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China's hidden debt

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YouTubers, influencers and big business converge at VidCon 2019

YouTubers, influencers and big business converge at VidCon 2019

Jul 12, 2019
TikTok, Instagram influencers and China are also in the main spotlight.
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The masses have flocked on Anaheim, California, for VidCon, where industry executives and fans get to interact with their favorite influencers. And, of course, take selfies with a giant rainbow slide and Barbie’s glittering Dream House.

People like Valerie Ortega lined up at 7 in the morning. She said her daughter, who’s on YouTube as Galaxy Lunar, begged to come from El Paso, Texas.

“My daughter, Dazzly Ortega, is a big fan of some YouTubers, so she’s hoping to meet some important people,” Ortega said.

Kevin Wagner livestreamed from the line to gamer platform Twitch. He had thousands of dollars worth of gear strapped to his shoulder, his waist, his wrist.

“My main goal is to document for people who can’t afford to be here or are afraid to get on planes or have social anxiety,” Wagner said. “My community helped me fund this rig.”

Marketplace’s Jed Kim also spoke with Taylor Lorenz, who covers internet culture for The Atlantic. She said Instagram and TikTok are gaining ground on YouTube among creators. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

The exposition floor of VidCon is full of brand “activations” designed with social media posting in mind.

Taylor Lorenz: Being a YouTuber is still sort of seen as a very higher-status mark. If you’re a successful YouTuber, you’re making a lot of money because YouTube is still the only platform that offers creators direct monetization, so they can run pre-roll ads on their videos and get paid. You can’t run pre-roll ads on your Instagram account or your 15-second TikTok, so it’s harder to get money more directly. Those people must rely on brand deals, which are a little bit more volatile.

Jed Kim: So what are the kinds of announcements or big things that you’re going to be looking for this year?

Lorenz: I think another interesting thing that’s happening this year at VidCon is the influence of China and Chinese companies. You have executives from Baidu [and] Tencent. There was a big East-West forum held at the Marriott where a bunch of Tencent executives and other Chinese executives met to figure out how they can stake claim to some of the American market.

Kim: And why is that such a big deal for them?

Lorenz: It’s interesting. They have this whole myriad of apps and platforms that have reached scale in China and have millions and millions and hundreds of millions of users, but they haven’t really been able to penetrate the Western market. I think we’re seeing more Chinese companies see if there are big American creators that they should be working with. Also, what can they learn from what we have going on over here?

Kim: [There’s been] a lot of controversy these days surrounding YouTube. How are those things showing up here?

Lorenz: It’s funny because they’re completely not. Most stories about YouTube this year have been defined as extremism, problems with the algorithm leading to the proliferation of all these alt-right white supremacist videos getting shown in teen’s feeds. It’s funny because here there’s none of that. VidCon is very entertainment focused. It’s very focused for industry professionals and brands. You have brands like Chipotle, Walmart, coming to VidCon to scout new talent. They aren’t interested in the neo-Nazis that are trending on the platform frequently.

Marketplace’s Jed Kim at VidCon 2019.

Related links: more insight from Jed Kim

The VidCon experience has gone overseas, with VidCon London and Australia. Next year, it’ll expand to Mexico City. The Hollywood Reporter quotes a VidCon executive who said some of the top global creators have emerged from Mexico in recent years.

Content creators will have a new way to make money. The Securities and Exchange Commission has qualified a new cryptocurrency called Props, it was announced at VidCon. It’ll allow content creators to earn cryptocurrency for the work they do. And Props will be usable across several apps. You can read more about it at Tech Crunch and Yahoo.

And finally, YouTuber Tana Mongeau had a rather infamous row with VidCon over its denying her a “featured creator” status. That led to her skipping VidCon and announcing her own concurrent convention. TanaCon, was … not a success. Some have made comparisons to the disastrous Fyre Festival. Well, the hatchet has been buried. Tana is back at VidCon this year.

The team

Molly Wood Host
Eve Troeh Senior Producer
Stephanie Hughes Producer