VidCon by the Numbers: The YouTube Convention’s Coming of Age

YouTuber Maxwell Glick Surrounded By Fangirls at VidCon 2014

YouTube Celebrity Maxwell Glick, actor on Emmy Award winning YouTube based transmedia series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, swarmed by a flock of fangirls.  Photo credit to @TheValerieP

This year’s VidCon spanned from June 26-28th at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. YouTube chauffeured some major brands around the convention, encouraging them to participate in the fan experience. Mobs of screaming tweenage and teenage girls flocked to their favorite YouTube stars, while brands looked on at exactly how real YouTube is and how important it is to reach these kinds of fans. One representative from a brand even coined the term “Veatles” to describe these “vlogging Beatles” and the frenzy around them, drawing comparison to Beatlemania in the 1960s.

This year there was a palpable change in the air. YouTube is in the major leagues. It is only fair to measure the breadth, depth and growth of a convention about YouTubers via YouTube.

Where are YouTubers Uploading Videos From?

VidCon, although staged in Anaheim California, founded by American YouTubers Hank and John Green, is an international event. This past year there was a large presence of international YouTubers. There is a popular and rising community of British YouTubers, and over the past five conventions, videos have been uploaded from all over the world. While English speaking countries dominate the number of videos (in 2013 close to 1,600 of the 5,100 videos about VidCon were uploaded in the United States) and a majority of the views on videos about VidCon, fandoms span the globe.

VidCon Uploaders by Country (1)

Growth of YouTubers and VidCon

Each year attendance to the convention grows. So does participation on YouTube, and so does the the number of videos about VidCon uploaded to YouTube. Granted, we have not yet given a full 30 days from the event, so YouTubers are still processing, editing and uploading their videos from and about VidCon, and are likely to for another two weeks, but the bulk of videos are in. From the time registration opens, until the actual event, YouTubers make videos about VidCon.

In 2010, the first year of VidCon there were 2,034 videos uploaded about VidCon. The number of videos exceeds the number of conference attendees by a few hundred. While this year it is estimated that the conference had about 18,000 attendees, a much larger proportion of those are fans and industry professionals, many of whom do not upload to YouTube about their lives.

When looking at the window of time immediately surrounding the convention, the cumulative number of videos climbs most dramatically in the first week, and then slows, using VidCon as the subject of videos for the rest of the year. VidCon re-emerges as a subject when registration opens and going to VidCon or wanting to go to VidCon become the subject of videos pertaining to VidCon. Just over half of all videos about VidCon last year happened in the two weeks surrounding the event.

Every year, uploads about VidCon have increased. Rate of upload tends to pick up after the convention ends, with most people detailing the experience after the fact. There is a visible shift in upload patterns when the event changed venues from the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza to the Anaheim Convention Center in 2012.

VidCon Uploads (non-cumulative) (1)

The purple line, representing the first year of the convention, is clearly anomalous in that the most uploads around the time of VidCon happened on the first day of the event, rather than after the event. From there a pattern emerges, with a spike of uploads from the event and a large spike a couple days after the event.

The dip between the two can be accounted for the amount of time it takes to make a video coupled with a travel day leaving the event. As the convention grows, the double spike pattern becomes more pronounced and spread out, perhaps because of the increased duration of VidCon, from two to three days long, and the increased scale of YouTube, making the event more exhausting for creators.

VidCon

There was an impromptu change in policy for signing lines due to the overwhelming presences of fans and the limited time and space in which signings were conducted. Some have complained that VidCon has mainstreamed, squeezing out the middle class of smaller creators to make way for fangirls and brands, neither of which have quite grasped how to build and participate in productive communities centered around YouTube. Others applaud this convention and its growth for shining light on the realities of the platform and providing a space for in-person collaboration, networking, and knowledge. Still others are just getting hip to the existence of VidCon.

As YouTube grows and communities form the nature of the platform evolves as well. While some fans like to learn from and engage with the creators, others simply derive energy from proximity. VidCon is the bellwether of these changes in fan expression and the business of YouTube across the platform as a whole. For brands that did not attend, they missed out and are officially, and visibly late to the game, and certainly late to the parties.

Maxwell Glick, even in his rise to celebrity status, says about VidCon, “There really is a place for everyone. Meeting like minded people who share your interests and are enthusiastic about them is just so cool. That’s the best part.” Everyone includes fans, YouTubers, brands and businesses alike.

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  • VEATLES !!! Haha that’s dope. Yeah Vidcon 2014 was my second time attending, and you definitely felt the Beatlemania in the air. It just shows how real youtube is.

    I met one of the bigger creators, Ricky Dillon. He’s a real humble and nice guy, after talking to him I got an idea of why these tween girls go crazy over him, if you’re fake you won’t grow an audience on youtube.

    • Meredith Gene Levine

      It was my second year going as well. There was a different vibe to this year’s. A lot more fangirling going on and it felt like there were a lot more people there. What was meaningful about your whole VidCon experience? Are you coming to it from the perspective of a YouTuber?

      • Yeah I attended from the perspective of a YouTuber. I would say my first year was from the perspective of a fan. This year however, my goal was to network and learn more about making videos on Youtube. I think scheduling my time at Vidcon made everything less chaotic. There were more people this year but it felt structured for me.

        I feel like Vidcon has a better grasp on the relationship between viewer / creator, specifically with the security this year, they worked pretty hard.