VidCon was like a crash course in modern day pop culture. On the quad outside the main hall an army of screaming teenagers rushed from one YouTube star to the next. Some of the stars and their respective mobs were large enough to require security escorts.
But upstairs and at other pockets of this fifth-annual event, overlooking all those bursts of chaotic excitement, it was a completely different mood. More reserved perhaps, but especially older. Outside and on the lower levels of the venue, pre-teens outnumbered the adults by at least 20-fold.
"A lot of people prepared me for what I would see," YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki says in her keynote. But, "nothing actually prepares you for being here in real life."
Business Upstairs, Party Down Below
The nation of creators, fans and businesses dedicated to the underworld of online video make for a conference like no other. The excitement and energy was as palpable as it was deafening at times.
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As VidCon's co-creator John Green introduced Wojcicki to the stage, he reiterated a point his brother and VidCon co-creator Hank Green made earlier that day: "YouTube is the only social network that pays you money."
It's a simple, but important point of differentiation that set high expectations for Wojcicki's first keynote just five months into her new role. YouTube is introducing new mechanics that help creators engage a bigger and more global audience, build more successful businesses and simplify the management and creation of video.
Taking the stage at VidCon in proper casual attire - a YouTube t-shirt and jeans - Wojcicki announced a series of updates and new features for creators and fans on YouTube. Her talk focused on three primary ways YouTube wants to address some of its challenges.
"The whole platform is being redone in a way that's never been done before," she tells the audience.
Crowd-Source Translation and Funding
With more than a billion people coming to YouTube every month, as many as 60 percent of views usually come from outside the creator's home country, she says. YouTube wants to bridge those language barriers with a new crowd-sourced translation effort it calls "fan subtitles."
"Our goal is that every video uploaded to YouTube will be available in every language," says Wojcicki.
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YouTube is also rolling out new interactive cards that directly link to creators' crowd-funding campaigns and a virtual tip-jar it calls "fan funding."
"Any viewer can show any creator their love by tipping them any dollar amount between $1 and $500, and all of this happens while staying on YouTube," Wojcicki says.
YouTube Management Finally Goes Mobile
"We are also developing a mobile app to access your analytics and channel management from anywhere on any device," she says. The new YouTube Creator Studio will enable creators and publishers to see metrics in real time, respond to comments and make quick edits.
Creators will also soon be able to shoot and upload their videos at up to 60 frames per second, allowing for a more smooth and crisp viewing experience. Finally, YouTube is beefing up its sound library with 7,500 new royalty-free songs and sound effects - fart sounds for comedic effect and all.
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Wojcicki, who has a storied history as one of Google's earliest employees, says she is focused on bringing more revenue to YouTube's ecosystem and wants to help more people get to know YouTube's creators and fans through large-scale promotions.
"It's all of you that make the platform such an amazing and exciting place to be," she tells the audience of content creators. "It's a little strange when I'm the one on stage... You guys are the real stars."
YouTube hasn't always done right by its users, but with new blood at the helm there's a sense and collective hope that things are changing for the better. Wojcicki decided to embrace those complaints, quite literally, as she ended her keynote with a shortened version of Barely Political's satirical take on YouTube's complaint desk. The full 8-minute video has already been viewed 3.7 million times over the last three days.
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