VidCon is coming: The luminaries of YouTube and all things digital will revel in online video at this annual conference on July 23-25. Hank Green, who founded the geek gathering with his brother, John Green — yep, that John Green — says attention must be paid.
Sure, YouTube giants like Jenna Marbles, Smosh, and Tyler Oakley are all going to be there, but we asked Green for his picks as to who we should be tracking during the three day conference. And he’s the right person to ask: After starting the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers with John (which currently boasts 2.6 million subscribers), he’s gone on to become one of the industry’s biggest advocates, launching education channels like SciShow and Crash Course, as well as the label DFTBA Records. And of course, he’s the man responsible for creating VidCon and turning it into the cultural destination it has become.
Some of these people he’s known for a while, and others he’s never met, but all are doing the kind of innovative online video that makes them standout stars. And don’t worry if you can’t make it to Anaheim yourself: You can follow all of our VidCon 2015 coverage at ew.com/vidcon.
Who: Burnie Burns of Rooster Teeth
YouTube subscribers: 8.3 million
Who he is: The founder of online video juggernaut Rooster Teeth, Burns has been doing web video long before YouTube even existed. (He’s the guy behind Red vs. Blue, the influential series that’s been running for more than a decade.)
Why Green is excited about him: “Burnie Burns has been creating content for the Internet since before YouTube, and he and his company, Rooster Teeth, are one of the only organizations that have really leveraged that into a significant, large media company—and it’s one that flies under a lot of radars, but it’s a large media company. They produce television-quality content, as well as lots of Internet-form content, whether that’s YouTube videos or podcasts. The strategy, and also the sort of creative compulsion behind that, really energizes me.”
Who: Casey Neistat
YouTube subscribers: 830,000
Why Green is excited about him: “He’s a filmmaker who’s crossed into online video but held onto his traditional documentary style. He’s even brought it to Snapchat. To me, he seems like somebody who could totally have gone in a more traditional direction but felt like online video was compelling, like it was more interesting to him than any of the other directions he could have gone with his skills and his talent. I’m really into those people because it is very validating to see people who are extremely talented and who do things outside of online video choose to do online video, choose to create YouTube videos, and choose to create Snapchats because they think that’s the most interesting thing happening.”
Who: Nathan Zed, a.k.a. TheThirdPew
YouTube subscribers: 310,000
Who he is: There are thousands of young vloggers on YouTube, but Nathan Zed stands out for his honest conversations about sexual assault and race — plus his use of Twitter, Tumblr, and Vine.
Why Green is excited about him: “It’s really hard to get recognized and to get noticed right now unless you have a bunch of money supporting you. And it’s really hard to build your audience, especially on YouTube, without having some kind of support — or an idea that’s getting popular, not you. Nathan, in the last year, has shown that there’s still a path to do that. Instead of saying, I’m just going to claw my way to the top on YouTube, he’s like, I’m going to claw my way to the top, and I’m going to do it on Twitter and on Tumblr and on Vine. And he’s using those tools in ways that I haven’t seen a lot of people use them and in really smart ways. He’s one of the first people to really think about how Twitter video might be different from YouTube video. Those are the new things that are happening that are just sort of right below the surface of what everyone’s doing. And I feel like he’s really defining a path.”
YouTube subscribers: 8.3 million
Who he is: Markiplier does it all — parodies, video game commentary, original sketches, you name it. And best of all, he’s mobilized his passionate fanbase to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.
Why Green is excited about him: “Every year there’s someone at VidCon who gives me that fanboy moment where I’ll be like, ‘Whoa my God, you’re real! You’re three-dimensional, and I didn’t know what height you would be!’ And I’m pretty sure Markiplier is going to be that for me this year. He has been a huge breakout success, and not just because he’s funny and great at what he does, but also because he creates a legitimate, honest relationship with his community. And from the beginning, he’s leveraged his community for doing charity events, and he’s open with them about the stuff that he struggles with, and I just love that.”
Who: Lilly Singh, a.k.a. Superwoman
YouTube subscribers: 6 million
Who she is: This Indian-Canadian entertainer has gained an international following for her smart (and hilarious) observations about race and gender.
Why Green is excited about her: “After I sort of first started catching up on who Superwoman was, she was putting together this really epic world tour, a world tour where she was going to go to several different continents and do live stage shows. And that to me, that’s such a different direction. That’s such an interesting way to leverage your online success, to say, ‘This isn’t going to be a concert series, this isn’t going to be like a little standup performance that we’re doing for our fans because our fans love us, it’s going to be big and epic and expensive and effective and successful.’ She’s another person like Nathan who came up after it became so hard to become successful just being a personality, but she did it because hers is so strong and because she found a demographic that was deeply underserved. There are so many people that never got representation in traditional media. Lilly provides content for an underserved and underrepresented demographic and isn’t just entertaining but is a legitimate and effective role model.”