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.