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Connor Goes to Hollywood: Chasing Stardom in YouTube's Crowded Universe

Connor Manning tries to turn his YouTube popularity into something real. Whatever that is.

John F. Peters / The Verge

Valley Village is located next to North Hollywood, which isn’t very close to Hollywood at all. The Santa Monica Mountains, plus a handful of neighborhoods and freeway exchanges, separate Hollywood from North Hollywood. For the past several months, it has been impossible to drive between these neighborhoods without passing a billboard advertising a YouTube star. Most often, that star is Grace Helbig, a 28-year-old comedian who recently crossed over, landing her own honest-to-god television show on E!. Viewership of The Grace Helbig Show tanked quickly — by its third episode, it was only drawing 182,000 viewers, causing the network to move it from Friday to Sunday night. Helbig, meanwhile, still posts videos for her YouTube channel, where she has 2.6 million subscribers.

On a recent midsummer afternoon, Connor Manning was sitting in a Valley Village bistro, picking at his salad and considering Helbig’s level of celebrity, celebrity generally, and if that was what he really wanted. Manning is not famous. Except, perhaps, to the 64,000 people who were subscribed to his YouTube channel. That doesn’t sound like a lot, compared to the stars on the billboards, but it’s all relative. Sixty-four thousand people, he said — “that’s an NFL stadium.”

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