The first VidCon in Los Angeles was a fan event where audience members could meet their YouTube favorites in person. For the most part the crowd was under twenty-one. There were older attendees, but they were most often in the company of teenagers too young to have driven themselves.
The day was broken up into large audience performances and presentations followed by breakout sessions with individuals or groups that had been part of the previous stage event. Attendees formed a line and waited for the chance to shake hands, chat and have a photo or video moment with their favorite performers. Sometimes the lines snaked halfway around the hall, and you wonder how they could possibly all get through before the next session.
One of the surprises of VidCon was how nice the “stars” were. The internet has a rep for being hard and cruel, with the anonymity allowing for serious, hurtful flaming. But the folks who “make it” on the web do so by being social, by “playing nice” with each other and with their fans. There is a lot of direct communication between them even before a face-to-face event like this, so that the rules of friendship apply as much as the rules of celebrity. One father in line with his daughter remarked on how impressed he was with the genuine interest the web celebrities showed in their fans.
I left VidCon with a completely different view of the web video world. Yes every second person was shooting video, and there was a lot of posturing for the camera. But the cutthroat do not rise in this community. It’s way too hard with too little reward at the beginning. The successes are not just the ones who make content that serves the tastes of the community. All of Hollywood and my 9-year-old nephew are also trying to do that. That desire is not enough. The ones who stay at it long enough and succeed are the ones who genuinely love YouTube. They spend 60 hours a week there. They watch, they post, they comment, they get known, they are equals in a community. They want to interact with their youtuber friends. This may change over time, but for now, I felt that even Mr. Rogers would have approved of such a “neighborhood.”
July 9-11, 2010
Century Plaza Hotel
Century City, CA