This past Saturday, about a hundred members of the "vlogging" (that's video plus blogging) community gathered in Santa Monica to partake in the second-annual Halloween Vlog Fest, cosponsored by TV Guide and Yahoo!.
The West Coast Yahoo! campus offices were transformed from their regular corporate look into a festive Halloween-themed party complete with cobwebs, black and orange balloons, fake (phew!) spiders, and a tombstone that curiously kept falling over during the early parts of the evening. (Hmm, paging Jennifer Love Hewitt?) There was also plenty of Halloween candy, but guests seemed more interested in the black-and-white fortune cookies provided by Chin Chin, a popular L.A. eatery that catered the gala with spring rolls, noodles in peanut sauce, and its famous Chinese chicken salad.
New-media producers Steve Woolf and Zadi Diaz of Smashface Productions coordinated the festival, which was also cosponsored by Network2.tv, Fishman Productions, Next New Networks and Active Maps. Throughout the evening, 29 Halloween-themed videos were looped. "We're going to make HalloweenVlogFest.com a haunt' where anyone can go and get a link to watch any of these videos," Woolf told TVGuide.com. "We have amateurs all the way through people who have a lot more professional experience. Some of the people who submitted videos have aspirations to turn their love into a living. And they may be able to find a way to do that in the coming years."
One vlogger who's well on her way to doing that is festival guest Amanda Congdon (aka Rocketboom) of the Amanda Across America project, who recently completed her cross-country journey and showed up at the festival dressed as an angel. L.A.'s newest resident announced that she's going to be doing a show with a subscription-TV network while she continues her vlogging. "I want to work in the gap between old and new media," Congdon told us.
What did Congdon discover during her six-week trek in a hybrid vehicle across the United States? "The No. 1 thing I learned about [people in this] country is that everyone cares about money," she said. "It doesn't matter where you live. I learned that if something makes sense monetarily, it'll work."
How will individuals who, let's face it, may have a few weeks' worth of unseen episodes of Prison Break and The Nine on their TiVos and DVRs ever make time for video-blogging? "The beautiful part about vlogging is that people don't have to schedule a time for it," Diaz noted. "The content comes to the individual. You just subscribe to it, much like you would a magazine. Video-blogging is targeting a niche audience."
Scott Moore, head of Yahoo! news and information at Yahoo Media Group, who dressed as a cowboy for the event, said, "Information overload is definitely a real phenomenon of today's society." As such, the exec recommended, "You have to spend a little time [deciding] what your tastes are and who you want to hear from and who you trust. Once you do that, the software can actually filter your information whether you want blogs on the Internet or Jon Stewart on your TiVo."
Towering over the guests was actor Dan McVicar (best known to soap opera fans as The Bold and the Beautiful's Clarke), whose 6-foot-4 height helped him make a very convincing Frankenstein. The performer/vlogger or "McVlogger," his own turn on the lingo has launched his own "late-night" talk show at LateNiteMash.com. "I created the McVlog' as a way of [achieving] my goal, which was to create a Steve Allen/Tonight Show for the Web of the world. I've been consumed by this for 12 months," said McVicar, who quipped of his devotion to new media, "I'm as committed as a pig at a bacon-and-eggs breakfast."
McVicar, who has made about a dozen appearances as Craig Ferguson's "nemesis" on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, has interviewed for his show the likes of actor Andy Garcia, political commentator Arianna Huffington and Craig Newmark of Craigslist.com. What makes McVicar's talker different from the ones hosted by Jay, Dave, Jimmy and Conan? "This type of media has a very high level of engagement for an audience," he said. "It's not, We make it, you watch.' It's not eyeballs as much as it is hearts and minds. We're creating a conversation [with our audience]."
Vlogger Steve Garfield (SteveGarfield.com) of Boston, Massachusetts, made the cross-country trek to Santa Monica to attend the party. His video covered the recent Life is good Pumpkin Festival held on the Boston Common, which benefited Camp Sunshine, a national retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses. "My initial idea was to get [pictures of] a bunch of pumpkins," Garfield said. "But I grabbed people's faces, too. I took 157 photos and ended up using 97." Garfield's next step was to find the right song to score the video, and he found the perfect tune in a haunting version of "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap. "She's my favorite artist," raved Garfield.
Los Angeles-based vlogger Matt Wyatt (InvisibleEngine.com) didn't have an entry in the Halloween-themed festival but he got in the spirit by dressing up as Superman. "I'm actually supposed to be Superman's stunt double," he quipped. His site, which contains a mix of sketch and narrative material, recently received attention when CNN and MSNBC picked up his take on the Mark Foley scandal. "We got a lot of traffic as a result, and a few production companies gave us some calls," he reports. "We want to continue doing Internet stuff and eventually transition to traditional media film and television."
As Smashface's Woolf sums it up, "I really think that the outcome of this party is going to be that people from mainstream media and the [vlogging] world are going to make some connections and start working together towards the future."
"[Vlogging] will give people more things to do to goof off and have fun," added Yahoo!'s Moore with a chuckle. "But in all seriousness, it's going to have a dramatic effect on journalism and the national dialogue." That movement is not going to happen tomorrow, however. "It takes time for these things to gain traction and become mainstream," says Moore. "But that will happen. We're on our way."