Buffer Festival starts the YouTube conversation

Festival founder Corey Vidal (pictured) talks to Playback about launching the festival for YouTube creators and content, and what works on the online streaming platform.

Canada’s first YouTube content festival launched today, but if attendees are expecting non-stop cat videos and laughing babies, they might be disappointed, says festival founder Corey Vidal.

The fest was conceived primarily as an opportunity for consumers to see content (new and existing) created specifically for YouTube in a theatrical setting, but it’s also chance for content creators to understand YouTube on a deeper, more experiential level, he says. The screenings, which showcase content from top-ranking YouTube talent, will also demonstrate for content creators the types of communities and audiences that exist on the platform, and why certain types of content are successful.

Specifically, Vidal says he hopes to emphasize the role of conversation in creating YouTube content, the two-way communication between creator and audience that makes online content so compelling. Different from the more passive experience of watching TV on a traditional set-top box, Vidal says the internet experience is about  interacting with content through social platforms like Google, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“It’s not, ‘Here’s my entertainment, be amazed, share it with your friends’,” says Vidal, also the founder and president of online production company ApprenticeA productions. “My internet experience is a two-way conversation.”

Echoing the pleas of ad-agency execs everywhere, he emphasizes the importance of not trying to make a “viral video,” noting that out of the almost 2,000 videos he’s posted online, only one has gone viral. It’s not about living off of one lottery win, he says, but instead developing long-term engagement through posting videos or new content regularly. His personal YouTube channel has netted more than 68 million video views.

As an example, Vidal cites Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent stunt to promote his new upcoming film Escape Plan, in which he put a call out to Reddit users to send him their favourite lines from his movies. He then recited the lines in videos – filmed in different locations – and posted them on YouTube. The videos garnered from between 100,000 to over two million views each. The first video, which featured a line from Escape Plan to kick things off, topped three million views.

The fact that the festival even exists – and for its inaugural event pre-sold 3000 tickets – speaks to the opportunity in the space, he says.

Buffer Festival itself is the product of an idea that was first spawned when Vidal, sponsored by Air Canada, attended TIFF in 2011 as a roving reporter. He was tasked with covering red carpet events, and posted videos vlogs on YouTube, which are the bread and butter of his ApprenticeA YouTube channel. Following TIFF, he wanted to create a similar festival experience for YouTube, and after various discussions with his team and industry members, applied to the CFC’s ideaBOOST incubator in 2012.

The ideaBOOST partnership gave the idea focus, with an eye to both traditional and digital media, says Vidal, including logistics of venues, screening lengths, and the type of content to be featured. YouTube is also on board as an official partner.

Some of the festival’s sponsorships were also inked through non-traditional methods. Vidal secured Tim Hortons as a sponsor of the festival through a relationship he had built up with the Canadian brand through social media. Back in 2011, he tweeted about the company’s new cup sizes, and when the company tweeted a response, he posted a vlog about the experience, which lead to an ongoing relationship through the real-time social networking platform.

Buffer Festival takes place Nov. 8 to 10 in Toronto.