Before attending VidCon, my friend had called to warn me that I was going to feel "really old" at the annual video industry conference. But as I waded through crowds of children dressed like unicorns holding selfie sticks at the Anaheim Convention Center, I couldn't tell if I was in line to pick up my VidCon badge or go on a ride at Disneyland.

Although I have attended countless technology conferences and startup events filled with college kids and recent dropouts, I have never seen anything quite like VidCon. 

Youtube stars that I had never heard of were swarmed by thousands of young fans who were clearly meeting their idols. But some of these seven-figure earning stars were just as young. Indeed, the "Community Track," which is the largest subsection at the conference accounting for 60% of attendees, is skewed female with most attendees under the age of 21. The remaining sections, the "Creator Track" and "Industry Track," are a little bit older, with average ages between 21-34, but just like the platforms that VidCon represents, there is no age minimum for creators. 

Among the crowd of over 70,000 attendees were also executives from companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Hasbro, and NBC--attending to speak with influencers and try to get a pulse on the future evolution of video. Instagram and YouTube both used the VidCon stage to make big announcements about new product releases and other important changes.

Here are some major takeaways from VidCon 2018:

1. Platform competition is getting fierce

Right before VidCon kicked off, Instagram made the announcement of "IGTV," a video platform focused on mobile. By allowing IGTV videos to be up to an hour long, Instagram is directly competing with YouTube for their creators' video content.  While Instagram isn't yet serving ads on IGTV, Instagram's Strategic Partner Development executive, Jackson Williams, said that monetization will come by the end of 2018.

2. We're entering the era of "creator appreciation"

The general theme of VidCon seemed to be "creator appreciation." VidCon co-founder Hank Green announced that the organization would be giving away $104,000 in the form of weekly $2000 grants as part of the Creator Grant Program.

YouTube's keynote at VidCon discussed new opportunities for creators to monetize inside YouTube, including channel memberships. For creators with over 100,000 subscribers on their channel, they can offer their subscribers to become "Channel Members" for $4.99 per month in exchange for exclusive perks such as member-only content or custom badges.

Facebook also announced new features for the creator community just before the VidCon, including "Brand Collabs Manager" to help brands connect with talent for influencer marketing partnerships based on audience similarity.

3. Top creators are using multiple platforms

After attending many talks and panels with top creators, I kept hearing the same general message: creators should take advantage of multiple platforms.  While more platforms can often mean a bigger audience, this is also driven by the need to stay agile in the wake of sudden unexpected platform changes like the "Ad Apocalypse" of 2017. However, creators also warned that subscribers on one channel won't necessarily follow your content to another channel. This fits with what ChannelMeter's CEO Eugene Lee told me, which was that the audience demographics between YouTube, Twitch, and other platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat are very different.

4. Timeliness is critical, but maintain brand consistency

During VidCon I had the opportunity to speak with Rafi Fine from FBE, the media company that popularized reaction videos that have helped them gain over 10 billion lifetime views. Fine explained some of FBE's processes for selecting which ideas to test and produce, mentioning they "have a checklist of about 25 things," and the more criteria an idea meets, the more likely it is that it will be successful with their audience and trend on whatever platform they're launching it on. He says that his team tries to "check off as many [items] as possible to allow for the highest probability of video success and longevity." 

While his team tries to create specific formats that can be somewhat timeless and easily evergreened, they have begun focusing on trying to make their new content as relevant to current trends and news as possible. "We try to be very responsive to algorithms of platforms," explains Fine, "We had to retool the entire studio nine months ago [in light of the algorithm changes]. Prior to that we had the luxury to spend more time on the episodes. Before, we would still have people watching and liking [[the videos], but now that's changed with how content is being served with the [new] algorithms." Fine goes on to tell me about "Facebook freshness" and "shiny object syndrome," saying that even if "your audience is subscribed, you won't necessarily get served your content" unless you have the most relevant content. 

Is your business doing anything interesting with video, especially in the context of marketing and brand awareness? If so, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Published on: Jul 17, 2018