Monday, August 22, 2005

Blogging tradeshows; competing with sources

Tradeshows -- self-contained, short-lived and full of sources, products and events -- are the ideal places for B2B publishers to try blogging. Shows only run for a few days, and the culture of a tradeshow is all about new products. So why not experiment?
The people-filled floor of the tradeshow is an endless supply of material for interviews, videos, audio, etc. And the real-time style of the blogosphere is an obvious improvement upon the old tradeshow daily newspapers. Primedia Business has had some luck with this, as was noted by Folio magazine. And it seems that tradeshows have become the center of blogging world in B2B...perhaps because of the large numbers of people who blog about the tradeshow industry itself -- including TSMI, Expophile, Tradeshow Blues and MeetingsNet.
So a post on TSMI last week that sang the praises of a particular blog about a tradeshow caught my eye. Take a look, and take a look at the blog in question.
The blog isn't flawless (for example, I hate seeing the over-the-top marketing phrase "Xtreme" used to describe anything that does not involve the possible loss of life.). But it deserves credit for being experimental and creative. There are photos. There are audio files. There are comment sections. There are a few well-turned phrases in the copy.
But what should grab the attention of B2B journalists is that the blog was produced by volunteers at the tradeshow, not by journalists. In other words, it's one more example of the traditional sources of B2B media becoming producers of B2B media. I've been predicting a surge in such source-produced content. And the arrival of such new forms of competition from the people and companies we rely upon for information should worry us.
As an aside, I also think tradeshows are the ideal setting for experiments in what I call immersion journalism. But so far, no one has taken me up on that idea. On the other hand, marketers continue to develop similar applications to sell products.

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  1. Funny you should mention that specific convention blog, Paul. As the meeting was in Nashville, I invited all those blogging volunteers to dinner on Saturday night where they met each other in person for the first time. They each were longtime bloggers and the idea for the blog apparently was theirs, not a top-down thing. (It was also their idea to contact me about hosting the meetup, as I was a Nashville blogger one of them knew). It was not just a convention daily using a blog format, but appeared to be a true expression of grassroots journalism. And they were all fun folks to have dinner with.

  2. Hi Rex,
    Thanks for the info and the insight.
    I expect that we'll see more and more of this. It's the audience, the users, the consumers who are excited by citizen journalism and all its components. While B2B publishers bemoan the loss of their monopoly and complain about amateurs, they are being left behind by talented and ambitious people.

  3. Paul, as one of the ASAE bloggers, I can assure you that "Xtreme" was the conference's overall marketing theme selected by the organization itself -- not us. (And I believe I blogged through the whole event without using the word in any of my posts except once, and that was in an ironic sense!)

    Thanks for your comments and your insight. One thing a blog has over the traditional tradeshow daily thing is its reach -- the ASAE conference was an extraordinarily successful event, and it's being buzzed about all over the country by members of our industry whether they were there or not.

    Would the buzz be the same if there were no blog? I don't think so. Would the blog have been better if it were produced by trade journalists? I don't think so, either -- a big part of what made it successful was the fact that we were participants in the event, simply writing about what we attended and saw. (Many of us are also communications professionals who run magazines/websites of our own in addition to personal blogs, or otherwise write for a living.)

    Does this mark the end of traditional conference dailies and the like? Again, I don't think so, but they'll definitely change. (I believe print still has power and I like getting printed material in my room when I'm at an event. But highlights from the previous day's show blog would be just as interesting to peruse in print each morning as anything else.)

  4. Another ASAE blogger here.

    Riffing on Kevin's idea, scrolling the latest show blog entries on the in-house TV channel of the hotel would be good (not to mention easily automated). All I've seen on those channels before is room location info, which is not too compelling at 6 a.m. Text from a blog that talks about what happened on the floor yesterday would be something I would tune-in to.

  5. One more XtremeASAE blogger chiming in...from Australia of all places!

    Thanks for mentioning our efforts on behalf of ASAE & the Center. As the volunteer "blogmaster" for the event, it was a genuine pleasure to work with Scott Briscoe of the ASAE & the Center staff, Kevin, David, Shawn Lea, Ben Martin, Jamie Notter and our fantastic contributors. I completely agree with Kevin that it was our actual involvement in the meeting, as well as our own work as bloggers, that really made the difference in the success of this blog. I also agree with Kevin and David that making blog posts available in other ways, such as through convention TV, would be very valuable.

    I do want to comment on a couple of things. Rex (who was incredibly generous to invite us out on Saturday night and I want to thank him again for a really fun evening) wrote that the idea for the blog came from us and not from ASAE & the Center. That's not precisely correct. ASAE & the Center had a blog at its meeting in 2004 that was operated by the organization's staff and used meeting speakers as authors, but also included some informal contributors. Some of us were involved in last year's effort, which was a great start. It was our idea to put the blog in the hands of current association bloggers for year's meeting, as well as to make it possible for any attendee to contribute something simply by sending an e-mail.

    Also, we made a specific choice not to use this year's blog as a substitute for a convention daily. We wanted to focus instead on using the blog as a resource both for attendees and members of the association community who could not attend the meeting. Even though we got a late start (we didn't launch until mid-July) I think our group did a great job capturing both the substance and the spirit of the meeting.

    Paul, thanks again for writing about what we did. I know all of us enjoyed it and we're glad that our work has had some impact. Sorry for the long comment!

  6. Thanks to all of the ASAE bloggers for stopping by and sharing their comments.
    Traditional publishers should make note of a few things here. First -- as I said in the original post -- the ASAE blog is an interesting product. But second -- and far more important -- look at how the people who created the product are behaving now. These folks are excited by what they did. They have passion. They have a sense of ownership.
    If you're a B2B publisher, ask yourself honestly: when was the last time your staff was this excited by work?