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Vidcon Attracts More Traditional Media as Online Video Matures, Becomes More Lucrative

Vidcon’s first full day on Thursday kicked off in Anaheim, bringing together more than 20,000 attendees to meet their favorite digital stars, network with other creators and pitching potential business deals with brands and advertisers.

The gathering at the Anaheim Convention Center is the ninth iteration of the annual confab which brings together online video industry leaders, content creators and fans. Thousands spread out over the convention center campus, walking through the convention hall where brands like Nickelodeon, Lego, Gushers candy and others had elaborate, interactive booths. Facebook Watch’s booth featured various rooms for social-media friendly photos.

The massive presence of exhibitors and others mark an evolution for Vidcon from its early days when roughly 1,400 people attending the first convention in a hotel ballroom in Century City.

Vidcon’s maturation is evident in other ways this year. Viacom acquired the conference in early February, and a number of Viacom brands like MTV have an increased presence this year. Other traditional broadcast and cable networks are also attending, a reflection of how lucrative the online video world has become.

Adam Wescott, co-founder of Select Management Group, who counts among clients digital stars like Gigi Gorgeous, said this year’s Vidcon has the largest brand and advertiser presence he has seen over the seven conventions he’s attended.

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Fresh from a speed-dating style meeting between brands and digital talent, Wescott said Vidcon has become like Comic-Con. “You’re premiering stuff, you’re releasing trailers,” he said. “There’s more business than ever.”

The growing proliferation of traditional media at Vidcon lends credibility to the online video space, Wescott said. “We went through the Wild West period,” he said. “We’ve helped shape an industry that’s now very lucrative, and that’s a primary reason they’re moving into it and they see where the eyeballs are going.”

Platforms like Instagram and Snapchat this week debuted new features dedicated to longer-form video, shifting into a new era of online video as the industry grows up.

Snapchat Inc.’s head of original content Sean Mills said Thursday that the company has expanded from solely being an app focused on users’ relationships with their friends. The next phase of Snapchat’s growth brought in “credible and authoritative media companies” that would provide video of live events around the world.

Now, Snapchat has expanded its focus on its content creators, said Lauren Gallo, head of talent partnerships for the company. “I’d say this is just the beginning,” Gallo during a panel that featured video of an upcoming series. “We’re so excited about the creator community… we’re incredibly close with all of our creators that are on the platform.”

Among speakers Thursday was super-agent-turned-media-entrepreneur Charles D. King, founder and CEO of Macro, the media company behind films like “Fences,” “Mudbound” and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Macro, the three-year-old company, is figuring out how to approach digital media, particularly as the company looks for future projects featuring people of color. It’s already found success with one digital series, “Gente-fied,” which is in development with Netflix after an initial successful launch online.

“Young voices are coming from digital,” King said. “there’s just so much unique voices and talent out there. this is a place where we can discover, cultivate and mentor those voices, particularly those who have less access.”

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