| NEW YORK
NEW YORK With a virtual drum roll, online video-sharing Web site YouTube on Monday announced the winners of its inaugural awards, paying tribute to the wannabe stars who have used the site as a launching pad to fast fame.
The winners ranged from the Chicago band OK Go dancing across treadmills, to a Sydney man who hugged strangers in the street, to an animated video about a kiwi bird trying to fly.
YouTube, which has dominated the user-generated online video market since it was founded in February last year, said the winners of its 2007 Video Awards helped to foster the online video phenomenon.
"They saw an opportunity for worldwide visibility and through their success have changed the landscape of how a 'star' is defined," Jamie Byrne, head of YouTube product marketing, said in a statement.
"As the masses learned about online video, many of the creators of these videos established themselves as personalities, going from the seemingly unknown to international celebrity, overnight."
Byrne said these YouTube pioneers had laid the foundation for a new medium that was influencing how people are entertained and informed, with a new generation of viewers as likely to spend their time in front of computers as television screens.
YouTube, which was bought by Google Inc. for $1.65 billion last year, had seven categories for awards with the winners as follows (www.youtube.com/ytawards):
* Most Creative: OK Go. The Chicago-born band's four members danced over eight moving treadmills to the song "Here It Goes Again." More than 13 million people watched it.
* Most Inspirational: Free Hugs. Australian Juan Mann won after setting out to brighten strangers' lives in Sydney by offering hugging them.
* Best Series: Ask a Ninja. Created by Los Angeles comedians Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine, it featured a black-clad ninja answering e-mails in unique ninja lingo with his signature sign-off, "I look forward to killing you soon."
* Best Comedy: Smosh. Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, aka Smosh, have the No. 2 most-subscribed channel on YouTube. The college students have nearly 70,000 fans who watch their every move, whether it's music videos or comedy sketches.
* Best Music: Terranaomi. Los Angeles-based Terra Naomi went from struggling singer-songwriter to being signed to Island Records due to exposure on YouTube.
* Best Commentary: The Winekone. The Canadian offers a random, rambling monologue on a range of topics.
* Most Adorable Video: Kiwi. This short film by Dony Permedi is about a flightless kiwi bird who spends his life trying to achieve his dream of flying.
YouTube's success in the past year has prompted some rivals to look at ways to compete, with media analysts predicting the Internet video market will be key to the future of media.
News Corp. and NBC Universal last week unveiled plans to launch a free online video site this summer, featuring full-length movies and television shows.
Another media company, Viacom Inc., has sued Google for $1 billion over unauthorized use of its videos on YouTube.