Video creators look for bigger audiences at VidCon

By Derrik J. Lang

Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 29 2011 7:40 a.m. MDT

In this publicity image released by The Honig Company, founders of VidCon. John Green, left, and Hank Green address attendees at the second annual VidCon, a four-day summit of producers, viral video stars and industry executives, Thursday, July 28, 2011 in Los Angeles.

The Honig Company, LLC, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — At a weekend conference for online video, one might expect cute puppies or unlucky skateboarders to be in attendance. Perhaps a "Twilight" cast member or Rebecca Black would be there?

Yet none of the above is present, though one panel — "I Got This, You Got This, Now You Know It" — is named after a lyric from Black's viral music video sensation "Friday."

The attendees at the second annual VidCon, which runs through Sunday at a Century City hotel, are decidedly more aspirational than accidental. They are sketch comedians, musicians, make-up artists, animators, acrobats and other creative-types seeking to build their online followings and meet like-minded online video creators.

More than 2,400 attendees are expected to attend — and record — sessions on such topics as how to create special effects on the cheap and how to juggle a job and passion for crafting online video. Online video luminaries like "Annoying Orange" creator Dane Boedigheimer and singing sensation Jimmy Wong will be among the speakers.

"YouTube really is a cult of personalities," said Ben Relles, the mastermind behind the "Obama Girl" viral video who now works at YouTube developing online video talent. "As you'll see this weekend, people who have big-time personalities and are able to rally fanbases around them tend to do really well on the platform. It's a really social platform."

During a Thursday panel about growing audiences, Relles advised creators to be consistent, trim what's unnecessary and pay attention to the first 15 seconds of their videos. He said the algorithm that YouTube uses to promote videos measures how long viewers actually watch them. If watchers don't make it past the first 20 seconds, it's as if they didn't click on it.

In recent years, thousands of amateurs have gone pro on YouTube, transforming their part-time hobbies into full-fledged careers by becoming one of the Google Inc.-owned company's "partners," a group of uploaders with whom YouTube shares advertising revenue. Despite the popularity of online video, many creators still want mainstream success.

Ryan Pino, a 21-year-old college student from Long Beach, Calif., who posts videos of himself playing and teaching guitar on the "pinoguy321" channel, came to VidCon looking to meet future collaborators. His goal with his YouTube channel is to reach 100,000 subscribers. He currently has just over 5,000 followers. Ultimately, he wants to sell his own tunes.

"YouTube is great, but it's definitely not the endgame," said Pino. "The endgame is playing shows and touring."

Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, pioneers of the online video realm with a series of silly creations, crossed over from YouTube to IFC this year with "Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings," a half-hour series documenting the duo as they produce over-the-top local commercials. Neal doesn't think of online videomaking as just another way to break into Hollywood.

"We want to have a hand in all genres," said Neal, "even writing books."

With the proliferation of online video beyond computers on devices like smartphones and TVs, attendees of the sold-out conference — including organizers John and Hank Green, known online as the Vlogbrothers — think there's room for growth, including for VidCon itself.

While it's not quite another Comic-Con just yet, next year's VidCon is expanding from a modest hotel to a larger venue: the Anaheim Convention Center.

Derrik J. Lang can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang/.

Online:

http://www.vidcon.com/

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