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VidCon 2023 Highlights: The Creator Economy is All Grown Up

By: Michael Okada | 5 mins read |

VidCon Anaheim 2023 is officially over, and what a whirlwind week it was with over 55,000 in attendance!

This year, YouTube was back as title sponsor as VidCon shifted towards social selling, the entrepreneurial side of the creator economy, and the groundbreaking AI tools making content creation easier and more accessible than ever. 

It was evident that YouTube was determined to go bigger than ever as it positioned itself as the original, go-to platform for video content. As Viral Nation co-founder and CEO Joe Gagliese said, “The future holds immense potential for content creators,” and we experienced that first-hand.

Huge news and major takeaways from VidCon 2023

Here are some of the biggest highlights, trends, and takeaways from VidCon Anaheim 2023.

YouTube announces AI-powered dubbing in multiple languages

Platforms like YouTube can bring videos made in the comfort of your home to a global audience of billions.

But one barrier that still remains is language, although with YouTube announcing its new, AI-powered dubbing capabilities, it won’t be for much longer. While it’s currently only available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, it’s being tested with hundreds of creators with plans to expand to even more languages soon.

In his keynote speech, Samir (from Colin and Samir) asked, “Could the next viral creator be a Korean Casey Neistat?”

Social selling: The secret sauce for success

VidCon visitors could also explore the YouTube Drop Shop, a first-of-its-kind retail experience comprised of four main areas spanning categories like beauty, fashion, and technology.

Featuring beauty brands like MAC and Fenty Beauty, the YouTube Drop Shop showed off a carefully curated selection courtesy of some of the biggest content creators. 

Everything inside the Drop Shop had a tag with a creator’s name and QR code, and scanning the code brought up a video of that creator talking about why they liked the product, which took social selling to the next level and enticed attendees to use the same products as their favorite influencers.

Test and Compare: A/B testing for YouTube thumbnails

Great news for all the YouTubers who agonize over choosing the perfect thumbnail for their videos – YouTube just announced a new A/B testing feature that allows creators to put up to three thumbnails against each other in a survival-of-the-fittest contest where only the best thumbnail wins. 

While it’s still in testing, a beta version will be made available to a few thousand creators over the next few months with plans for a public rollout sometime in early 2024.

As a constantly requested feature, this exciting new tool has the potential to remove some of the guesswork for creators and allow for a more data-driven approach to YouTube thumbnails. The response from the community has been hugely positive and we join them in eagerly anticipating the day we can try it out for ourselves!

The line between ‘mainstream’ and ‘content creator’ has been obliterated

Not only did VidCon 2023 have huge content creators like Drew Afualo, Spencewuah, and therealtati in attendance, but it also had what you might consider ‘mainstream’ celebrities like actor Keke Palmer and model Amber Rose. 

These days, creators are not only breaking into the mainstream, but also fast becoming the new mainstream with some content creators even questioning whether they wanted to break into the mainstream at all. 

“They all thought that the natural evolution of being a creator was becoming a celebrity,” Viral Nation CEO Joe Gagliese told NBC. “As the years went on, some of them made the crossover and realized, ‘I gotta go work a 13-hour day for 1,200 bucks and they don’t care who I am.’ … So they realize that like, that’s a whole different grind than what they’re used to.”

But one thing that VidCon Anaheim made abundantly clear is that in 2023, everyone is a content creator.

Live streaming: A top priority for Meta and TikTok

Both Meta and TikTok used VidCon as an opportunity to flex their live features. Instagram's lounge had a content team capturing live content that would air in the lounge in real-time, while TikTok had a Live set-up at the Anaheim Convention Center, which continued its previous years’ efforts of having their live team accompany TikTok LIVE creators to VidCon.

Viral Nation creators dropping knowledge at the panels

The VidCon panels were packed, with veteran Viral Nation content creators like Drew Afualo and Steven He giving audiences a behind the scenes look at how they approach content creation, as well as sharing funny stories that emphasized the importance of building a true connection with your audience. 

As President of Viral Nation Talent Jonathan Chanti said, “It’s not all about the followers because engagement and the topic are even more valuable than the actual amount of followers a creator has.”

The creators really showed up and took center stage this year and Viral Nation had 14 featured creators making 30+ appearances at VidCon, with talent like Spencewuah and therealtati making strong showings on multiple panels. There were tons of laughs and a little awkwardness as they navigated the many things their fans (and some haters) had to say.

Another highlight was Drew Afualo hosting a live recording of her podcast The Comment Section with Brittany Broski where they explored the dreaded comment sections of their tagged videos on TikTok. 

Biggest takeaways from the featured creator panels

Drew Afualo

  • “I started to think about diversifying as soon as I started getting in touch with agencies. That’s when I started to legitimize it [content creation] as actual sustainable income.”

Ant Hamilton Jr

  • “Being myself, being real, and communicating and building a relationship with people that run the brands is very key, because they’re all people, we’re all people.”

Amber Rose

  • “‘With the more followers you get, you have to start hiring people, like an agent or publicist. Just remember, when you start hiring these people, that they work for you; you don’t work for them. 

They’ll tell you, ‘You need to start posting things like this,’ and over time, you start to lose yourself. That’s what happened to me a few years ago. You start to become a shell of who you used to be.”

Stephanie Smith

  • “Ten years ago, [creators] had to have a unique content strategy for each platform. Now, with short form content competitors like Instagram and Facebook Reels, you can now kind of use the same thing across platforms, because it’s a different audience on each platform.”

Steven He

  • “What Viral Nation offered me was very generous. In pre-production, they assigned artists, connected us with legal, found us crew members, and even found locations. They help a whole lot throughout the entire [filmmaking] process.”

But the real party was at the Hyatt

VidCon was amazing but the real party was at the Hyatt Regency located just a few blocks away. Dubbed as the “Featured Creator hotel”, this invite-only space allowed creators and industry insiders to explore sponsorship lounges and unique brand activations away from the VidCon masses. 

The Viral Nation Talent Lounge was there for our creators and offered them a space to relax, enjoy all-day food and drinks, and pick-up some cool gifts along with valuable 1-on-1 time with our industry experts.
VidCon was also a priceless opportunity for us to showcase what it means to be a truly 360 talent representation agency that supports content creators in every way. The Viral Nation team at VidCon included leadership such as our President of Viral Nation Talent, Chief Marketing Officer, and Head of Original Programming as well as numerous content strategists and agents on site – all of who were happy to chat with creators and support them in any way they could. As TikTok dietician and proud Viral Nation talent Steph Grasso said:

“360 services are truly so important [because] you have to think about growing your brand into a business instead of being a vessel for other businesses.
If it wasn't for my agency, I feel like I would just want to be in my safe zone and just continue to make tiktoks, but they're the ones who really saw the potential in me.”

Steph Grasso, TikTok dietician and proud Viral Nation talent