Rocketboom Video Blog Host Amanda Congdon Quits, or Maybe Gets Fired

"The Internet is like a smoothly paved road," Amanda Congdon told viewers the last time she appeared on her popular video blog, Rocketboom. "I can go anywhere I want."

She wasn't talking about her career, but she could have been.

In less than two years as the quirky, goofy-but-gorgeous host of a low-tech, three-minute fake newscast, Congdon, who left Rocketboom this week in a dispute with her partner, achieved a kind of fame unique to this Internet age.

It was the kind of fame that had little to do with money, at least until recently.

For the first year Congdon made $50 an episode. Segments were created in the one-bedroom Manhattan apartment of Congdon's partner and Rocketboom founder, Andrew Michael Baron.

It was the kind of fame that brought Congdon, 24, a guest spot — as herself — on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." And representation by one of Hollywood's top agents, Ari Emanuel, the inspiration for Jeremy Piven's Emmy-nominated character on "Entourage."

Most of all, it was the kind of fame — that peculiar blogosphere kind of fame — that made Congdon's fans feel they knew her intimately.

Of the estimated 300,000 people that downloaded Rocketboom daily — an audience larger, for example, than Connie Chung's latest cable TV show — at least 800 had e-mailed her by Thursday afternoon, she said, and about a quarter of those contained job offers, from places as far off as Japan.

If they didn't e-mail Congdon, they blogged about her. On the Web site, which monitors tens of millions of blogs, "rocketboom" was the top search — globally — both Thursday and Friday. (Kenneth Lay, the Enron Corp. founder who died Wednesday, was second.)

Meanwhile, on a blog Congdon set up — appropriately named AmandaUnBoomed — admirers piled on the good wishes. "We love you Amanda!" wrote one, called tangerine. "Please understand: One door closes. Another opens."

"Rocketboom fans are very loyal," Congdon acknowledged Thursday evening during an interview from her family home in rural Connecticut (she didn't want to name the town publicly). "They're saying, 'Don't worry, we'll follow you wherever you go.'"

Appropriately, at least one serious offer — from Jason Calcanis, of the AOL blogging network Weblogs, Inc. — was made on his blog.

"You're on the top of the talent pool on the Web and you should get compensated for what you've done," Calcanis wrote Congdon on "You don't have a huge window of opportunity — you need to act now."

Was Congdon surprised by such a public offer?

"That's the thing about the Internet," she said matter-of-factly. "It's all about being transparent."

And about being, well, KNOWN.

"I would say Amanda has a friend base, rather than a fan base," says Jeff Jarvis, author of the BuzzMachine blog, who has provided advice to Rocketboom. "You get a very personal relationship with people in this medium. It's this mass sense of knowing."

Certainly, this may have been easier for Congdon because unlike previous Internet stars like Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox, for example, she was an "on-air" personality — a vlogger, as video bloggers are known.

Congdon was a blogosphere neophyte when she first met Baron, through an ad he'd put on, in 2004. She was a graduate of Northwestern and an aspiring actress, who'd played a coat-check girl on the reality series "The Restaurant."

"Andrew was looking for a blogger and an actress," Congdon says. "I wasn't a blogger. But I was a writer, and that helped."

The venture began.

Segments were dizzyingly varied. In one June episode, Congdon pondered the famous Diet Coke/Mentos explosions, did a quick feature on Dubai, and advised people how to avoid laptop battery fires. Two days later, it was a more serious report on a poor Botswana village.

"They created something really new and exciting," Jarvis said. "Out of nothing came a show, a franchise, a medium."

This past March, money started coming in. Rocketboom held an eBay auction of its first ads. It sold one for $40,000, and another for $80,000.

But Congdon, who owns 49 percent of Rocketboom to Baron's 51 percent, wanted to move to Los Angeles.

She says she had a long-standing agreement with Baron that she could work from the West Coast, but that he reneged. She also says Baron demanded she serve as merely the "face" of Rocketboom, ignoring her part ownership.

Baron, for his part, says the dispute is over a number of things, not just one. He said he had been supportive of her plan to get to Los Angeles, but couldn't meet her demands right away. He said she was refusing to collaborate with him further, and he's coming back on Monday with an interim host.

"I'm really nervous about the transition," he admits.

Congdon, now regrouping in Connecticut, says her next step, whatever it is, will include video blogging.

"It's not about being the biggest, the most famous person," she says. "Video blogging is so much a part of who I am. It's where my heart is. It would be weird to just leave it."