see if anything there had the potential to match such success. Below, I've put down the best and the worst:

Brian Keith Dalton's "Mr. Deity" series is currently enjoying prime placement on the Crackle site. According to NewTeeVee, Sony found the series on YouTube and commissioned it for a run on Sony's network. It's funny -- though, as you'll see, it might only work in blue states.

This is the first episode; see here for more.

Crackle is also pushing animation. Patrick Smith's "Handshake" is a good example (the film, though, has been around for a while; Smith is no relation to Salon's aviation columnist):

From Crackle: Handshake

But there's also a lot of junk on Crackle. Indeed, due to the differences in scale -- and Crackle's novelty -- you're much more likely to find great video on YouTube than on Crackle, where, in addition to the ones above, I saw several badly recorded stand-up comedy acts; a few videos of near-naked women advertising for adult sites; dance videos nowhere near as great as those found elsewhere; and this "Wha'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" clip from "Different Strokes" (don't you miss shows with catchphrases?)

Honestly, I'd take Obama Girl over a lot of that stuff.

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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