clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Small Empires: Meet the man behind one of the web's most popular, and controversial, sites

New, 14 comments

WorldstarHipHop.com has built a massive audience with its mix of music, humor, and extreme violence

Warning: this episode contains scenes of graphic violence and mature content

Worldstar isn't just a company. It's a meme, an adjective, and a verb. It means to go nuts, to lash out, or to have fun. It can describe a moment that is hilarious or poignant or sickeningly violent. For 30 million people each month it's the site that brings them their daily dose of music, news, and entertainment. Whatever you think of WorldstarHipHop.com, one thing is for sure, it is completely unique.

Our host Alexis Ohanian knows a thing or two about building a massive audience. He helped create Reddit, sometimes called the "front page of the internet." Like WorldStar, Reddit relies on its community to find the best material. And like Worldstar, Reddit has had its fair share of controversy surrounding controversial and potentially illegal content promoted by its community. Despite its raw and often shocking content, Worldstar has managed to attract mainstream advertisers like Walmart, Volvo, and many others.

Alexis sat down for a long chat with Lee O'Denat, the Queens, New York native who founded Worldstar way back in 2005. At launch O'Denat was the only employee. He has since grown the team to 10, with the rest of his workers spread around the US.

O'Denat is about to make the jump from the web to Hollywood, with a Paramount-backed feature film produced by Russell Simmons. He describes it as a 2015 update on 1980s classics like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Porkies, with a healthy dose of Worldstar flavor sprinkled in. It's hard to know exactly what the final product will look like, but rest assured it will be something designed to grab your attention.

These days O'Denat lives in suburban San Diego, but he told us that, "My heart's still hood. I'm so thankful to have come from that environment. Worldstar keeps me there."

The Verge Video: Inside Small Empires: Worldstar