Biggest and Most Organized Online-Video & YouTube Community Event

There are loads of social media events, and many YouTube “community gatherings,” meetups and online video events. But the “South By Southwest” of online-video and YouTube is indisputably VidCon. Organized by Hank and John Green (vlogbrothers), the event in 2010 drew hundreds of community members, top “YouTube Stars,” and Nerdfighters (the active people who rally to reduce the world of “suck”). It also included lots of on-stage entertainment that was shared widely online. VidCon 2011 is planned for July 28-30 in San Francisco, California. Early bird discount if you book before Jan. 10, and the hotel is Hyatt Regency Central Plaza.

Here are some highlights of 2010’s VidCon to give you a flavor. It’s focused on viewers and creators, but does attract industry folks and marketers (and has a special industry track). Unlike some popular YouTube love-festivals where “big YouTubers” are VIP, this one is quite egalitarian.

Biggest Online-Video Community Gathering Ever: July 9-11, LA

Some of the most-viewed YouTube “weblebrities” will gather with hundreds of people in the YouTube community, including video creators and viewers, professionals and stalkers.

phil defranco at vidcon 2010
Phil DeFranco Will Attend July's VidCon, a gathering of hundreds (maybe thousands) of YouTube community people.

The event — called VidCon 2010 and scheduled for July 9-11 — includes rapid-fire stage performances by some of YouTube’s biggest “stars,” including comedy duo Anthony Pedilla and Ian Hecox (“Smosh“), “What The Buck” host Michael Buckley, Phil DeFranco, “SxePhil” and “Like Totally Awesome” host, and Justine Ezarik, YouTube’s token popular hot girl who hails as iJustine (and author of Tasty Blog Snack). Those 5 people alone, mind you, have been seen collectively 1 billion times (if you count both videos on their individual channels, as well as on group channels like TheStation). For those of you not good at math, that’s “an assload” and more views than most television shows.

To put it in perspect, 106 million people watched the last episode of MASH and the 2010 Superbowl. Paranthetically, my stupid videos have been seen 130 million times, and my siblings still refer to it “as your little YouTube videos.” But if I’m on the local Fox news channel I’m suddenly hot.

Back to VidCon: What’s got me most excited are performanced by some of the most talented musicians on YouTube, including the advertainment song duo of Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal (Rhett and Link), the ukulele-playing singer Julia Nunes (know as j and seven a’s), and the cerebral guitarist Hank Green, who is the event’s mastermind. I’m also looking forward to seeing Joe Penna (TheMysteryGuitarMan aka MGM), who wrote the “Nalts, Nalts, It’s Not His Fault” theme song. He’s been on a magical high lately, and he’s eye and ear candy for the whole family (see his recent “Looping Around,” a song that’s almost passing 1 million views, and what my family calls “The Happy Song”).

Although I haven’t hit all of the major YouTube grassroots events, I have gathered with fellow YouTube fanatics in NYC (twice), London, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. A nude female doll with my face has attended other events, and was no doubt far more interesting to meet. The only formal event YouTube has thrown, to my knowledge, was November 2008’s YouTube Live… a show the San Bruno company doesn’t appear to be reviving.

We’ll also see the omnipresent Charles Trippy and Alli Speed, who have documented their each day for a year. Trippy somehow doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, which I find highly suspicious. ZeFrank is also going, and will appear on a panel with other Internet has-beens like me.

Kassemg Cracks Me Up

Here’s Kassemg, who I didn’t know about until TheStation was born months ago. Watch him interview these folks in “Best of California On,” and enjoy the awkward tension. And when you get to the frame below… I dare you not to think of his “Jew-nosed” ugly girl in Teen Cribs.

Need more? See his YouTube Channel for a whole series of “California On” interviews like this…

kassemg with ugly girl lady thing

Fired for Twitter & YouTube

Tim Chantarangsu, aka TimothyDeLaGhetto2 was fired from California Pizza Kitchen for negative “tweets” about the company. His title is “Twitter Got Me Fired,” but I think publicly bashing his employer might be another way to explain it. He had previously tweeted the nickname “CaliporniaSkeetzaKitchen,” and called the new black-shirt uniforms “the lamest shit ever.” He said he’s not encouraging a boycott, but he’s invited his YouTube viewers to tweet:

@calpizzakitchen black button ups are the lamest shit ever!!! #CaliporniaSkeetzaKitchen

And it’s working (see images below from Twitter and Trendistic). California Pizza Kitchen’s Twitter account is not acknowledging the campaign. Says an article in Peopull, “TimothyDeLaGhetto makes videos that on average get hundreds of thousands of views each, and to date, he has had more than 32 million video views in total. CPK could have found alternative ways to make things right. Had they truly realized Tim’s reach, they could have encouraged future positive messages regarding their brand which would have resulted in a mutually prosperous relationship.”

calipornia pizza kitchen

calpizzakitchen

He’s not the first prominent YouTuber to be fired for his online behavior. ShaneDawsonTV, one the most-subscribed YouTube creators, was fired from Jenny Craig for a video involving a dance pole last year (his sibling and mother, he says, were also terminated).

And, of course, even YouTube posters with less of a following can get fired (ala the Dominos folks who posted videos of themselves putting boogers on the hoagies). And Tim wasn’t the first for getting fired for his Tweets (a Cisco guy trashed the company before he even started, and that ended that).

While I’m all for freedom of speech, bashing your employer (and naming them) online is kinda begging for it, isn’t it?


Top YouTube Stars Convene “The Station”: A Modern Brat Pack & YouTube YouTopia?

YouTube Stars form a Brat Pack Collective

The Station

It’s the hottest thing on YouTube since Susan Boyle did the “Evolution of Dance.” But you won’t find it covered on television, there’s no press release, and virtually no online or print articles written about it.

A collection of YouTube “stars” have joined forces on a single channel (thestation), and it was almost instantly propelled it to one of YouTube’s most-subscribed channels… even before it had a single video posted. TheStation, now one of the 25 most-subscribed channels, was  parked in June, 2006. But the activity began in mid July 2009 (see TheStation’s Twitter account), when the individual stars began to promote the TheStation on their own channels.

TheStation’s debut video was posted July 21, 2009 (a zombie teaser). Here’s the Zombie debut (see on YouTube), and above (see video box) is a cleaner version with synched audio). Zombie’s sell, of course….

That tells us TheStation isn’t just a creative consortium but a potential online-video marketing machine. In fact, TheStation is shaping up to be an online-video version of the “brat pack.”

“Stars” include Shane Dawson (ShaneDawsonTV), PhillyD (sxephil), and DaveDays — three of the most-subscribed YouTubers. ShayCarl, one of the fastest-rising YouTube creators, moved his family to Venice Beach, California earlier in 2009… living just blocks from Donovan.

LisaNova (Lisa Donovan) and “Danny Diamond” (thediamondfactory, aka “Dan Zappin”) are the hubs at the center of the spokes (see “Zappin Productions“). The long-time duo are romantic partners or business colleagues depending on your source (although LisaNova is to DaveDays as Demi Moore to Ashton Kutcher).

Girls2Watch reports that the business behind TheStation is “Maker Studios,” with a goal to make “create quality consistent programming with their core talent which will attract both a huge online audience as well as advertisers who want to get into the Youtube space.” (via BuckNews). No sign of a Maker Studios, LLC., but Donovan’s listed as the agent for Zappin (California Secretary of State).

TheStation YouTube StarsDonovan and Diamond have loaned their apartments to various online-video weblerities, assembling what I like to call a “YouTube YouTopia” in Venice Beach. Davedays moved from Pennsylvania to California (despite my parental-like caution), and has been offering his musical talent to the motley crew. DaveDays is best known for his Barbie video, and collection of Miley Cyrus homages). Sxephil, also known as Philip DeFranco, moved from Atlanta this summer to join the gang in Venice Beach (with help from friend ShayCarl).

The channel has been getting positive reactions to its first 9 videos, and maintains a better view-per-subscriber ratio than the stars themselves. This ratio (recent view-counts divided by total subscribers to the channel) is a YouTube sign of health. Of course there’s a recency bias, where new channels have healthier rankings because its subscribers are active or new… as opposed to those subscribers from abandoned accounts. TubeMogul reports that the group surpassed Michael Jackson’s collection. Initial videos were designed to appeal to existing fans of the individuals (see NewTeeVee article), packed with inside jokes. iJustine’s death is a rofler… click this link to watch her get eaten by Zombies.

Where’s this going? Now we’re in speculation mode. For starters, it’s clearly a smart creative and professional move for the individuals… especially the lesser known stars who now win by association. The “combo-pack” performance model has proven to work in comedy, music and film (Oceans 11)… so why not web?

I asked Diamond/Zappin his vision for TheStation while visiting Venice Beach this summer, and he was somewhat vague or abstract. Initially, it’s about pooling creative talent and gaing efficiencies from production… a web studio approach (ala Next New Network or Revision3) but with already popular stars and shows. We’ll see TheStation lure brands (hungry for its eyeballs) to finance the operations (Diamond has helped LisaNova and others secure marketing sponsorships), which means it’s more than a creative collaboration.

The station, however, will face four non-trivial challenges:

  1. Collective YouTube channels are difficult to maintain. Shane Dawson is reportedly already backing off. When the initial honeymoon period passes,  collective efforts (from 5awesomegirls, guys and gays to 7awesomekids) struggle to keep the channels vibrant. The geographic proximity of TheStation will help, but many of its stars owe their success to being a “one-man band,” and may have difficulty adapting to an ensemble. Bambamkaboosh, a collaboration between Sxephil and Shaycarl, rocketed to most-subscribed, but has languished. Donovan lasted just four weeks on MadTV. (thought I thought she was pretty darn funny in this Ellen Degeneres MadTv skit).
  2. Some YouTube “stars” lack acting chops. Some are successful at “vlogging” to their audiences, some can sing, but not all YouTube stars can act in a sketch comedy. Sxephil had mixed reviews on his performance on HBOLab’s “Hooking Up,” but certainly carried his weight in “Porn Star.”  We’ll let you be the judge of who can act in this TheStation debut video. I’ll just say it ranges from awesome funny to awkward. Likewise, LisaNova is probably one of the best sketch comedians on YouTube (this is one of my all-time favorite video here with her as “Ashley Moorehouse” in Orange County — co-stared by Jenna Elfman, of “Accidentally on Purpose”)… but Donovan didn’t last long as a vlogger. They’re different art forms, if you don’t mind me calling them that. Check out this chair-fall by YouTube’s Daxflame (once a most-subscribed channel, but somewhat dormant of late).
  3. Money introduces conflict. As the YouTube advertising revenue and other marketing sponsorships draw potential profit to TheStation, the individuals will struggle to ensure revenue is shared appropriately (which is arbitrary at best). The bigger stars may have difficulty balancing the full-time job of maintaining their own channels (with some enjoying 6-figure incomes) and the time they contribute to TheStation, which will provide them with less direct financial return for their time. What the group lacks in business-management experience, however, it makes up for in creative talent, new-marketing prowess and energy.
  4. Holier than tho? The stars run the risk of being perceived by the community as “elitist” (see this whining vlog as example). Although to be fair, members of this team have a history of brilliantly satirizing elitist behavior on YouTube (see this satire of AsOne, where Diamond spoof Sxephil’s appearance in an SMPFilms promotion of Philadelphia “AsOne” event that never occurred). And hey- it’s all “water under the bridge,” because TheStation folks all hit SMPFilm’s wedding last week. Congratulations, Cory. This post counts as my wedding gift.

Cautions aside, the people involved with TheStation have rare knowledge on how to grow and keep an online audience. They’ll benefit by sharing each other’s audiences, and from the creative chemistry that may develop in their YouTube YouTopia. And it’s a guilty pleasure, but I’ll admit I really like some of the writing and acting in this debut video. And check out this funny DaveDays music-video with a cameo by CharlesTrippy. Good stuff. Even better: the out takes and behind the scenes… available on TheStation2.

Even with some inevitable creative and financial feuding ahead, The Station ensemble is proving that the whole is indeed bigger than the sum of (most of) its parts.

No seriously. Click here to watch iJustine get killed again. How can you not crack up at that. Hey- no bashing from iJustine fans. I’m among you.