People go to VidCon to take selfies with YouTube stars. For the last eight years, Ive gone to learn about the changing landscape and the future of video.
What Woodstock was to music, VidCon is to digital video. Ive attended from the beginning, so Ive gotten to see the event mature from 1,400 people attending taking over the Hyatt Regency in LA into an influencer marketing epicenter with tens of thousands of attendees. The secret is out: advertising and entertainment businesses are finally learning that independent creators can meaningfully move a brands publicity needle among their audiences.
Heres what I took away from this years VidCon:
YouTube remains the biggest planet in the digital video galaxy
It wasnt that long ago that Snapchat and Instagram were just for pictures, but video is so transformative that every social platform of consequence had to accommodate it as a feature. From Facebook to Twitter and beyond, platforms came up with clever ways to present themselves as the best source of web video, but we all know who reigns as king of that particular mountain: YouTube, of course.
In 12 years of operation, YouTube has established itself as the de facto destination for web video. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki revealed that the site draws some logged-in users per month, a number equivalent to 20 percent of the worlds population.
Tucked within this quantity is a lot of quality, especially when it comes to advertisings ultimate bullseye: the teenaged millennial and Gen Z crowd. Most young people want to be YouTubers , and they perceive YouTube stars as than those from TV and movies. Simply put, , teens with money to spend are listening.
Facebook is a strong contender for number two
YouTube is sitting pretty with its prodigious user base for now, but Facebook is squarely positioned in the rearview mirror with boast-worthy stats of its own. , Facebook announced that it serves up 100 million hours of video per day; people are literally watching more than 11,000 years of video on the platform daily.
Beyond the numbers, the social networking giant is lately playing an impressive ground game to make its platform more favorable for impactful creators to flock to.
Facebook product director Daniel Danker announced that the company is designed to support video creators, and it used VidCon to actively court these people. They were invited to take a break from the hum and thrum of the conference in an while these influencers chilled out, Facebook reps were on hand to educate them about the companys video features.
YouTubers are celebrity artists, and brands are their patrons
Creative people benefit from having investors fund their work and provide them a conventional living. In 1508, this might have looked like the Pope hiring you to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In the 21st century, it more closely resembles brand integration deals: the creator makes a piece of content that serves a brands messaging goals and entertains his or her subscribers at the same time. The creator is compensated not only for work completed, but also for brand access to this hard-won audience.
The brand/influencer relationship is paramount and was a constant panel theme throughout the conference this year (and every year). One talk noted that than recommendations from your own friends and family.
As for the convention itself, VidCon still trails behind SXSW-level brand investment and saturation, but things are heading that direction. The expo floor was filled with visually stimulating brand activations. At the Nickelodeon booth you could get slimed, and Taco Bell let attendees to , for example.
These brands aim is, of course, to have a savvy creator Snap, Instagram, or YouTube about the activation and blast it out to their followers.
Whats the deal with YouTubes and Facebooks algorithm?
YouTube is the well-established belle of this digital video ball, but it is not without its critics or mysteries. The site has an enigmatic algorithm that determines everything from which order to display search results to which related videos to display where. Changes to the algorithm have left the top dogs feeling pressure to create more content to protect their relevancy, yet many established creators are drastically losing views on their videos. Their challenge becomes: how do I create and monetize content that YouTube will algorithmically reward with more views?
This might not seem terribly important to the casual YouTube user, but for influencers who earn a living by creating and uploading videos, this literally determines their livelihood. Cracking this frustrating nut was a theme in multiple panel events: “Reverse-Engineering the YouTube Algorithm Expanded,” “Navigating Algorithm Changes in Social Video,” and “Growth Hacking YouTube: Triggering Algorithm-Driven Views” were just a few. Facebooks own algorithm was a hot topic at panels like “Hacking the Facebook Algorithm: Inside Facebook’s Secret Promotional Code,” “Optimizing Content for Facebook,” and “Social Video Secrets from BuzzFeed’s Experts.”
Activism and diversity are front and center
One of the things I admire a lot about Vidcon is the inclusiveness and democratic nature of the platform. The Vidcon Founders, Hank and John Green, have done a phenomenal job curating the conference and encouraging conversations around education, activism, and the importance of diversity.
In walking around VidCon youll be struck by the overwhelming diversity in both fans and creatorsall colors, sexes, races, religions, and orientations represented. This sense of diversity was readily apparent in the programming where topics ranging from to , and were all frequent topics of conversation which were provided a platform amongst an audience as diverse as the world at large.
VidCon will be great again next year.
When trends emerge at VidCon, that means they are emblematic of whats happening within the ecosystem as a whole. Video is perhaps the most potent communication medium there is. What better way to show someone something than by showing it? And if you want firsthand experience of the latest and greatest coming out of the intersection of video and the internet, then you have to attend VidCon.
Catch you there next year.
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