Monday, July 05, 2010

Why I'm Not Going to Vidcon

Next week in Los Angeles is Vidcon: "The first ever gathering of the most influential and popular independent video makers online and the communities that have made them a force in the world."

Many are saying Vidcon "is just a con," "It should be free," "What do they know that I don't?" etc. I disagree with all that. I would love to attend, and find true value in, a serious conference about online video, and where all this is going, and $140 would be a bargain ... if it were the right conference.

Unfortunately, Vidcon is not that conference. And not because they're charging admission, or because of who is organizing it, or who the speakers are, but simply because of the lack of serious in-depth content.

Looking at which of my own vlogs have received the most hits, the strongest reactions, and most emotional comments, it's the ones on copyright and DMCA issues.  I think most of us agree, that's a major problem on YouTube. But at Vidcon, there's a single 1/2-hour break-out session on "YouTube Policy, DMCA and Fair Use" (with "Meet Charles Trippy" going on in the next room over), but nothing on "What IS the law," "What IS fair use," "How to protect yourself," or anything on finding royalty free music, public domain images, etc.

There's a handful of sessions under the heading of "Online Video Film School," but none of them long enough to teach anything in depth or that will be remembered once the attendees return home. And, for each "Online Video School" there are two "Meet-up with [famous 'Tuber]" sessions.

There's a session on the Future of YouTube, lead by YouTube's "Director of Product Management," but nothing on the future of online video or social media as a new and exciting medium in which to create original work.

It seems to me (IMHO) that Vidcon – however well-intentioned the organizers may have been – will be more of trying to fit new media into an old media shell, and relying on "star power" to drive attendance and excitement for the event.

I look at the schedule and there's dozens of short sessions with no point to them, and not a single in-depth educational session that I might get anything out of. It's the short-attention-span YouTube gathering, and not much more.

I've attended many, many professional conferences over the years, and I've even helped organize at least a dozen or so conferences, but I've never seen such a jumbled, aimless mess of a schedule than the one for Vidcon.

My friend Rich of WorldAccordingToRich will be at Vidcon. He's interested in what "approach the entertainment industry at large is taking with the YouTube phenomena," and is hoping to get some insight into that. I get the importance of it to him professionally, but it has very little significance to me.

For social media to truly continue its growth into something new and different, we must allow it space away from "the entertainment industry at large." YouTube is more a phenomenon from Silicon Valley than from Hollywood, and its impact is (and should be) anything but localized to any dominant region. Social media belongs to the world, and there's nothing Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, or London can do about it.

In the last couple of years, the growing and nearly over-powering influence of old media on YouTube, simply as a means to promote movies/TV, has threatened to drown out those who are using YouTube to develop something entirely new. Yes, social media (YouTube, twitter, etc.) can be used to promote other traditional media, but if they become mediums that are nothing but promotional vehicles, they will die quickly.

I think there's so much more potential to new media yet to be discovered that I – personally (IMHO) – have no time to care about how Hollywood will use it.

I will watch the vlogged reports from Vidcon from WorldAccordingToRich and Renetto and others I know who are attending. But I don't expect to regret my decision to stay home.


  1. That was well said... the quality of the con must be held to at least minimum standards. if not higher... and longer in-depth learning sessions provide real value.

  2. I'll admit, i've not looked at their schedule. But, what you've said is included doesn't surpise. I've got the impression that this is amore about those YT "Stars" than anything else. As you say, that's a great pity.
    I'd also love to attend something like that that was really worthwhile, as it's a subject that interests me.
    Personally, i suspect we had more interesting conversations about all of this on our recent road trip, than they'll have in at VidCon.

  3. takes me a minute to figure out what username and password it wants...thats just lea lol!

    anywho, excellent blog, and i fully agree. but will add that a fee based over hyped meet and greet disgusts me. $140 plus many expenses just to learn how to game the system and kiss ass to get ahead? all that money to meet ppl who dont and wont give a DAMN about ppl? you are right, this IS NOT hollywood...we are better than this...oh man, pay to meet charles trippy? lol they are TRIPPING!

    whats the old phrase about "a fool and his money?" yup. thats vidcon.


  4. I have to agree with you about the conference schedule - the sessions are unusually short, and I do wonder about the overall focus. Perhaps a reflection of the average age of a great number of the attendees?

    To clarity my interest as a media professional - my world isn't in the motion pictures / mainstream television world. Most of my work is in non-fiction television, so my interest in Vidcon relates more to observing the (attending) culture at large, and what they're doing with the platform.

    As for having the event in LA, Silicon Valley, or anywhere else, I think that's all irrelevant. I believe that the organizers will discover that Hollywood interaction with this event will be somewhat limited to the "stars" at hand and how they can or won't fit into more traditional media. You're right, in whatever form social media takes in the future, it's heart will not be found in any particular region.

    I'm actually far more interested in some of the more nuts-and-bolts alternatives that are developing for those not attending, like BillTVMacon's "NoCon" concept, for example. The idea of developing an ongoing, semi-moderated discussion of social media issues and information is very attractive.

    I'm still goin' to Vidcon, though!

  5. Great post Ken, it does seem pointless in going if you want to learn new things, although I probably still would go, if only to throw a virtual spam pie at lisanova!

    I have been away from YouTube for a week and there is this new timeline thing on the front page now for those logged in, sort of like Facebook and Twitter, but it cannot be customised and the previous front page modules eg. Most Popular are missing, I guess it is a work in progress. I am not suggesting for one minute that YouTube are listening to us but it is a worthy attempt at getting the social aspect back!

  6. What are you thinking including serious in-depth content in the same paragraph as YouTube? It's a fanboy event. YouTube trekkies.


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