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VidCon Wrap Up, Blog in the Dooblydoo

VidCon, online video's takeover of the Anaheim Convention Center, was interesting, thought provoking, educational, and honestly a lot of fun. Between keynotes and discussions on the future of online video, I witnessed mass gatherings of fan communities and enjoyed unexpected brief meetups with Dr. Lindsey Doe of sex ed channel Sexplanations, and Michael Stevens, creator and longtime host of the channel Vsauce. Amidst the controlled chaos of online video's biggest gathering, a few key trends emerged.

  • Online video is big. Like, really big –This was VidCon's largest gathering in its 7 year history with a reported 25,000 attendees, a far cry from its first 2010 event of 1,400 people. From PewDiePie's 40+ million subscribers to Vsauce's 10+ million, online creators have an impact on their throngs of screaming fans. (Side note, I had the opportunity to hold the Diamond Play Button that YouTube presented Michael for surpassing 10 million subscribers, and that thing is heavy)
  • There is a lot of interest (and uncertainty) in monetizing the space – The session I moderated on video analytics was packed, with half of the attendees identifying themselves as brand marketers. Online video is popular in large part because of the connection that creators share with their audience members. There is skepticism in the online video community towards advertisers and mass media business models.  Video blogger John Green exemplified these remarks in his opening keynote: “Creative projects do not exist to create revenue. Revenue exists to fund creative projects.”
  • Online video is embracing VR and 360° video – The panel on VR brand storytelling may have been one of the best-attended sessions at the Industry Track. Moderated by IoT Consortium CEO and President Greg Kahn, the session featured senior staff from the likes of Samsung and Red Bull, along with thought leaders in the content and tech space. Several attendees throughout the conference were capturing video with 360° cameras, including a video posted by Songify This musical group The Gregory Brothers.
  • It’s time to take YouTube Red seriously – YouTube Global Head of Original Content, Susanne Daniels, announced a new slate of originals for YouTube Red. Along with renewals for Scare PewDiePie and Foursome, Daniels announced a feature-length documentary about the transition of transgender actress and model Gigi Gorgeous directed by Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple. Daniels also announced a scripted series based on the Step Up films. The series will be produced in partnership with Lionsgate, to be executive produced by Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum. Partnerships with popular talent, award winning artists, and established studios gives YouTube legitimacy in the growing OTT video space.
  • Livestream at me, bro! – YouTube’s Product Lead for Immersive Experiences, Kurt Wilms, unveiled a demo of YouTube’s soon-to-be available Go Live function. The function will be built into YouTube's mobile app for livestreaming on-the-go. Once released, the function will put YouTube in the livestreaming fray along with Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook Live.

The online video space has changed drastically, but the communities built around creators are influential. While attending the Nerdfighter Night Concert Series, I enjoyed the fan companies of The Driftless Pony Club front man Craig “WheezyWaiter” Benzine and the title man of Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers. There could be no more appropriate way to close VidCon than singing along with The Gregory Brothers to viral hits like “The Bed Intruder Song” and “Double Rainbow Song.” As goofy as the online video space is, it just might be the future of entertainment.

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