3 Surprising VidCon Insights

This Week: VidCon got me thinking. I’m not done, but below are a few of the things I’ve been pondering over the last few days. Plus, 34 important stories and more.

A poster of a movie

Description automatically generatedThe Surprising Ways the NFL Changed YouTube: One of the better sessions at VidCon brought together Kim Larson, YouTube’s Head of Creators and Ian Trombetta, the NFL’s head of Social, Influencer and Content Marketing. Joined by Adam W and Whalar president Jo Cronk, they explore the transformational results of the year-old NFL Sunday Ticket partnership. The partnership has had surprising and unexpected effects on both businesses aside from revenue and ad sales.

The NFL clearly needed to escape their “No Fun League” reputation while expanding beyond their aging male audience. They gave YouTube creators unprecedented access to archival footage, waived monetization claims and welcomed creators into their tentpole events and the weekly games. A league lacking in whimsy surprisingly helped Mark Rober smuggle the world’s longest drinking helmet into the best seats at the super bowl (24M views and counting), while dragging more than a few of their 32 teams into the creator age. The results were dramatic: creator videos outperformed league content at every turn, with big success on even the wonkiest of stages – including the NFL’s annual combine.

But the changes at YouTube were equally dramatic. Larson shared how YouTube was still recovering from year one, calling out the unforeseen demands of an 18-game season. Those immutable deadlines not only changed the content and creator teams, but also impacted product and development; you can’t push out NFL’s “Kickoff Weekend” because the app’s not ready. Shipping is a feature – and those 18 rigorous deadlines hopefully improved the internal development culture. Perhaps those excruciating year-long waits between feature announcement and general availability – I’m looking at you A/B thumbnail testing – will become a thing of the past.

TikTok Brings It: They aren’t acting like the sword of Damocles hangs above them (201 days and counting). At VidCon, casual discussions, off-the-record meetings and a jam-packed “Desintation: Creation” lounge (nicely done @justin lefkowich) showed a company accelerating its ambitions, not quivering in fear. I’m excited about many of the new things on tap, including new ways for creators to get paid, exciting shopping innovations and much more. Whatever happens, Double-T will continue to push the boundaries of its US and global businesses. Until they can’t.

Is Our Destiny to Become Hollywood? I love the Publish Press’ annual “print zine”, released on the eve of VidCon and distributed at the show (buy your copy now – it’s well worth reading). As a former magazine and newspaper editor, I adore tangible print products. There’s still magic in the subtle smell of ink and the faint echoes of the mechanical printing press. But compared to last year’s hopeful “YouTube New Wave” theme, this year’s issue left me distressed. I agree that “Creators are becoming Hollywood faster than Hollywood is becoming creators”. And many VidCon sessions reflected that as well, celebrating creators becoming media companies and conquering the living room and theaters too.

But despite VidCon’s 2010 debut across the street from CAA, Hollywood still hasn’t embraced a media built on inclusivity and community, instead regularly reverting to its legacy of exclusivity and gilded megaphones.

Luckily our economy is far broader than a horde of entertainment creators hoping to unlock Joni Mitchell’s “star making machinery”. Yes, traditional TV is now YouTube’s primary growth engine – which accelerates the infection – but two other pillars of the creator space continue to thrive far beyond the borders of LaLa Land.

Look no further than the annual Open Sauce festival held in San Francisco two weeks ago. Instead of agents stalking teen talent, HR recruiters trolled the halls hoping to hook talented engineers into their AI startups. Instead of Charli D’Amelio and MrBeast’s minions, geek lords Mark Rober, Ludwig and Michael Reeves ruled the roost. Educational creators – broadly encompassing makers, teachers, news reporters, product reviewers, and how-to experts — thrive from Silicon Valley to Sydney, Sao Paulo, Missoula and beyond.

And the third pillar – inspirational creators – can be found at Ted, VeeCon and around the world.

18 years after YouTube launched, many in the Creator Economy still storm the Hollywood Hills seeking treasure and glory. But as creators leverage shifting audience expectations and helpful AI to continue battering the gates, even the inner keep will fall. Meanwhile, so many more creators will continue to thrive and expand without ever “taking a meeting” or “doing lunch”.

YouTube Sprinkles Trend Data Around the Internet: YouTube teased its latest culture and trend report last week, finding that two-thirds of GenZ considers themselves creators. Although oddly not available at YouTube’s “Culture and Trends” blog, you can see a report summary here on LinkedIn. Also, while sifting through the web attempting to find the full 2024 study, I stumbled across a recent fandom study from YouTube with additional fascinating insight, including how fragmented GenZ fandom truly is – with almost half saying they are part of a fandom that’s not shared by any of their friends. Also notable – almost 80% consider themselves big or super fans – which translates into regular engagement and spending money on their obsession. Download that full report here. Hopefully we get a comprehensive 2024 trend report with from YouTube soon.

SPONSOR: This Year’s Cannes Had Creators at the Heart of It

So, I think what started off really as an exercise in explaining to the industry at Cannes what the Creator Economy was – and how they could work with creators – is now kind of this dual path where creators are going and wanting to learn more about the rest of the advertising and entertainment industry as they become a more integral part of it,” said Neil Waller, Co-CEO and Co-founder of creator company Whalar Group. 

Learn about the key takeaways from this year’s Cannes Lions festival in Ad Age.







100% written by me – no human or AI ghostwriters were involved in the production (except for the cover art!).

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I’ve built and sold multiple creator economy startups to top media companies – including Discovery and Paramount. Subscribe here on LinkedIn to get this newsletter every Monday.

Let me know what you think – email me at jim@louderback.com. Thanks for reading and see you around the internet.

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