VidCon: Discord Demonstrates Its Impression on Both Mainstream and Niche Fan Communities, Teases New Subscription Features

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Discord is a voice, video, and text messaging community-building platform, initially geared towards gamers when founded in 2015. But today, Discord has made its mark across both mainstream and niche internet culture—evidenced by its large presence spanning a multitude of fandoms, like Minecraft and virtual avatars, at VidCon 2022.

It was made clear at VidCon that creators with various sized audiences have made Discord an integral part of their community management and fan engagement strategy. One of the events drawing one of the largest, most fervorous crowds this weekend was the Dream SMP panel—a crew of Minecraft players with millions of young fans and large Discord servers with hundreds of thousands of members. 

Servers on Discord are basically chat rooms—sometimes public and sometimes private or invite-only—which often are held together by ritualistic events, language, community roles, and exclusive access to a creator’s time and attention. 

Hannah Rose (aka @hannahxxrose) is a well-known member of the Dream SMP and a Twitch streamer with over 1 million followers who runs a large Discord server for her fans with over 82,000 users. At a panel at VidCon, sponsored by Discord and titled “Cultivating Community,” Rose discussed alongside other creators the appeal of Discord and how she makes the most of it.

“I created it maybe 4 or 5 years ago, so right when Discord was coming out. Before that, I didn’t really have a place where people could hang out, talk about my stream, talk about the games that we like to play,” Rose said. 

Rose mentioned how she hosts karaoke nights with her fans on Discord and invites them to play games together. Other creators on the panel also mentioned implementing community gaming on their servers, as well as charity events, talent shows, roasts, niche sub-channels, and exclusive emotes as ways of engaging their community. 

Panelists also discussed Discord’s new premium subscription feature, which was released in December to a small test group of creators. The subscription service allows creators to gate all or part of a server behind a paywall—at pricing tiers that range from $2.99 to $199.99 per month, for now. 

As is, many creators have already turned to third-party apps to manage paid access to private Discord servers. Now, Discord is hoping to offer something in-suite. 

“This has been one of the most frequently requested products from creators. It turns out a lot of them were already doing this,” Derek Yang, lead product manager for creators at Discord, told Passionfruit in an interview. “We believe we were able to introduce something that was very much more first-party, native, simpler to use, lower friction, and just more reliable in general.” 

Six months after its premium subscription test group launched, Yang said Discord has three takeaways from creator feedback: a desire for deeper membership analytics, free trial options for interested fans, and more special perks for subscribers like premium-only emojis. 

One creator at VidCon this year, VTuber (virtual avatar creator) Bao the Whale, discussed her experience as a member of the test group. She said she wanted a low-pressure subscription tier that didn’t require too much work on her plate, and chose to go with a $4.99 per month plan which would grant subscribers some exclusive time to watch movies and play games with her. She also has another “joke” tier, which is just a dollar higher and is called “Bao’s Kittens,” which gives fans access to drop recordings of their best “meows” for Bao to rate. 

“It can be as professional or as laid-back as you want it to be,” Bao said at the panel. “You don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself to deliver perfect content.” 

Discord’s head of creator product marketing Jesse Wofford told Passionfruit in an interview that he believes Discord’s ecosystem to be trending towards greater fan-creator interaction. 

“We’re kind of seeing this paradigm shift in the space where fans of creators are looking for more than just a one-way interaction,” Wofford said. “Just having an audience isn’t enough often. And so a lot of creators are finding this community space, having a home for fans, is really what’s driving a lot of fan engagement, fan love.”

A less-mentioned piece of news at this year’s VidCon was a new auto-moderation (AutoMod) feature that Discord announced on June 16. Historically, Discord has faced some heat for its regulation of hate speech, harassment, and abuse. Many Discord servers have human moderators to enforce Discord’s community guidelines and server-specific rules around misconduct. However, in large channels with hundreds of thousands of followers, it’s hard to pinpoint every rule break. 

Many servers have turned to third-party automated bots to scan and delete messages with inappropriate language. Much like with premium subscriptions, Discord is hoping to offer something more effective in-suite. 

Traditionally, third bots have had to scan messages and delete them after they have already been seen. The new AutoMod feature takes place before a message ever gets sent. Channel moderators can set up which words they do not allow in-chat, as well as choose from pre-populated banned word lists provided by Discord, and offending messages will get automatically removed and flagged to moderators. 

“At the end of the day, I don’t think moderators want to be police in the server,” Wofford said. “They’re really good at creating culture and running events. So how do we take off some of these tasks day-to-day?”

Update June 25, 7pm CT: This article has been updated to correct the number in the creator test group, as well as the date that Discord announced its AutoMod feature; it was announced on June 16.

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