As the creator economy continues to rapidly expand with more creators, fans, and funding coming in by the year, VidCon holds its place as the most well known annual conference for the industry. But after over a decade of the conference’s sole U.S. presence being in Anaheim near Los Angeles, VidCon has come to the east coast for the first time by setting up shop in Baltimore.
“It’s always been on our radar to do an east coast show,” Jacques Keyser, Programming Director for VidCon, said.
Keyser explains how many east coast content creators know about the fun of the Anaheim event, but are unable to attend due to the cost or distance. And so making the program accessible to creators on this side of the country, as well as to the sponsors and industry experts here, had been a goal for a long time.
And when it came time to select the right city on the east coast for this debut, Keyser describes Baltimore as ticking many of the right boxes.
“It kind of encaptures all the places that we want to be close to. We are very close to New York, and obviously D.C., so all the key parts. And as well as— Baltimore has a great community of creators here,” Keyser said.
But while the conference did highlight local Baltimore creators and worked with the city’s nearby attractions to celebrate the area, some other creators were not as excited about the location and wondered whether the event would have been better placed elsewhere.
“I personally think it makes way more sense to do everything in New York,” said featured creator Caleb Simpson, the digital star known for touring the homes of both everyday people and well-known celebrities.
While he acknowledges that bringing the conference to his city would make things more personally convenient for him, he also emphasizes how an event in New York might make things more exciting for creators. As content creators regularly consider flying in from elsewhere for conferences like these, Simpson argues that far more of his peers would be interested in flying into New York rather than Baltimore.
But the VidCon team did put in the work to create an event appealing enough to draw in attendees regardless. Keyser describes the planning process for the entire portfolio of VidCon shows beginning 18 months prior, with the team first brainstorming what the biggest topics, themes, and trends in the industry are right now.
“So really for us this year a big focus from an industry perspective was: What’s next for the creator economy? A lot of things are changing, and changing very quickly. So we really wanted to make sure we’re addressing that,” Keyser said.
This led to many programs across the event focusing on the shifting business of the industry, including something new for VidCon this year: a special, invite-only Industry Leadership Summit. Keyser, who co-hosted the program, describes the mini-summit as an opportunity for the leaders of the creator economy to get together and discuss what is coming next in the space, what pain points they are seeing, and how they can move things forward together.
Caleb Simpson, who’s first VidCon was in Anaheim earlier this year, notes how across both these conferences the primary benefit for him was getting to exchange his own wisdoms with, and also learn from, both his peer creators in the industry and other industry leaders. And while he did not attend the summit, it is opportunities like these that he finds the most valuable parts of VidCon.
“I like talking to other peers about things when I have an opportunity— just to see what they’re working on, where they think it’s headed, what’s working for them, what’s not working for them, you know?” said Simpson.
Amanda Golka was also a featured creator at this year’s VidCon Baltimore. And as someone who’s been to four prior VidCon events and runs a YouTube channel reviewing events, she is uniquely positioned to give her commentary on VidCon’s first east coast outing. But while Golka notes having enjoyed her time at the conference, she also feels some things could have been improved.
“VidCon Anaheim has been going on for over ten years. I think there’s a lot of things that should just be kind of intuitive at this point that are just handled early on,” Golka said.
Among other notes, Golka found that the event did not feature as many activities and things to do as its equivalent in Anaheim. She in particular pointed to the size of the Expo Hall, usually a bustling area of activity full of interactive stops, games, and places to explore. While Baltimore did have those things, Golka felt the area was smaller than expected and necessitated a lot of waiting.
“It became a bit of a line convention where you were standing in line to go to one of the four different plushy booths, or toy booths, or things like that,” Golka said.
Golka also wishes that the Baltimore conference had not opted to do away with the Creator Track ticket in order to simplify the offerings. In Anaheim the middling Creator Track is usually an affordable option for growing content creators to get useful opportunities out of the conference. But while Baltimore’s conference included some of those opportunities within the other tracks, Golka felt the structure wasn’t as inviting as it could be.
“I hope that they roll that back in the future, and that they bring back the Creator Track. Because I think that really serves a very valuable purpose for new creatives in the space, and it was serving a valuable purpose for me in 2019 when I was nobody,” said Golka.
However, as a first time VidCon featured creator, Golka very much enjoyed the two creator panels she sat on. She describes the fun of discussing topics she found most interesting in the pre-planned portions, but also the added excitement of hearing and responding to audience questions in real time.
Caleb Simpson, though he was only able to sit on one panel on the conference’s final day, also enjoyed this experience of sharing his thoughts with the audience. And in particular he notes that the highlight of the event was, for him, chatting with the attendees that came up to him after the discussion, and addressing their personal questions and asks for advice.
Jacques Keyser looks back on the event fondly, pointing to successful new programs like the game show Crown the Creator, panels packed with attendees, and a general atmosphere of excitement and enjoyment that recalled the best moments of Anaheim.
And so from here, he expressed his eagerness to keep on moving ahead.
The 13th VidCon Anaheim, the first event of the coming year’s programming, is now officially slated for June 26th to June 29th of 2024.
After Baltimore, Keyser and the team plan to regroup, talk over how the year’s programming went, track pain points, and gather notes on what aspects to push forward and which to improve.
And key in all of that this time, Keyser notes, is not just exploring their insights from the first VidCon Baltimore, but seeing what ideas from that event they can now bring into their flagship show in Anaheim.
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