As the old saying goes, the best way to make a 27-year-old reporter feel like an old man is to send him to VidCon.
And what did this old man learn on the first day of the massive online video convention? That teenagers don’t give a damn about traditional TV.
Instead, digital video is now the entertainment choice for Generation Z. It’s the reason thousands of kids from around the world descended upon the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, on Wednesday — for a chance to meet their favorite YouTube creators.
Roasting under the sunlight on a cloudless 86-degree day, young girls shook with anticipation as they patiently waited one-by-one to say “hi” to their heroes.
“I met Josh here today and I was so nervous I could barely say something to him,” Ashley, a high school student from Victorville, California, said.
That would be Josh of “Exploring With Josh” fame — a YouTube creator making adventure videos on a range of topics, from Japanese hidden graveyards to the catacombs underneath Paris. His channel has more than two million subscribers.
Ashley’s friend Maddie, when asked if she still enjoys watching shows on TV, quickly responded: “It doesn’t interest me at all.”
This was the standard answer from the dozens of attendees I talked to. Lauren, a 16-year-old from Virginia, told TheWrap succinctly “no one watches TV anymore.”
And the swarm of bodies these online celebs attracted certainly backed up her claim.
Jimmy Here, a Vine star famous for wearing a Spider-Man costume and yelling at the top of his lungs, took selfies with several adoring fans. Decked out in his full Peter Parker getup, Here told TheWrap that he was excited to meet his followers and was looking to “meet people a little bit bigger than me and potentially collaborating.”
It quickly became evident the eighth-annual VidCon was tailor-made for a young audience — the only people I saw or talked to older than 30 were chaperoning a younger family member. With their mom flanked to the right, two high school students from Utah rattled off a laundry list of their top teeny-bopper creators, including Zach Clayton, David Dobrick, and Andrea Russett — the trio combine for more than eight million YouTube followers.
When pressed about why online video is more palatable to a young audience, Jodie, one of the two kids from Utah, said it’s all about options. “You can find anything you like on YouTube, Vimeo, or Twitter, and you feel connected to [the creators] because they care about the same stuff you do.” She then said she’s been inspired to start her own vlog.
At the same time, the mutual admiration between creator and fans ran both ways at VidCon. Stondie, a 23-year-old YouTuber from North Carolina, said he flew out to meet both fans and other video-makers. He’s also looking to pull in new viewers for his “funny rap” videos.
“I only have 35,000 followers, and I’m shooting for 100,000,” Stondie said. He definitely came to the right place to make it happen.