Ever since I was introduced to the world of vlogs three years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the medium. And, while many are proclaiming that YouTube and the vlogging space is oversaturated, I genuinely believe it is just beginning. To gain more context on the topic I read I iJustines book. I had heard of her as early as 2011 and had watched a half dozen of her videos over the last few years.
I expected this book to be about her career on YouTube since vlogging was all I had known her for. Yet, her adventure into the Internet of things was much broader and deeper than I anticipated.
Is I, Justine: An Analog Memoir worth reading? I, Justine: An Analog Memoir is a fantastic book that documents one girl’s early entry into the new frontier of the World Wide Web. It’s a story that is shared by many millennials who grew up with computers, video games, and an interest in the internet.
At 228 pages (and full of photos), the book was a quick read. I also listened to the audio book and enjoyed listening to the author read her own book. At 1.5 speed, you can knock this book out in a little under 4 hours.
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If you are unfamiliar with iJustine, she is most well known for her YouTube channel where she vlogs about technology and her life. Yet, her book cover design for the book does not feature a YouTube logo or a camera. Instead, you see Justine sitting cross-legged with the original Macintosh on her lap wearing blue jeans and a black turtle neck. A glaring tribute to Apple co-founder and late CEO, Steve Jobs.
Even in the cover you begin to realize that this book is going to be about much more than YouTube and videos.
The iPhone Bill That Made Justine Famous
Rather than begin the book with her childhood, she kicks it off with the moment that made her famous. Justine had been one of the first to get the iPhone and switch her cell phone provider to AT&T. When she received her first bill, however, it was delivered in a box of papers with every message she had sent and received. She had already been in a rhythm of recording and uploading videos to her YouTube channel regularly, so she recorded the video below to share the ridiculous phone bill with her following.
Even though she had produced quite a few videos by the time she made the iPhone Bill video, this was the one that went viral and created the tipping point for her career adding a slew of media interviews and fans were added to her social media accounts overnight.
Justine grew up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania far from any technology or video scene. She recollects growing up making paper banners with her family Macintosh, playing Nintendo, and finding her first online community at nintendo.com. From there, it wasn’t long before she was hooked to the internet and frequented many of the popular 90’s sites like GeoCities, Tripod, and Angelfire.
In this section of the book, she revels in her early nerdom by sharing how she taught herself how to code in HTML, asked for more computer RAM for Christmas, was inspired by the movie Hackers, and defended her Apple computer at LAN gaming parties. While she took computer programing classes in high school, her teacher pointed out that she was much better at making websites look attractive than making them functional. This advice led her to pursue a hybrid degree program in Video Production and Multimedia Design at the Pittsburg Technical Institute. It was a choice that would lead her into making the videos that would make her famous.
Before she began making content online, she wandered around a few jobs as a print designer and then video editor for a shady Chiropractor. It was in the Chiropractors office that she began making her first YouTube videos out of shear boredom. Videos that were her foray into her career online.
Finding Her Career Online
Around 2002, Justine fumbled around with online videos and podcasting while working for the Chiropractor. Her main goal then was to get enough freelance work to quit her job, but she decided to quit prematurely and wing it while she figured out how to turn her interests into a full time career.
“So, now i was broke. And unemployed. But I was lucky: it didn’t take very long to figure out what I was going to do next.”—Justine Ezarik
Finding Her Way Online
Not long after quitting her job, Justine ran into multiple opportunities for publicity. First, she entered the Yahoo! Talent Show by entering multiple videos into the competition and participating in video challenges. While she didn’t win, it certainly helped connect her to a larger community and gain notoriety.
From there, Justine received multiple opportunities and small (often unpaid) gigs to host events, report tech launches, record training videos for startups, and a number of other small opportunities. All while continuing to post content herself and invite everybody she came in contact with to join various social networks.
Eventually, she was invited to join Justin Kan’s start up, Justine.tv, where he broadcasted his life 24/7 online. They had worked together before and with her name being so close to Justin’s it just seemed like a great fit to launch iJustine.tv where she too would live stream her life.
Live broadcasting her life or “life casting” was a boost for Justine’s social media following. It’s also what gave her enough social presence to help the “iPhone Bill” video she started the book off with to become a viral success. The attention from both the live streaming and that one viral video were important steps toward success, but she still struggled to pay her bills and floated from apartments to couches to guest rooms to make it.
Before 2009 ended, Justine did begin to see some financial stability but it was still a constant hustle to continue producing content. YouTube’s profit sharing program had begun to build up momentum so Justine decided to make the platform her home base and took a step away from similar sites like Viddler. It wasn’t long before she would hit a million subscribers on Twitter and Youtube, increasing her reach and making a way for her to earn a living as an online creator.
The Price of Being Famous Online
Somewhere between 2009 and 2011, Justine said she had made it. She had achieved her goal of not just surviving while pursuing all these online activities but was earning a living. In the process, she had also become somewhat of a pseudo-celebrity.
“It was never my goal to get famous … My goal—if you could even call it that, back when I was first starting out—was to somehow earn enough money to survive while pursuing the things I most loved: technology, gadgets, and gaming. I knew I wanted to work for myself.—Justine Ezarik
This part of the book is a little thin since the book was published in 2015 and likely written in 2014, covering three years worth of her life. Justine does go on to reflect on how awesome it was to connect with so many people through the internet and meet random fans in public as she traveled. She picked up more upscale gigs in Hollywood, met celebrities, and continued covering Apple product releases.
Internet fame was not without its headaches and scary moments, however. Justine repeatedly comments on how her trolls would mock her and any of her friends that made it on to the camera. It was a constant battle and she would lose friends over it. A variety of pranks were played even to the point of calling the SWAT team to her house for a possible threat.
I, Justine: An Analog Memoir was a fun read. It was interesting to see how people like Justine had paved a way for others like me to make a career out of the internet. I’m a few years younger than Justine and I also studied graphic design and moved into being a professional social media manager before becoming a marketing director. I remember when others thought it was strange but awesome to get paid to manage the social media accounts for organizations in 2011. By that time social media has become established as a great way to reach people.
Justine was one of the early pioneers into the social web that is ubiquitous today. It was insightful to see what it was like to be an early adopter of Twitter and YouTube through Justine’s eyes and I think even more important to understand the struggle of finding your way onto new mediums that don’t have set norms yet. It makes me wonder what, or who will be next in the constant evolution of technology. What will the next wave be to ride as the internet changes?
One part that was a little disconnected was the picture she paints of herself as a hardcore nerd early in her life. As I listened to the book, you get the idea that she was more of a geeky outcast like Hermione Granger. It’s nothing like the personality that she developed online and the fact that she has no idea why she was voted homecoming queen in high school casts some doubts on that reality. Regardless, learning how to win with technology and people is an admirable trait in this millennium.
This is one of the few books I have read that is also read by the author and you can tell that she has spent years in front of a microphone. It was one of the best audio book experiences I have had (I listen to a few audio books a month). The hardcover book is equally great. The book is full of photos, thumbnails from her YouTube videos, tweets, and instant message conversations that are all formatted to look like the medium they are from. I’m glad I had purchased both versions of the book.
How Old is Justine Ezarik? Justine Ezarik was born on March 20, 1984, making her 35-years-old at the writing of this blog post.
What is Justine Ezarik’s Net Worth? According to celebritynetwork.com Justine Ezarik’s net worth is $2 million at the time of writing.