Want to be a YouTube star? There’s a convention for that.
About 18,000 video content creators, viral video stars and their fans are expected to flock to the fifth annual VidCon, a three-day conference being held this weekend.
The gathering, which kicks off at the Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday, has everything from panels featuring YouTube stars like Rebecca Black (the artist behind the viral song “Friday”) to workshops like “How to YouTube.” There’s even a “VidCon Prom” celebration on Saturday night.
In 2010, VidCon’s inaugural year, the conference took place at a smaller venue in Los Angeles and drew about 1,400 attendees. This year, it will occupy two halls in the Anaheim Convention Center.
“VidCon’s goal is to reflect the state of online video,” co-organizer Hank Green said in an interview. “As it continues to grow, we will also.”
The growth in popularity is a testament to the success of online video content, especially among younger people who use the website as creative outlets to video blog (vlog) or follow their favorite online personas.
Green and his brother John, author of the book “The Fault in Our Stars,” came up with the idea for the convention after going on a small tour around the U.S. for their YouTube fans.
Green knew his “VlogBrothers" channel on YouTube had fans. But it wasn’t until about 80 people showed up at a small library in Michigan to see the duo that he realized the magnitude of their viewership.
“It was shocking so many people showed up to see us,” Green said. “We absolutely knew we wanted to create something for our audiences and everyone else’s audiences because there was a desire for it.
And because Los Angeles is the “geographical center” for YouTubers, Hank said it was an obvious choice for the conference’s location.
“I think [online video content] is a huge cultural phenomenon that no one can take credit for or explain or understand,” Green said. “We’re all just sort of watching it happen and trying to reflect it and ride along with it in the most effective ways we can.”
One headliner for the conference is YouTube star Tyler Oakley, whose channel has more than 4.6 million subscribers.
Oakley makes a living as a successful full-time vlogger. He's known as an advocate for LBGT rights, and comments often on politics and pop culture. His YouTube page description reads:"Here you'll find plenty sassiness and beauty and fabulousness!"
“I realized that more and more people were watching," said Oakley, who first got on YouTube in 2007 as a way to keep in touch with friends.
"From that, I discovered that YouTube had a community and there were ways to build an audience," he said, "and experience something that was bigger than a fun hobby.”
This will be his fourth VidCon and his second time as a special guest. Now, Oakley said it’s difficult walking around at the convention center without a fan stopping him for a photo, an autograph or just to chat.
“Traditional celebrities get that everywhere they go … a YouTuber you can kind of walk around a bit in everyday life,” he said. “But when you take the super fans of all super fans and put them in one convention center, it kind of changes the entire feel of what you do. It’s crazy to see that much excitement surrounding creators, but it’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Danielle Acosta, a 19-year-old from Palm Springs, is most excited to see Oakley at her first VidCon. She is so excited about the conference that she began a countdown on her iPhone nine months ago and delayed her back surgery to later this summer.
"My surgeons laughed at me when it told them to push it back to July,” she joked. “But I’m so excited.”
Though the aspiring cinematographer is not a vlogger herself, Acosta said she enjoys being part of the community of YouTube viewers.
“I like it because we’re not just people behind the computer,” she said. “We’re a group that comes together with a lot in common.”
For more news on VidCon, follow me @saba_h