ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — A swarm of spontaneous selfie sessions has commenced in the lobby of the Anaheim Convention Center as hundreds of fans have gathered for impromptu interaction with folks they watch online. There are no personal bodyguards or VIP areas. It's simply a sea of human energy.
"This is why you come to VidCon right here," says Nicole Perret, a 16-year-old high school student from San Diego, as she waits to pose for a photo with YouTube personality Olan Rogers.
In its sixth year, such frenzied exchanges are commonplace at VidCon, the annual celebration of online video that kicked off Thursday and continues through Saturday. It's among the reasons the convention continues to expand its footprint and attract more corporate sponsors.
A few flights up on the third floor of the convention center, the VidCon experience is a much more subdued affair for the industry executives from online video networks, talent agencies and corporations who are gathering to discuss where the medium is headed and how to capitalize on those thousands of passionate viewers downstairs — and the millions more beyond the convention center.
"In our efforts to break down the walls, break down the barriers, change the game, change the industry and validate ourselves, we use all these numbers and analytics," said Sarah Weichel, a talent manager who has guided the careers of such popular YouTubers as Hannah Hart and Lilly Singh. "Frankly, I would encourage all of us to stop depending on it so much this year and start speaking more to the artistry."
For the first time since moving from a Los Angeles hotel to across the street from Disneyland four years ago, VidCon is occupying the entire Anaheim Convention Center to accommodate more sessions aimed at content creators and executives with such titles as "Building Brand Campaigns Across Multiple Services" and "Community Driven Platforms: Fandom and Dan Strategy."
Despite the medium garnering billions of viewers — and dollars — online video content creators still say they are fighting for wider legitimacy. They're also not content only producing online videos.
"It's a really big problem that we all continue to have," said Rafi Fine, one half of the Fine Brothers, who have amassed over 12 million subscribers and crossed over into TV with shows for Nickelodeon and truTV. "It's holding us all back. So if we can have something like TV shows that do really well, it's only going to change the conversation about what we're all able to do."
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang