Social Media Events Are Fragmenting

shattered This past weekend, the New Media Expo happened in Las Vegas, Nevada. There have been a lot of posts floating around the blogosphere about the event, and I’ve been thinking about what I want to say about it. I think there’s a trend to observe here, and that it’s right in front of us: the state of podcasting and social media events is mirroring the media and technology these events cover. Some thoughts on a few of the events.

The New Media Expo Story

I read James Lewin’s coverage of the event, where he asks if tech trade shows still matter. Short answer: yes, but I’ll get back to that.

Tim Bourquin posted his frustrations about the business at large here. Gutsy move, actually, and I had a lot of thoughts about the post that I want to talk about, but maybe not here. (Note: remember, I also work for a media and events company.

Dave Peck voiced his dissatisfaction here. Part of the complaints in the comments were about the shift to Las Vegas (from Ontario, California). Vegas is tricky for events.

My Take

I think Tim and Emile Bourquin (and team) have put on a great show over the years. I enjoy their event. It’s worth paying for. I think they’ve done lots to bring together the tenuous “industry” that circles podcasting and media making. I would’ve been there this year, but a last-minute conflict pulled me out of the game. Otherwise, I was proud that I was asked to take the stage at an event I loved in 2006 when I first attended it. I hope Tim continues making a show, but if not, I understand his perspective.

For those who try comparing NME to PodCamp (note: I’m co-founder of PodCamp), it’s not the same thing. Tim’s show is worth the price of admission. He goes to a great expense to put it on. PodCamps are different, and we offset the costs by doing volunteer labor. One isn’t better than the other. They’re different. More about PodCamps later in the post.

But now, think about podcasting. Where is THAT going? If you can guess that one correctly, get back to us all. It’s been a crazy ride so far.

Blog World Expo

Rick Calvert and team are putting on Blog World Expo in a few weeks, and I will be in attendance. This event covers blogging heavily, but also has a new media track. It debuted last year in Las Vegas, and appears there this year, too. This means there were two events about social media (let’s not quibble over terms) within a month of each other. I planned on attending both. Why? Different crowds. Tim’s event has a history and brings lots of the podcasting world’s brightest. Rick’s event brought diverse people like religious, military, sports, and political bloggers, and I liked that.

Those are two events about social media, within a month of each other, in the same state.

And again, what’s the state of blogging? People are slipping off to twitter and tumble and seesmic. Some blogs are more and more like mainstream outfits now. Others are falling apart into lifestreams. Is there a blogging industry? Not sure.

Other events

Let’s add to that Gnomedex (I fly out later today), South by Southwest, Podcasters Across Borders, SOBCon, and several other social media events of varying prices.

Add on top of that the several dozen PodCamp events, lots of various social media events, meetups, tweetups, Mashable-ups, TechCrunch50, and we haven’t even spilled over into the bigger events like all of Tim O’Reilly’s stuff. And now, we have the crux of the issue.

As Goes the Social Media, So Goes the Events

Why aren’t we catching on that blogs are atomizing into blogs/twitter/friendfeed/seesmic/google reader comments/ etc, and thus, the events are going to start to feel that way, too? It’s like we need a FriendFeed for events at this point, to sum up all the experiences we’re having, and those we have to skip.

Want to see just how diffuse this is becoming? Look at Robert Scoble’s watchlist on And that’s not all of them. You need to get into Somewhat Frank’s Calendar, and a few other choice places to see all the social media events.

There are almost more events than there are bloggers and podcasters, and that’s in the US alone.

What Comes Next

If I knew this, I’d be a billionaire. But I can say this: the event space shifts and turns all the time. There used to be Comdex, a super-event will gazillions of people. That atomized and now several other events took its place. E3 used to be the gamer’s event of the year. Things rise, things fall. They swell up, they dissipate.

As a consumer of events (I go to dozens a year), I’m putting my personal value in attending into three camps:

  1. Who will I meet there from the industry itself?
  2. Who will I meet there are prospective clients who have also come to attend the event?
  3. Where are my friends going?

Note that I didn’t say I wanted to see where the vendors and new technology are. Why? Because you’ll tell me that. (You= Paisano, Engadget, Louis Gray, Robert Scoble, Center Networks, etc).

Note that I didn’t say where all the great speakers will be. I love meeting great speakers, but I try do do that in the hallways between speeches.

Note that I don’t care which show is the biggest ,best, only, and all the other terms marketers want to use.

As a PRODUCER of events, I have certain goals and put my value in the following:

  • How can I deliver the most value for a reasonable cost?
  • How can I make the event last before, during, and after with online community?
  • How can I empower others to make their own experiences?
  • How can I deliver the most education?

To me, as things spread out, diffuse, and move differently between larger and smaller crowd sizes, I will focus on adjusting my expectations, making the ideas around the events more flexible, and trying to deliver as much to the community as I can around the constraints as they come up. I’m working, as always, from a passion for what comes next, and the goal of helping others learn and then execute.

And I know this, too: Tim, Rick, everyone else mentioned above, and everyone creating events is either thinking the same way, or they’re bound for some rough waters.

I’ve got my own event coming up with partners David Meerman Scott and Paul Gillin in October. This one is more geared towards helping marketers and PR professionals understand what all the other events listed above live and breathe on a daily basis. It’s a bit different in that way. And yet, I’m mindful of everything I’ve covered in this post.

Just the same, there’s a lot to learn, and many connections to be made, and many new people coming into the social media space every day. We’ll find ways to get everyone together face to face.

Just be mindful of everything going on around the actual ticket you bought, and the sessions you liked or didn’t like. You’re part of it with us. And that’s the good news.


Photo credit, respres

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