WCC: VidCon 2011 Wrap-Up: The Growth of A Convention and An Industry

Tuesday, 02 August 2011 08:20 Written by  Jenni Powell
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WCC: VidCon 2011 Wrap-Up: The Growth of A Convention and An Industry

For those of you not aware of what VidCon is, or haven't had a chance to check out iamrogue's coverage of Industry Day, here is a summary: it's where online video stars go to be worshipped. 

Okay, it's not just that, though the center of the event most definitely focuses on giving the online video community one-on-one facetime with the creators they admire.  While mainstage performances felt more like attending concerts, there was also just as much educational programming included: break-out sessions, panel discussions, and presentations were spaced evenly with Q & A sessions and musical performances.

I had the absolute pleasure of being asked by Hank Green, who along with his brother, John (the brothers create a top-100 YouTube channel called Vlogbrothers), created the event, to put together a slate of Industry Day programming as well as allowing me to suggest community programming as well (the first idea I pitched was a lonelygirl15 reunion, which due to me and John's mutual love of the show that helped launch online video as a viable storytelling device, made it into the mainstage programming).   The reason for expanding Industry Day was a belief that Hank and I both share: that the gap between those who create first-person entertainment on YouTube and those who prefer to create scripted web series needs to continue to be closed.

There were other changes between the first annual VidCon and this year's second annual event.  IncrediBull Entertainment, helmed by their amazing US Operations Director, Carver Wright, was brought onboard to handle all the logistics of the event.  These were the true heroes of VidCon, bringing a crew full of boundless energy and ability to problem solve under pressure.  There were also the amazing volunteers.  Clad in red shirts, these dynamos, many who actually PAID for tickets, spent days making sure attendees got where they needed to go, often calming down some of the more…overzealous…fans.  They became their own little family, bonded by the experiences they shared as gatekeepers of the online community.

A few distinct things became clear at this years convention: 1) The quality of the talent involved has continued to raise the bar and 2) The quantity of creators has grown exponentially.  The result of these two things pushed the convention to bursting at the seems of it's current location, the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.  Therefore, next years event will move to the Anaheim Convention Center.  A bigger venue will mean bigger opportunities to showcase even more diversified talent.  For instance, I'd love to see more focus on the very popular area of online cooking shows (Epic Meal Time made an appearance this year, but did not cook live) as well as bringing in some of the younger YouTubers such as 15 year-old Harrison Houde (AKA Turnip Time), who is one of the hardest working up-and-coming YouTubers around.  The youngest participants in this year's event were the adorable stars of The Fine Brothers' Kids React, who wowed the stage not only with their cuteness but their incredible insights into how online video affects them.  "I didn't know we were such a big deal", 9 year-old Dylan said.

From what I experienced and watched, two very distinct themes were emerging for how you currently succeed in online video.  Mind you, there is a difference between "succeeding" online and "making money" online, distinctions that were pointed out again and again through the three day conference.  Success online was discussed as reaching the level where video views are plentiful and comments are many and those are the calling cards that can be utilized to garner your online success into other opportunities.  Musicians seem to be most successful at this, with this year's livestreamed portion of the event (linked below) to contain no less than three of these success stories (The Piano Guys, Karmin, and George Watsky).  This is in contrast to those successfully monetizing their online channels themselves, whether through revenue sharing, merchandising, or branded content.  There are of course other unique ways of cashing in online, such as Orabrush's success marketing their product once they moved into the online sphere, that were celebrated at this year's event as well.

The general themes hit upon over and over again could loosely be boiled down to two: first, to succeed in online video, you have to have the passion for it.  You have to love doing it above anything else and be willing to work very very hard for it.  Second, your content has to be good.  Take the time to make the highest quality content at your disposal.  Invest in the right equipment or get the appropriate help to achieve that quality.  It seems clear that in this growing and competitive industry, having just one or the other is not going to be enough.  Those who can achieve both will have the advantage and distinguish themselves above the din of the 48 hours a day of online video being uploaded to YouTube alone.

So if you're hoping to make it onto the VidCon 2012 mainstage, there is only one piece of advice I can give: Don't Forget To Be Awesome.

Web Content Corner is a weekly IAR exclusive column where new media guru Jenni Powell discusses online trends, and speaks with the most important creators working in the industry today.

Jenni Powell has been deeply involved in innovative online communities for several years, dating back to the cult Internet series Nobody's Watching (over 40M views) and later becoming a central figure on the web video breakout lonelygirl15 fan community. This led to her creating the fan-favorite parody series lonelyJew15, which landed her a job at lonelygirl15's production company EQAL. She has a strong background in production working with Upright Citizen's Brigade (UCB) A&E's Deadliest Catch, and Lifetime's Lisa Williams Life Amongst The Dead. Online, Jenni has worked on many popular web series such as the smash Microsoft-sponsored hit The Guild, Streamy Award-nominated With the Angels, Poor Paul, The Crew, and Comedy Central's Atom.com standout The Legend of Neil. She freelance writes for popular web entertainment site Tubefilter News and consults on and produces various transmedia entertainment projects around the web, such as the ghost-hunting comedy Bumps in the Night, the No Mimes Media 10 minute transmedia experience Webishades, and the Atom.com series Video Game Reunion. She is also the Staff writer for DeFranco Inc., which is headed by YouTube influencer Phillip DeFranco.

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