A quick Google search and perusing of the VidCon 2014 website was not enough to prepare me for all I experienced last weekend in Anaheim, California. As soon as I stepped through the convention center doors I blended in all too well with the 18,000 giddy tweens in attendance. I rushed to the registration table, barely escaping the vortex of screaming and crying YouTube fans.
What did I get myself into? I repeatedly asked myself. And why were these tweens so emotional to the point of tears every time their favorite YouTuber walked by? The 7+ bodyguards surrounding each YouTube celebrity vlogger suddenly made much more sense to me.
So, how exactly did these kids’ YouTube channels create so much buzz? Fullscreen, a global network connecting content creators and brands on YouTube (and Radix client) signs on YouTube stars many of which were hot commodities at VidCon 2014 and supports them in creating compelling and interesting content that draws fans and viewers into their world(s). As I ate my lunch outside the convention center, another mob of screaming girls began running across the quad and into the building (this scene happened on an average of two times every six minutes—I counted). Curious, I asked two girls standing next to me if they knew what star had just been chased into the building. After quickly confirming that it was Tyler Oakley, a VidCon favorite (see video below), they continued to explain their justification for all of the running, screaming, chasing, and crying. Obsession.
When I asked if they had attended VidCon last year and they responded, “Oh no, we just became obsessed with YouTube this past year.” This surprisingly indicative statement intrigued me, and I decided I wanted to get other attendee perspectives. Why were they at VidCon? How long have they had this obsession? How big of an impact does YouTube have on their everyday lives?
Enter Radix Rookie Reporter / Selfie Professional: Kelly Rodgers
VidCon 2014 Attendee Profiles:
Ceci, TJ, and Andie are second and third-year returning VidCon attendees, but started really getting into YouTube as early as 2006 and 2007.
Surprised to find that they were all from different cities, I wondered how they had become so close. “We all met last year and came together this year, and now we’re all friends. We also met other people on our Tumblr pages—it’s really fun seeing them here in real life.”
I quickly realized the immense impact these YouTube channels had on their dedicated viewers. TJ confessed that he now wanted to devote his career to filmmaking because of how inspired he was from the videos he watched. Andie explained how YouTube has changed her personality and made her much more open: “I feel like I’ve grown with YouTube.” “It has really shaped me as a musician—made me branch out and listen to new things and try new stuff out,” Ceci added. WheezyWaiter was this group’s favorite for YouTube celebrity vloggers.
This was Nina, Sophie, and Bronywyn’s second year at VidCon since becoming obsessed with YouTube in 2011.
These three fans had become friends earlier in the day and explained how nice it was that they all had something in common whether it was their love for certain stars, channels, or videos.
I felt compelled to ask about the running and screaming that took place in the convention center and was very pleased with their response: “It’s a lot better to not run and chase the YouTubers—if you’re patient and wait in line like everyone else, you can actually talk to them and meet them and share a real connection.” However, Bronywyn quickly added that of course there were some YouTubers worth running for. Favorites included: Tyler Oakley, Our2ndLife (O2L), and Caspar.
I accidentally ran into some Fullscreen YouTube stars in my quest to understand the mystery that is VidCon. Eric Striffler and ItsJillStrif gave some interesting insight on what it’s like to be the ones being chased by hoards of screaming fans.
Long time special guest of VidCon, Eric expressed his condolences for the harassment experienced by fellow YouTubers. “It’s crazy the things we have to put up with here.” While Eric was uneasy about the severity of the mob scenes, he still commends VidCon for allowing fans to meet those that have inspired them.
“It’s hilarious to watch the moms and dads here who have no idea what is going on,” Eric confessed. I then remembered what my face must have looked like upon entering VidCon and imagined it looked similar to those of the many confused parents drug there against their will.
A group of first-time attendees revealed that they most enjoyed YouTube’s sense of community.
One group member explained how he had been making YouTube videos for two years before he really started getting into the YouTube community about six months ago. He explained how much YouTube has influenced his life: “People have started giving me a lot of respect since I’ve been a part of this community. It’s an opportunity to show yourself and who you are—and people respect you for that.”
After I concluded my hard-hitting reporting, I finally received some justification for the madness inside the convention center. VidCon was a way to connect with those YouTubers that have changed their lives. For some, this YouTube community meant life-long friendships and acceptance. For others, YouTube was a transition into a meaningful career.
My experience at VidCon opened up a new world, but also left me with a few questions regarding the future of television, YouTube, and consumer interaction:
Is YouTube becoming the new cable? Will more interactive meet ups pop up to allow for more face-to-face communication between creator and consumer? Will we see more transparency between fans and stars? What is the future for television and content creation? And on a personal side note… Are selfies the new autograph? Have an answer or opinion? Feel free to comment!
Also, check out some other photos I took while at the convention:
Thanks for reading.