VidCon Proves YouTube Stars Are A New Breed Of Celebrities

iJustineA version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

VidCon’s format facilitates a number of opportunities for fans to connect and interact with their YouTube idols. For the uninitiated, VidCon is a mashup between the Consumer Electronics Show and E! Entertainment. Inspired by ComicCon, VidCon is an annual convention centered around the online video community. Not surprisingly, it is heavily sponsored by video overlord YouTube. I covered the show’s opening day festivities HERE.

The conference was created in 2010 by Hank and John Green, when they hosted approximately 1,400 fans and industry insiders. The 2013 event drew over 11,000 people and was sold out months ago. In addition, over 6,000 people were put on a waiting list, in case some of the confirmed attendees bailed at the last minute.

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Hollywood Gap

The nature of the creative process of legacy Hollywood movies separates fans from the content creators. Movies often require months to script and cost, additional months to film and are usually not released until months or even years after post-production work is completed.

In contrast, YouTubers such as GloZell post their videos hours, if not minutes, after creating them. This allows for a timely, spontaneous and authentic connection to develop between the YouTube personalities and their fans. Topical issues can be addressed and the interactions can continue via transmedia, in the form of YouTube comments, Tweets, Facebook posts, etc.

The immediate and unvarnished nature of these various interactions between a YouTuber and their audience creates an intimacy that cannot be replicated by old-school Hollywood.

To underscore the lack of separation between the performers and the audience, YouTubers pro-actively involve their fans in their films. For instance, many online video celebrities draw from fan suggestions when creating new videos and they often comment on and promote videos fans create.

In addition, nearly every YouTuber who performed at VidCon filmed the audience while interacting with them. No doubt this footage was quickly incorporated into a video and uploaded to their YouTube channels. It is hard to imagine Angelina Jolie or Matthew McConaughey similarly involving their fans in one of their productions.

Celebrities In The House

Tyler-OakleyThe degree to which YouTube stars provide access to their fans at VidCon is fairly startling,admirable and at times a little frightening. I only saw two private security guards and they were assigned to YouTubers who probably didn’t need them.

Although it is a bit pricy, an advantage to Attending Vidcon’s Industry Day is that the attendance is a fraction of the show’s general admission audience. Thus, it is possible to have meaningful conversations with YouTubers who would otherwise be surrounded by adoring fans.

Below are some photos from the show, each with a prototypical YouTube fan (i.e., male, 14 – 24).

Captain-SparklezYouTubers’ direct connection with their audience translates into a desire to meet and interact with their fans. The online video stars know that direct, unfiltered, and sometimes painfully awkward encounters with their viewers are vital to their success.

Thus, mingling with a YouTube celebrity feels like chatting with an old friend, rather than speaking with someone who is begrudgingly fulfilling an obligation. This makes attending YouTube meetups like VidCon a rewarding experience, for both fans and industry insiders alike.

Keep your eye out for 2014 tickets, which will go on sale next spring. See you there.

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John Greathouse

John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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