After a Decade Online, YouTube Is Redefining Celebrity

It's a meet-and-greet worthy of an A-list star. Outside the three-story bookstore at the outdoor shopping mecca known as The Grove, hundreds of mostly young women have formed a line that stretches past trendy clothing stores and spills out onto a nearby street. They're waiting to have Connor Franta, an affable 22-year-old Internet personality best known for delivering diary-like monologues on YouTube, sign a copy of his new memoir.

The irony of a YouTube star drawing a massive crowd at a bookstore isn't lost on talent manager Andrew Graham.

"A year ago, I went to New York and tried to get a book publisher to take a meeting with me," said Graham, who represents Franta and other mega-popular YouTubers. "I had one meeting, and they laughed at me. Here we are a year later at Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles with a New York Times best-selling author who is a client. I think that says it all. It's a 180-degree turn."

Franta isn't a singer, chef, comedian or athlete. He's a YouTube star angling to be the Oprah Winfrey for millennials.

In its 10-years of existence, YouTube has evolved from a playground for kitty videos to a $20 billion visual menagerie. Along the way, it's also become an incubator for a new type of celebrity -- a digital Brat Pack that's leveraging smartphone stardom to write books, drop albums, design products and break into Hollywood.

"It's the most powerful marketing platform in the world for millennials," said Graham. "If you're trying to reach that audience of girls gathered downstairs, YouTube is the venue to do that. Look at an artist like Fred (Lucas Cruikshank). He went off to Hollywood, created some films, neglected his channel, came back to YouTube and ... crickets. No one was there anymore. You can't abandon it."

In recent years, YouTube,...

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