VidCon US 2018 – Top Takeaways From the World of Online Video

Last week marked my annual pilgrimage to the land of screaming tweens and selfie sticks: VidCon. This year 30,000+ creators, fans, and industry representatives descended on the Anaheim Convention Center to celebrate the world of online video. But just as the video ecosystem evolves with each passing year, this year’s 9th annual VidCon brought its fair share of changes too. Here are my top takeaways:

 

1. Platform Competition is Heating Up

Social media platforms are vying for IRL attention just as much as they compete for digital audiences’ clicks, views, and watchtime. YouTube, a longtime VidCon sponsor, delivered a keynote about building online communities and hosted one of the conference’s most popular parties. Amazon sponsored the industry lounge while Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitch hosted lavish creator lounges. Pinterest and Instagram offered seminars to help creators succeed on their platforms, and Musical.ly teamed up with UTA to host a Friday night happy hour for influencers and industry track attendees. Even LinkedIn put together a panel highlighting its emerging influencer community.

 

2. VidCon is now a Tentpole for Major Product Announcements

Not only did the social platforms have a major presence for the first time this year, but they’ve started leveraging the conference as an anchor for big product announcements. Just days before VidCon, Facebook announced its Brands Collab Manager to connect brands and influencers for sponsorship opportunities, and Instagram launched IGTV as a long-form video app for creators. Not to be outdone, YouTube took advantage of the event to introduce Premieres and other new revenue streams for creators, including channel memberships and merchandise.

 

3. Re-Investing in Upcoming Creators is Essential

During his annual keynote, VidCon founder Hank Green announced a new program to provide $2,000 grants to a different aspiring influencer each week for the next year. This VidCon Creator Grant Program will help emerging creators invest in better equipment and higher quality content.

 

4. Panel Diversity is on the Rise

There was noticeably more variety in session programming for all conference tracks this year, showcasing different voices and offering fresh perspectives. The speaker lineup included more representation from traditional Hollywood, large brand advertisers, and sports leagues. Session content ranged widely too, from key content verticals like children’s entertainment and esports to practical tips for creators and marketers like identifying fake followers and diversifying monetization streams. I was fortunate to moderate a particularly fascinating discussion about the psychology of digital media on adolescents with Dr. Jessica Taylor Piotrowski from the Center for Research on Children, Adolescents, where we dug into how youth are affected by media consumption.

 

5. TanaCon Succeeded (Kinda)

Sure, Tana Mongeau’s attempt to organize a competing fan event was ultimately canceled due to concerns over creator security. But the moral of TanaCon is the massive community response. It’s clear that some creators don’t feel as welcome at VidCon and that fans are eager for more personal ways to connect with their favorite influencers. The outcome here (overwhelming demand and overcrowding) proves the success of the model, so expect to see more satellite events offering a more direct-to-fan experience eat into the VidCon audience in the future, especially for more controversial influencers and niche communities.

All told, this year’s VidCon was bigger and more successful than ever, demonstrating the continued growth and potential of the online video industry. Social platforms are offering more tools to help influencers create and monetize content, fans are eager for more ways to interact with the creators they love, and traditional media companies are finally figuring out how to program for online audiences. Now, it’s up to marketers to understand how to best leverage these trends to build passion brands in the new age of the influencer.

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VidCon Europe 2018 Review: A Dutch Coffee Marathon

Last year, the inaugural VidCon Europe was dominated by YouTube “Adpocalypse”, the great brand safety scare of 2017. That year, the conversation amongst digital media companies and MCNs in Europe was largely focused on expanding their presence on other social platforms like Instagram and Facebook to reduce their dependency on YouTube, and in anticipation of those platforms enabling some form of scaled revenue share. Fast forward to VidCon Europe 2018, and the marketplace seems to have changed completely.

Last year’s EU event received mixed reviews, so attendees were uncertain what to expect in 2018, and VidCon organizers knew they needed to step up their game. Thankfully, this year’s venue was more central to the city, included a tasteful lounge sponsored by Facebook, and offered extensive networking options through VidCon’s Brella app.

Typically during industry conferences my schedule is packed, so I have to be extremely selective about what panels and other programming sessions to attend. Much of my day revolves around meetings with customers and industry contacts, allowing me to indulge my coffee obsession until my heart is on the verge of exploding from over-caffeination.

Takeaway #1: Social Platform Diversification is Essential.

Rian Bosak, owner and CEO at SuperBam (double-shot espresso), shared his outsider’s perspective that Europe’s digital video market is strong and growing, yet about 2-3 years behind the US in the sense that YouTube is still its core.

“Literally everyone who asks me, I tell them to get on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Mobcrush, Twitch, Patreon, anything that expands their business so they’re not tied to one line of revenue.”

This is not surprising due to the many policy changes and brand safety blunders that have continued to plague the YouTube ecosystem in the last year. Though Facebook’s recent data security issues and lackluster showing on Facebook Watch has some holding their ground on YouTube.

Takeaway #2: Long Live the Influencer Agency. And the Digital Producer. 

Recent changes to the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) were the last nail in the coffin for the scaled MCN model. European MCNs have responded by narrowing their focus, either focusing on developing top talent or doubling down on digital content production. But it is a crowded arena.

Former Studio71 UK lead Elly Garrod (decaf black coffee), is now Managing Director at HelloWorld,a live event with UK’s biggest influencers. Though impressed by VidCon EU 2018’s more intimate setting, Elly feels it was not representative of the industry’s increasingly fragmented state.

“There are so many channels and so many companies offering different versions of the same thing. Everyone is trying to find their place, so it will be interesting to see if the brand money increases enough in this sector to support so many players .”

Takeaway #3: New Platforms to the Rescue. Maybe.

Managing Director of Dutch influencer production company Onlane, Jonatan de Boer (classic black coffee), dreams of helping Musers (influencers on Musical.ly) develop superstar careers.

“YouTube had a rough year, Facebook is in the midst of an identity crisis, and while Snapchat is still one of the big guys… for how long will that be? Nobody really seems to know what the future will bring.”

The most common message I heard during my coffee sessions: Nobody knows what the future holds for digital video and influencer marketing.


Looking ahead, I’m curious to see what VidCon US 2018 will teach us. As the biggest show of the year, the original VidCon event regularly attracts more than 30,000 creators, fans, and industry attendees, all eager to gain insight into the latest video industry trends.

Will you be attending Vidcon US 2018 in June? Please give me a heads up so I can get a coffee with you. I prefer a cappuccino with a Dutch stroopwafel on the side. Feel free to contact us at [email protected]


Paladin is the essential influencer management platform. Trusted by media companies, brands, and agencies across 5 continents, our technology streamlines talent discovery, influencer management, and campaign reporting.

Paladin operates globally, with offices in the North America (Los Angeles, USA), Europe (Kraków, Poland), and Asia (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). Learn more at paladinsoftware.com.

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