Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has been the principal destination for online video. It started as a place to laugh at post-dental surgery children and Japanese cats more famous than you will ever be, and has turned into a platform for creators of all stripes to connect with diverse audiences. The platform’s influence seems to grow exponentially; as its audience matures, so does its creative reach. Now in its sixth year, VidCon is a conference that celebrates all that online video has to offer. IndieWire will be on the ground. Here are five reasons we’re excited to be there.
Heavyhitters Coming Out to Play
Four major networks will host some of the top talent on YouTube: Maker Studios, Fullscreen Media, New Form Digital and Rooster Teeth Productions. All of them are also making waves in the world of original digital content production. “PewDiePie,” which has been the most-subscribed YouTube channel since 2013, is part of the Maker Studios network, as is other lighter fare, like the amusing “Epic Rap Battles of History.” Fullscreen Media and New Form Digital are leading the way by funding original content for their hosted YouTube creators, and those efforts have paid off with Emmy contenders “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl” (Fullscreen), and “Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures” (New Form). Rooster Teeth is unique for only hosting original content produced by their creators at their Hollywood-style studio in Austin, Texas.
Diversity Thrives Online
You won’t be seeing a #YouTubeSoWhite hashtag trending anytime soon. Nor will you read think pieces about why female YouTubers can’t break the glass ceiling. On the contrary, Hollywood looks to YouTube for diverse voices. Issa Rae’s YouTube series “Awkward Black Girl” paved for the way for her forthcoming HBO pilot, “Insecure,” Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer work shopped their “Broad City” characters online, and gay vlogger Tyler Oakley just signed a development deal with Ellen DeGeneres’s new digital production company. Online content just might topple Hollywood’s white-dominated industry once and for all.
Opportunities for Aspiring Creators
VidCon hosts a plethora of panels on writing, producing, developing, and distributing online content. There are workshops in SnapChat storytelling, Vine secrets, algorithm hacks, special effects, and even open pitching sessions with top studios. Everything a young hopeful could ever want to learn about breaking into digital media. Top YouTubers often appear in videos together on each other’s channels, doubling their audiences. That spirit of collaboration is alive and well at VidCon.
Showcasing Up and Comers
Fans will certainly be lining up to hear talks from big names like Casey Neistat, Miranda Sings, Grace Helbig, Tyler Oakley, and Hannah Hart. But one of the most exciting things about VidCon 2016 is the chance for fans and talent scouts to familiarize themselves with talent from smaller channels on the rise: Like British comedic duo Jack and Dean, whose sketch show debuts on Fullscreen June 28, (Amy Schumer has appeared in sketches on the duo’s channel), or Wheezy Waiter, a jovial former waiter who bears a resemblance to the comedian Todd Barry. As the bigger stars move on to production deals, these smaller channels have a chance to grow their brand.
Witnessing Fan Culture
There’s a reason “VidCon” sounds a lot like “ComicCon.” It takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center. There are “cosplay” events, fan mixers, variety shows and open mics. There is a parental escort room designated for parents who didn’t buy tickets. There will be shrieking teenagers. Digital media engages with its audience in ways film and television cannot. YouTubers take fan comments seriously, often giving shout-outs and taking suggestions. Online culture was “interactive” long before it became a buzzword. VidCon provides the opportunity for real time audience interaction.
Stay tuned for more of IndieWire’s VidCon 2016 coverage throughout the week.