By Liz Shannon Miller
This week, the fourth annual VidCon kicks off at the Anaheim Convention Center, bringing together the web video world’s industry leaders and the web video world’s biggest fans. (Think Comic-Con, but with a serious eye on the business.) There’s a ton of interesting programming to check out this weekend — here are just a few highlights to consider from Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s schedules.
Direct links to panel listings aren’t available, so consult your program guide for exact locations and lineups.
If you can get there right away… At 9 AM Thursday morning, VidCon kicks off with an industry keynote that contains at least two can’t-miss speakers — Vlogbrother and VidCon co-founder John Green on “a business model focused on quality of engagement rather than number of views,” and Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos on “what he sees as the future of online video.” (The other two speakers, angel investor Mark Suster and Taco Bell social media lead Nick Tran, also seem promising.)
Potential real talk about MCNs: On Thursday at 1:30, an industry breakout session entitled “Networks, Independents, and Everything in between” will discuss the necessity of joining a multi-channel network, and with speakers including the notoriously independent Fine Brothers, things could get interesting.
Do you have to live in LA? There’s actually another panel directly addressing this question at a different time, but at 3:30 PM on Thursday, “Is Digital Really the Great Equalizer?” will feature Rooster Teeth’s Burnie Burns, Alli Trippy, Mark Gardner and Charlie “Charlieissocoollike” McDonnell — all of whom (living as they do well outside the “LA bubble”) are more than well-equipped to discuss the topic.
At least a little bit of the main stage: On Friday and Saturday, the bulk of VidCon’s screaming fans will file in and out of the convention center’s largest auditorium for relatively short sessions featuring some of the biggest names at the conference. Taking at least half an hour to check out a few of the musical performances and Q&A sessions is a great way to not only sample what’s currently popular online, but witness the excitement of sincere fans.
Some pros unload pro tips: Two breakout sessions on Friday at 11 AM have a lot of potential: YouTube head of programming strategy Ben Relles, whose experience online dates back to the 2007 Obama Girl series days, talks about what it currently takes to create a hit show for YouTube. And director/DP Joe Nation, who’s shot everything from Totally Sketch to Black Box TV, will be teaching viewers how to “shoot it fast and awesome.”
Jim Louderback takes a cue from George Carlin: The Revision3 CEO’s industry keynote session set for 2:00 PM on Friday promises to reveal “The 7 words you can’t say about TV and Online Video!”
Get your boogie on: Friday and Saturday night’s all-ages festivities include a concert series featuring The Gregory Brothers, Chester See, Timothy DeLaGhetto and DeStorm, followed by dance parties that go until 1 AM. The slightly older set might prefer hanging out in the Hilton hotel lobby across the way (though good luck getting a drink — it tends to be a packed scene).
The secrets of content development: Saturday at 11 AM offers an industry-only roundtable discussion of creating shows for the web, featuring a solid lineup including Lizzie Bennet Diaries showrunner Bernie Su, My Damn Channel’s Molly Templeton and Mark Malkoff, and YouTuber Olga Kay.
Make a tough decision: Saturday at 2 PM, your industry-only choices are between Hannah Hart discussing her recent North American volunteer tour and the always-outspoken Jason Calacanis digging into the question of audience relationships. Both will probably prove insightful. It’s your call.
And now, some blatant self-promotion: Both VideoInk editorial director Sahil Patel and I will be moderating panels on the subject of Kickstarter: mine is Friday at 12:30 PM, featuring Hannah Hart and ShayCarl, and Sahil’s is Saturday at 12:30 PM, featuring Freddie Wong and Jenni Powell. Sahil is also moderating “Make Online Media Make Sense” on Thursday at 2:30, if you want to check it out.
In general: Don’t miss VidCon. It’s rare for an event to capture both sides of an industry — the business and the community alike — but the past three years have proved it’s possible. Every year I’ve come away excited about YouTube and web video and those who are watching it and those who are making it; that’s a feeling worth chasing.