At Blogworld Expo Exhibitors Were the Message
I have probably attended over 300 conventions in my life, being a former employee of non-profit associations who exhibited at many different venues. But the Blogworld and New Media Expo was a unique experience because it was the first time I can recall exhibitors being as important to an event as the attendees.
The exhibitors at Blogworld say as much about the state of the blog as any of the more than 1500 bloggers who attended. Some of what they are selling is so new that they are creating a niche on the spot that no one - least of all bloggers - knew existed. Call it "transformational" or "revolutionary," the fact is products that will enhance what blogs do are being introduced in the exhibit hall. And many bloggers seem curious about how some of the "widgets" and services will best benefit them and their website.
It is remarkable to see so many companies - many of whom have been in business for only a matter of weeks or months - drawing large numbers of bloggers to their booths, eager to sample or view the latest innovations. Then there are the corporations whose presence in the exhibit hall speaks volumes about how fast the blogosphere has penetrated the mainstream.
Yahoo.com is here with a large booth promoting its social networking platform, Yahoo Pipes, as well as its storehouse of badges and widgets that they are helping MySpace users to decorate their pages and make their sites more efficient in exchanging information.
Indeed, "social networking" could very well be the catchwords of the entire Expo. Companies are hungry for ways to tap into the MySpace gold and anyone that can show them how to do it as well as create their own social networking opportunities is going to be in demand for the foreseeable future.
Also on hand was AOL, a company that by any measure is in enormous transition. When I asked the rep why AOL was here, he half-jokingly said "AOL is everywhere." The real reason is that AOL owns 4 of the top ten blogs as measured by Alexa and that they felt compelled to come to Blogworld in order to maintain a presence with bloggers.
But it is the cutting edge companies, bootstrapping via blogs and other websites that have drawn some of the larger crowds and created most of the buzz. Rob Neppell's Kithbridge, Inc., which provides blog monitoring and tracking services as well as developing custom feeds in order to increase traffic was on such booth. Then there is the eclectically named "Sodahead.com." whose online polling widgets have become such a huge hit with bloggers. The company is now branching out to supply social networking sites with ways to better communicate with their readers and friends.
Blogsvertise.com and their stable of thousands of bloggers will, for a fee, write online reviews of products and have them whisked around the internet via search engine hits and RSS feeds. Crispads.com is a blog publisher who matches advertisers to blogs via text or banner ads. Other companies were hawking strategic ad placement and better gaming of search engines.
To make the symbiosis between the expo and attendees even more pronounced was the fact that several exhibitors were also on one or more of the 50 panels and seminars during the two day event. Roger Simon, CEO of Pajamas Media was on a "New Media Moguls" roundtable as well as a panel on civility in the blogospere. Hugh Hewitt if Townhall.com not only aired his national radio show from the Expo but also appeared on a panel discussing which side, right or left, had the upper hand in the internet. Rob Neppell also appeared on a panel about causing change through grass roots activism.
Many of the exhibitors also have their own personal blogs where they were giving their readers a daily update on what was going on at the Expo. In essence, the bloggers and exhibitors created a seamless whole with each complimenting and building on what the other had been doing.
Duane Patterson, producer of the Hugh Hewitt Show and a blogger in his own right, asked me during Ed Morrissey's Heading Right Radio Show what this event would be like in 10 years.
I have no doubt that the Expo will continue to attract more and more exhibitors and the prospect of steadily rising attendance is also in the offing. But will this feeling that companies and blogs are feeding off each other, finding inspiration and creativity in each other's accomplishments, ideas, and content last for much longer?
As long as it does, the kind of explosive creative energy exhibited by many companies at Blogworld and New Media Expo will continue to give bloggers ideas on how to improve and monetize their sites.
(Photo credit: Glenn Reynolds)