Next-Gen Fame

Sarah Kessler traveled to Anaheim for this year’s VidCon, where famous YouTubers connected with more than 18,000 attendees:

Some kids are here to see beauty vloggers like Michelle Phan (6.7 million subscribers), who posts tutorials about makeup and life advice on her channel. Another, typically older, crowd prefers the Jon Stewart-esque commentary of Philip DeFranco (3.3 million subscribers) and the news-based comedy channel he created called SourceFed (1.4 million subscribers). Others enjoy following daily updates from a family of six that goes by the name “Shaytards” (2.4 million subscribers). The Fine Brothers (9.3 million subscribers), who mostly direct rather than star in videos on their channel, attract an audience that is half comprised of people older than 25, though you’d never guess it here. Other corners of YouTube, like the extremely popular video game YouTubers, aren’t even represented at VidCon, where teenage girls running after cute boy YouTubers are the most visible force.

Kessler notes that, already, “traditional entertainment companies are rushing to capitalize on [YouTubers’] popularity”:

It’s almost inevitable that the worship of authenticity, personal relationships, and equality between the fans and the famous, will take a hit at the expense of something much more profitable. Some draw parallels between YouTubers’ nascent fame and the early days of ESPN or CNN, which, before they became profit powerhouses, seemed laughable in comparison to network channels.

“I believe to my core that the next generation of media businesses will look more like Michelle Phan and Phil DeFranco,” says Bing Chen, YouTube’s former creator development lead, who recently left to found a startup that builds apps for YouTubers’ communities. “Michelle Phan is unequivocally this generation’s Oprah Winfrey, FreddieW has, with RocketJump, become this generation’s Steven Spielberg, Phil DeFranco and SourceFed has become this generation’s Jon Stewart, if not Rupert Murdoch and News Corp.”

(Video: Michelle Phan advises viewers on how to be unique)