Behind Rocketboom's breakup fireworks

Amanda Congdon, the former face of the video blog site, shares her thoughts and views on the "he said, she said" drama.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
7 min read
The news broke last week that Amanda Congdon, the face of the popular New York-based video blog Rocketboom, would no longer be the face.

What was not clear were the circumstances behind Congdon's departure. Rocketboom's majority owner, Andrew Baron, has said that Congdon quit because she wanted to move to Los Angeles and that he wasn't able to meet her demands to move the video blog's production facilities there. Among other places, Baron posted his version of things directly on Rocketboom.

For her part, Congdon--who in many ways had become not just the face of Rocketboom, but the face of video blogging as a medium--insisted that she had not quit and that, in fact, she had been fired. She admitted she wanted to move to L.A., but maintained that she wanted to do so within the confines of what would work for Rocketboom. She posted her version of events on her blog and included a video in which she told her side of the story from in front of an upside-down world map, a reference to the map that had always appeared behind her in Rocketboom episodes.

I didn't leave Rocketboom. I was pushed out and I am determined to have my story heard.

It quickly became clear that the legions of Rocketboom fans would probably never know the exact truth of this "he said, she said" drama. But one thing was clear: People cared, in spite of the unseemly public back and forth. Stories appeared in national media and, as one would expect, the blogosphere went crazy with speculation and commentary.

Now, as Rocketboom struggles to get back on its feet and rumors swirl about Congdon's future--including fodder on Valleywag that she may join the popular videoblog 88Slide--CNET News.com got an opportunity to ask the former face--and more--of Rocketboom what's really going on.

Q: Why don't you start off by telling me about your crazy day?
Congdon: I've been mostly trying to focus on having my side of the story heard and communicating with the press. I just got back from talking to MSNBC.

So talking to the press suits your bigger picture and your personal goals, or are you just trying to deal with what's going on right now with your having left Rocketboom?
Congdon: Well, I didn't leave Rocketboom. I was pushed out and I am determined to have my story heard.

Click here to Play

Video: Rocketboom sans Amanda
Will Hollywood embrace the vlog starlet?

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Video: 88Slide creator on vlogs and more
Site is focus of Amanda Congdon rumor

Do you think that Baron expected the media frenzy surrounding your departure?
Congdon: I don't think so. I think he probably hoped I would just continue with Rocketboom just being the face. But he knows me well enough to know that I couldn't do that. So when he gave me the ultimatum, it became clear that I was no longer welcome.

What was the ultimatum?
Congdon: The ultimatum was that I could continue to be the face of Rocketboom and talk to the press but nothing beyond that. No involvement in any other aspects of the business or anything else. Perhaps in the future, I could produce shows, but not for the time being, and it was definitely not a promise.

But you would still be able to keep your 49 percent ownership of Rocketboom?
Congdon: He wanted to reduce my share of the ownership, and he did not want me to manage the business. But our contract stated that I was entitled to be part of managing the business.

Did he tell you why he wanted to change things?
Congdon: I'm still not entirely sure. I think a lot of it may have had to do with Andrew's insecurities about me moving out to Hollywood and what would happen then. I was very forthright with him that I was going to be working on the Jet Set Show (a Rocketboom production) and continue to do Rocketboom and try to make business contacts for us out there. He basically wanted all of us to stay in New York City and for me to work a 10-to-6 job and have all of my projects that I ever do in my life be under his control.

What does it feel like to have all this media frenzy over this breakup and over what your future is?
Congdon: Well, for this to be very public is kind of jarring. I intended with my video to communicate with the Rocketboom viewers because the situation was being (kept) from them for days. And when I put out the video and Andrew put out the notice on Rocketboom.com that I was headed to Hollywood and that I had quit Rocketboom and all of these untruths, I just had to make it clear what really had happened, and so I posted the information on my blog.

One interesting thing is how fast and how far your response to the "official" news spread. In the past, the tools didn't exist for that to happen.
Congdon: Exactly, yeah that's what's so exciting--the transparency. The corporations can't run and hide anymore from the facts.

Listen up

Congdon on her Rocketboom exit Amanda Congdon tells why she thinks site founder Andrew Baron told the masses that she left to pursue her acting career.

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So I'm assuming that this is kind of a long way from what you thought you would be getting into when you responded to that ad on Craigslist to go work for Rocketboom?
Congdon: Yes, you know, I come from the mainstream side of things, from the acting side of things: theater in New York and commercials. And to jump in online and really become totally immersed in Internet culture has been just a growing experience, and it has changed me in so many ways. And it has been so exciting, and I just love how I can communicate with anyone anywhere in the world and how I can make content with people from anywhere in the world.

What's next for you? What are you going to do?
Congdon: I don't know. I really honestly don't. I think right now I should probably start looking into all the e-mails that I've gotten. I've gotten, you know, about 2,000 e-mails at this point--a lot of them containing different offers and I haven't even been able to really look at them because I've been so busy with the press. So that will be my very next step.

You still own 49 percent of Rocketboom, right?
Congdon: Yes. I own 49 percent and it's legally registered with the bank.

So that means you have a stake in its future, and I'm curious, from your perspective, what do you think is next for Rocketboom?
Congdon: I have no idea. I sincerely wish Andrew the best, and I sincerely hope that he is successful with whomever he chooses as his new face since he seems to only be interested in faces.

What is your reaction to Rocketboom not meeting its commitment to get back up and running Monday?
Congdon: I'm sorry about that, but I'm not very surprised.

Do you think it was a little ambitious then to try to get things going so quickly?
Congdon: I think the fact that Andrew thought he could replace me within a few days is just very telling about how he felt about me and my talents and skills.

If you have creativity and you have determination and focus, you can make a good video blog.

Do you think you and Andrew can ever patch things up?
Congdon: If Andrew is interested in working as business partners and is willing to straighten out a lot of the misinformation he has continued to spread online over the last few days, then maybe we could talk. But it would have to be a business relationship only. I don't think that we could ever be friends.

Do you think your fans will follow you to wherever you go next?
Congdon: Well, they've told me they will. So I am hoping they will keep true to their words. I guess time will tell.

So, I'm curious. Based on the success of Rocketboom, a lot of people are starting video blogs. What advice would you give them?
Congdon: To make sure that they stick to a regular schedule. If they are going to be up Monday through Friday every week, be up and have a video blog out Monday to Friday every week. Or if you can only commit to weekly or monthly just make sure that you do what you say you're going to do and also take it down a notch and be casual. Don't try to be television because video blogs aren't Internet TV. They're video blogs, and they are much more candid, much more personal.

At the same time, only a few will create successful video blogs. Do you think it's hard for people to believe that maybe it's not quite as easy as it looks?
Congdon: I think that it's just about creativity. If you have creativity and you have determination and focus, you can make a good video blog. I think it's about doing something that you feel that you are an expert at. What I would recommend for anyone trying to start a video blog is, anything that you feel you know a lot about, that's probably the best topic for you to explore.