VidCon—the conference that brings together online creators and their fans—has become an influential event, where brands are beginning to target fans, launch products, and more.
This weekend, screaming teens and the online influencers/stars they love came together at the 7th annual VidCon in California. At the event The New York Times describes as “the Millennial and post-Millennial equivalent” of Comic-Con, fans connect with their favorite video creators from across the web. This year, attendance was poised to grow to 30,000 from 21,000 in 2015, when attendees were mostly teens and females. In the wake of VidCon’s success, other events—like Stream Con—have sprung up to offer young fans the chance to meet the content creators they watch on phones and laptops…but VidCon is the biggest and most influential of the bunch. YouTube is a main sponsor, and the most-known icons of the new generation of fame attend to “speak on panels, perform comedy sketches, play music, participate in signings, answer questions, [and] present inspiring talks.”
With online creators’ influence rivaling that of traditional celebrities (and surpassing it among some groups), events like VidCon are becoming can’t miss industry affairs. Of course, every platform from Instagram to Flipagram were present to show off their viral stars and online creatives, but this year’s VidCon also included some bigger announcements and activations. Here’s the must-know news that came out of this year’s celebration of online celebrity:
This year, in the words of one attendee, VidCon went Hollywood. As the Times reported, the six-year-old fan convention has gotten too big for mainstream studios and networks to ignore. The movie industry in particular came calling at VidCon 2016, with booths and activations created to appeal to the influential, and difficult to reach audience—a.k.a., young viewers who are watching YouTube instead of TV. To promote the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Warner Bros. set up a Harry Potter display that allowed visitors to receive “wand master training” and have a video of their magical moment sent straight to their phones. A video of online creators from around the world receiving their own wand training was posted to the film’s Twitter. Universal’s Secret Life of Pets was debuted at the event in partnership with Fullscreen, and their photobooth encouraged attendees to share pictures with the characters to win prizes. Netflix, which has been recruiting online talent for original programming, set up a Netflix Lounge, where their other shows—like the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Fuller House— were promoted. Traditional TV channels were there as well, and IBT reported that The Food Network and HGTV’s make-your-own cupcake station might have been “the most popular attraction.” Without a doubt, Hollywood’s presence at this year’s VidCon was more involved and widespread than ever before—and we would bet that next year the engagements will be even more elaborate, and the brands even more numerous.
Is VidCon the new SXSW? Not quite, but where better to premier new video-centric apps than a gathering of the most prolific video creators and consumers? Time, Inc. chose VidCon 2016 to launch INSTANT, their new video-only platform built for online celebrities. The free site—“powered by People and Entertainment Weekly”—shows exclusive short content created by social media influencers in a continuous stream. Visitors to instant.me (accessible on mobile browsers) can click through faced-paced content like video shorts, interview snippets, and more, like an online visual fanzine. Visitors are greeted with the message, “we are obsessively dedicated to covering ‘the new famous,’” and the feed will feature content from stars of YouTube, Vine, YouNow, and Musical.ly along with original series. Also unveiled at VidCon was AOL’s new face-tracking app Switch—a platform clearly inspired by Snapchat lenses and filters. Users can switch faces with avatars, masks and other content like 3D Bobble Heads and burst videos, and can share their Switch creations on any platform. AOL tells Mashable, “’Our strategy is to be more open than the competition…Teens use every network, they don’t want to be locked into a single platform.’”
While some media players introduced new platforms, the big names in live streaming made announcements that made it clear the competition is heating up. Facebook Live unveiled their new face filters at VidCon, the first result of their acquisition of the MSQRD app earlier this year. Users adding filters like animal masks and astronaut helmets on MSQRD will be able to “go live” on Facebook directly from the app. The new function is a clear swipe at Snapchat. Additional tools like the ability to stream a live broadcast with two people in different locations, and set up a “waiting room” for live content viewers were also announced. Meanwhile, YouTube demonstrated the latest addition to their YouTube Live capabilities: the ability to stream live from mobile devices. Until now, the site’s live streaming was available only from computer cameras, which has held it back as live content’s popularity has grown. Mobile live streaming puts YouTube Live in more direct competition with Periscope and Facebook Live, indicating that the live streaming competition will keep amping up.