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What VidCon Could Become If TikTok Continues To Take It Over

In this week's newsletter: Imagining the future of VidCon if it continues to have TikTok's influence, and how common it's become for creators to take short and long breaks from the internet.

Posted on June 18, 2021, at 8:01 a.m. ET

This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.

What VidCon could become if TikTok continues to take it over

Jerod Harris / Getty Images

TikTok becoming the title sponsor of VidCon this year is a big deal to the ~*social media landscape*~. It’s a huge business opportunity for a newer platform like TikTok, but in some ways it’s even more significant because TikTok has taken the title from YouTube, which has reigned supreme since 2013.

From a press release the company sent me, TikTok has not yet announced any more details about what the events at the conference will entail this year. I asked directly whether it would be making any significant changes from years past, but reps are keeping things fairly vague at the moment. The company did provide a lineup of top talent who will be there, including Andre Swilley, Sarah Lugor, Devon Rodriguez, Alex Warren, Michael Le, and more. TikTok also listed “previously confirmed creators” like Brent Rivera, Sofie Dossi, and Alex Wassabi — who are traditionally YouTubers and who were not identified as such in the press release, which I found interesting…

Anyway, the shift from YouTube to TikTok is significant. In just two years, TikTok has risen out of mainstream obscurity to become the most lucrative and exciting platform right now for creators and brands. It has in some ways changed how influencers become influencers. Unlike other platforms, where creators must post consistently and with a cohesive brand to gain recognition, TikTok often rewards random personalities who create good or provocative content. The platform’s algorithm signal-boosts a single video, leading to viral fame. There are so many accounts I’ve come across that only have a handful of posts, one of which has 13 million views, while the others are scattered with a few hundred each. TikTokers aren’t incentivized as much to create a single online persona — trial and error and strategic chaos may work better for getting on the coveted FYP feed.

This is where it becomes kind of exciting to imagine what VidCon could become in years to come. Historically, it’s featured YouTube’s biggest stars, who host panels and meet-and-greets. Obviously, for the creator-fan dynamic, this works best. VidCon is like a mashup of Disneyland and SXSW, where mobs of audiences who’ve watched a single YouTuber for years are able to meet them IRL and where internet enthusiasts are able to critically engage with each other about the internet. I imagine VidCon would like to keep this ecosphere because it sells a lot of tickets and it’s a great way to foster conversations that will make headlines in the media. But I’d like to fantasize about how things could change now that TikTok is taking charge. (TikTok, if you’re reading this, this is a vault of what I’ll call Free Ideas.)

First, instead of the same major influencers who get invited year after year, VidCon should feature the unexpected talent who shoot to the top of the FYP and go viral for extremely random things — for example, Italian TikToker @khaby.lame, who’s been on the app for a number of years and had gained an audience well before his more recent uptick in followers. Over the last month, Khaby Lame has been posting videos about other people’s ridiculous “hacks” for everyday tasks and reminding us that the tasks are often easier to do the usual way. Those “hacks” are performance art, just like Khaby’s ridiculing of them. His videos are simple and quick, often require little to no speaking, and are so satisfying to watch. These response videos get millions and millions of views, and his account now has over 73 million followers(!!).

TikTok / @khaby.lame

Someone like Khaby would draw an incredibly interesting and diverse fanbase to VidCon — and not just demographically. Because his videos are so popular but are not limited to a single lifestyle or value system, it would be fascinating to see the kinds of people who would show up for him. And it would be captivating to hear him talk about other facets of himself, and about the internet, in a more intimate setting. Where previous talent (mostly YouTubers) were invited to VidCon because fans were already enamored and familiar with their lives and personalities, featuring Khaby would be as practical as intriguing to actually get to know him on a personal level.

I’d also love to see people at VidCon who have gone viral on the app for a single video — like @shaelovve and this hilarious one about watching Reba as a kid. I think about this video often. It’s incredible. It makes me open-mouth laugh at every loop. I know it might be harder to sell tickets for someone who’s known for an extremely niche thing, but the kinds of conversations someone like Shae Lovve could spawn, to me, would be a hundred times more interesting than hearing from an influencer who’s been in the business for years and has built a brand on sharing and oversharing. Maybe it’s because I do this for a living, but I’d love to hear from Shae what it’s like to be plucked out of anonymity and put on everyone’s FYP overnight. How does one go back to living a normal life after that, if they want to? How does she or someone in her position capitalize on this brief brush with fame? Does she even want fans? How cool would a panel be if it featured only random people who gained sudden and unexpected fame?

Instead of events at VidCon only organized around a headliner or influencer, I’d love to imagine events or talks around themes on the internet, like How To Manage Fame On Your Own (Or Should You?), An Honest Conversation About Passionate And Abusive Fandoms, Why Is Charli D’Amelio So Popular And What Can We Learn About Ourselves — IDK, I’m just spitballing.

Changes like this could be unappealing if TikTok is only interested in taking over the revenue opportunities from YouTube. But if it wants to influence new ways of engaging, talking about, and talking to social media personalities IRL, then I think the future of the conference could be really exciting to cover and attend. (Wow, optimism about the internet! What a concept!)

Influencers not sharing everything online is becoming a lot more normalized, and it’s good

YouTube

Darryl Dwayne Granberry Jr. is better known on YouTube by his initials: DDG. In his most recent vlog, the musician and vlogger announced he’s deleted all of his previous videos and will solely focus on making music off social media.

His personal channel, PontiacMadeDDG VLOGS, has over 2.5 million subscribers, so scrubbing it of all of its content is significant.

“I want some type of mystery in my life,” he said in this last vlog. “You know my whole family at this point, you know where I’m from, you know what college I went to ... everything is documented.”

DDG said he simply wants to put all of his attention into his music career, even if he’ll be on Instagram and Twitter to, I imagine, continue to promote his music. My coworker Lauren reached out to him to hear more about this decision.

DDG has benefited from vlogging his personal life and openly sharing, so to cut that line off is sending a message that the payout may not always be worthwhile. He’s one of many YouTubers who’ve gone offline or created stricter boundaries for themselves when it comes to how much of themselves they are giving to strangers online.

Last year I wrote about the Dolan Twins announcing their break after experiencing burnout and not having the privacy and time to grieve their father’s death. My coworker Scaachi recently published a great piece about extremely online people, like Bo Burnham and Jenna Marbles, becoming more and more self-aware about being online and their need to retreat into reclusivity as online mobs grow more and more intense.

I’m not breaking any news by saying that it’s unsustainable and unnatural to live under public scrutiny for long periods of time. But because society and social media platforms are quick to enable fame but slow to devise ways to protect people from abuse, every person living out loud online will face moments when they’ll want to protect their privacy. And even though these YouTubers will continue to make news by logging off — which, good! — we’re entering a time when their departures are no longer news as shock, but news as reminders that that is a very necessary part of their jobs, too.

Until next time,

Tanya

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.