King of the Web: A Quirky Fame Contest Primed for the Young & Savvy

2/16/12Follow @curtwoodward

This week, if you were looking in the right corner of the Web, you could have stumbled across a curious thing—a fun little video-blogging contest had escalated into a full-blown international incident.

A Swedish guy named Felix Kjellberg, who has amassed a following on YouTube for his freaked-out reactions to horror video games, was in the middle of a promising campaign. Kjellberg was collecting votes on King of the Web, a website that doles out cash and other prizes to people who win its online popularity contests.

Kjellberg, who goes by the pseudonym Pewdie Pie, was pledging to donate the $7,500 grand prize to the World Wildlife Fund. That feel-good goal, his weirdly funny videos, and the existing online fans that he constantly calls “bros” looked like a winning combination. Pewdie was in the lead.

And then the Peruvian comedy blogger got involved.

From his headquarters in Lima, Jose Romero stumbled across King of the Web and decided to jump into the contest late. He was counting on his impressive collection of online fans—more than 1 million on Facebook—to propel him to a high-speed takeover of the contest.

Romero, known online as Mox, produces comedy videos under the banner of the “What Da Faq Show.” Mox’s videos tend to be mixes of funny YouTube submissions from around the globe, overlaid with his own excited captions and multilingual commentary. A recent episode featured some Russian rock musicians playing their instruments from a platform attached to a motorcycle sidecar (while driving, of course) and an American lady being chased into her car by a particularly aggressive turkey.

Mox encouraged his legion of followers to bombard King of the Web and cast their allotted 10 votes a day for him, quickly rocketing up the leaderboard. This turned lots of heads in the game, and drew some complaints, particularly when front-runner Pewdie found Mox’s original campaign video urging his Latin American fans to win the contest over the “gringo noobster.”

An impromptu summit was convened on Twitter to settle their differences.

We are all bros!” wrote Mox, who also photoshopped his head on a photo of President Obama in a call for his fans to tone it down a bit.

Well, may the best bro win then,” Pewdie replied.

And the game wound on. In the end, despite a coalition of other participants funneling votes to Pewdie, Mox and his wild “WDF Army” ran away with the title, collecting more than 3 million votes.

His logo has taken over the King of the Web homepage, where he’ll reign for two weeks, until another winner is crowned. Oh, and he’ll get a billboard slapped up in his home city, showing his face wearing a cartoon crown.

Presiding over all this madness is a small group of designers, developers, creative types, and ad-industry veterans, holed up in a little office in Seattle. Leading the team is Maggie Finch, a former executive for pioneering digital advertising agency aQuantive who now serves as King of the Web’s CEO.

Now, instead of dealing in advertising dollars, she’s trying to attract some. The audience that King of the Web has collected is a conglomeration of YouTube addicts, meme-conscious jokers, online do-gooders, and budding individual entrepreneurs that make up a considerable slice of the young “millennial” generation.

Co-founded by former aQuantive boss Nick Hanauer and Zillow founder Rich Barton, King of the Web provides an intriguing example of the kinds of online communities people are trying to assemble in the post-Facebook era, where shared digital experiences tie people together—from South America to Scandinavia to the Pacific Northwest.

The company has a fun-loving attitude that’s wrapped around a fairly grand vision: Getting to the root of an emerging online youth culture that … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • http://www.directinteractions.com Matt Storey

    cool idea and company! thanks for this article