VidCon, the annual conference for online video creators and fans in Anaheim, California, drew more than 25,000 attendees this month (June 23-25). Alongside its main sponsor YouTube, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Netflix, Universal Pictures and Mars Inc. were also vying for their attention.
YouTube reaches 81.2% of all American internet users (YouTube, 2016), fuelling 40% year-on-year attendee growth for VidCon. With 80% of total YouTube views coming from outside the US, the conference will be launching international chapters in Amsterdam and Melbourne in 2017.
The sustained popularity of online consumer-creator communities highlights the fact that big entertainment brands are failing to reach considerable audiences. After noting that YouTube sees more prime-time viewers on mobile alone than any US cable or broadcast network, YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki said the platform is happy to "give people of any race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability or interest a place to come together and a place to belong".
VidCon co-founder Hank Green stressed the power of content that targets particular audiences. "The most interesting things that are happening in online video are the smaller, more innovative channels," he said. "If you add them up, it's where more of the views are. If we don't represent the reality, we might end up with the same consolidated, homogenised, boring media that we had before."
Niche content remains full of potential – and big entertainment brands are far from locked out. "With YouTube, we can super-serve fan bases with specific interests," said Don Wilcox, vice-president of digital and marketing at YouTube network PBS Digital Studios.
For more on marketing beyond the mainstream and embracing a majority-minority mindset, see No Normal: Post-Diversity Marketing.