Ed Catto: StreamCon & The More Things Change

StreamCon 2 Logo

The more things change… the more they change. The very first StreamCon, a convention that’s all about online influencers and digital content, was just held in New York City. It’s a show that’s blended for both industry professional and fans, just like the bigger comic cons. And it was held in the Javits Center, just like New York Comic Con, so it brought back a lot of memories of the “early days” of what has become one of biggest comic-cons in the world.

StreamCon 1There’s been a lot written about New York Comic Con and the continuing growth of Geek Culture. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the first NYCC. No one knew quite what to expect. It was held in just one section of the Javits Center, in stark contrast to the sprawl of recent years. And that first year, when the crowds got too big, the Fire Marshalls put a halt to anyone entering, or reentering the convention floor. (You can imagine how well that went over.) How could they not have known that it would soon become the biggest show in the convention hall?

On the first day of StreamCon the crowd wasn’t overbearing. It was so easy to get from point A to point B. There was a casual and relaxed atmosphere. And there were only handful of cosplayers. To be fair, Day #1 was meant to be the Industry Summit day, so that was all by design.

But the fascinating part, during this designated professional day, it was all the stress and strains of the marketing community in flux. Sure, there were “industry experts” present but there were also a lot of professionals there to learn about who the YouTube/Vine/Twitter media stars are and just why fans love them so. These folks may have been a little overwhelmed, but the NYC marketing community is nothing if not tough, and you didn’t see anyone sweating.

StreamCon 3But It was soon clear that the days of advertising agencies reaching out to the most popular celebrities product spokespeople based on the top network TV shows are long gone. For today’s millennial audiences, the first thing they reach for is their cell phone. And fewer and fewer of them even watch traditional shows – and when they do it’s usually not on their television. It’s one a different screen. TV stars like Tim Allen and Ted Danson are irrelevant to them. Instead they live in a world dominated by online celebrities like PewDiePie, Smosh and Allicatt. In fact, in Variety’s recent ranking, Taylor Swift just barely cracked the top 10.

During the conference, you could see the struggles as many professionals tried to keep up. They worked to make sense of this world of “non-scripted reality fiction”, cord-cutters and the deemphasizing print media. Carrying around a newspaper or telling stories about things like “waiting in line at the bank” were clearly out of place.

One parallel, of course, is how rapidly Geek Culture is also changing. Movies and TV shows serve as not only the gateway for many fans. And these versions are quickly becoming the “alpha continuity” as well. Cosplayers have leapfrogged from being labeled as “nuisances” at comic cons to becoming main attraction. In fact, now there are whole conventions built around cosplayers.  Many women now lead the way in creativity and fandom. And with the recent blockbuster debut of Supergirl on TV, you just know that more female fans are being created every Monday night. (Disclosure: I liked it too!)

Change is good! Change is exciting! Flux is the new norm… or the new black or the new orange or something like that. It’s a fascinating ride to be on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. How do you feel about it?