Celebrating 10 years this past weekend, VidCon (the annual gathering of online video content makers and facilitators) has grown into a monster- a vociferous monster representing the power of the video medium for an attention-hungry new generation which appears primed to make sure entertainment and pop culture as we know will never be the same again.
Yes it’s that dramatic. We all know that social media and video sites (specifically YouTube) have transformed the entertainment landscape, but by bringing together those who profit from this content and more importantly, those who consume it (basically kids), VidCon has given it a forum to grow and grow strong.
Held at the Anaheim Convention Center this past Thurs.-Sat., the three day convention saw the potential for online video branding, marketing and star-making early on, and it elevated those who gave it a go and saw success in a big way. Today, video stars are not just influencers, they are bonafide superstars (and millionaires) with obsessed fans who will shell out -or more often, whose parents will- big bucks for their merch. More importantly, video stars with followings have value for other brands. Companies present and making their presence felt with huge activations and booths at VidCon this year included Barbie, Nerf, Invisalign, Too Faced Cosmetics, Nike, Mars Candy, and Hubert’s Lemonade, to name a few. Even traditional TV companies like Nickelodeon and MTV were there, promoting their traditional TV and film offerings to the online market.
Ask any teenager who their favorite YouTube or Instagram star is, and one thing is guaranteed, they have one (or more). Moreover, most young adults have aspirations to have their own channel as well. VidCon aims to show them how with discussions and panels about what’s trending straight from YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook execs themselves, and by showcasing those who have made it a reality.
The rise of the internet star in terms of popularity was loud and (not so) clear when Saturday’s headliner panel/Q&A with “The Vlog Squad” took place. The screams and chants from the crowd were deafening. The crew, in case you don’t know, are a group of former male and female Vine users (remember Vine?) led by a guy named David Dobrik, known for their pranks and wacky videos on YouTube. The teens and twentysomethings chanting and standing and cell phone snapping for them were so nuts, one might have assumed from afar that there were real celebrities on stage, something akin to Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift.
After a day VidCon, one realizes that today’s Youtubers are real celebrities even if no one over 30 recognizes them. In some ways they have a deeper connection to their fans than even movie and pop stars do because -save for some snazzy filters and fun editing- they are for the most part, “normal” relatable people who share their lives with their fans more regularly. A lot of them have become famous for stuff some might not get, but there is no denying that they’ve made a connection engaging online, and anyone who can turn that into a career has some talent. Tapping into and touting it is what VidCon is all about.