The 2010 SXSW Interactive Exhibit Hall is busy
I arrived here at the SXSW Interactive Festival on Friday, the first day of the conference, and the main takeaway so far is there is so much going on in the digital media industry right now.
This is my first SXSW yet I’ve attended big technology conferences like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for many years. Maybe because Austin is smaller than Las Vegas, the SXSW conference seems busier. Figures put CES 2010 attendance at about 110,000 - that’s below the event’s 140,000-plus totals registered between 2005 and 2008. Still it’s a huge show, and SXSW Interactive attendees only compromise 20% of total CES attendees on a given year. I found it interesting SXSW Interactive 2010 attendance is up 40% from 2009. I think the attedance figures demonstrate people are busy in the space right now developing next generation digital media experiences in entertainment and media. Remember, trend watchers are looking for innovations here -- Twitter debuted at the SXSW Interactive Festival in 2007.
Because I’m new to this Interactive festival which is scheduled full of panels on digital and social media trends, and then umpteen networking parties every afternoon -- upon arrival I decided to attend to my first panel, called ‘How to Rawk SXSW’. Basically the panel is a 101 of how to navigate both the interactive and music parts of the conference. There’s video up of this panel here on the SXSW Official YouTube Channel, but be forewarned, the language is not safe for work, but the lessons I learned in the panel I’ll certainly take with me through the rest of the conference.
For instance, panel moderator Min Jung Kim wisely pointed out : “Don’t just stand next to each other in the bar and retweet who you’re standing next to”. It’s amazing to see hundreds of attendees so absorbed with their mobiles - tweeting, and checking in with location services like Gowalla and Foursquare -- so absorbed, that they seem totally absent from the festival!
Web technology author Denise Jacobs also offered: ‘Go to a panel that isn’t necessarily something you know much or care much about’. I took that to heart moving forward through my first and second days. I am not a web user experience (UX) designer, so I went out of my comfort zone, and went to a panel called ‘CMS Admin. UX Gateway to Heaven or Hell’. This panel was targeted at web designers who are creating content management systems (CMS) for media / entertainment producers and editors who use CMS deliver content to the web. In my career before Cisco, I certainly was a media producer, but my use of content management systems was limited to the unwieldy podcast uploader. Trying to get our traditional broadcast radio program up on the web quickly was certainly a challenge. I remember it didn’t always work or took an ungodly amount of time to get a podcast on the web.
UX experts on this panel started running through the very highly configurable CMS systems -- Joomla, Drupal, WordPress. They displayed the CMS screens for web producers and editors built on these different systems. Looking at the displays, I imagined being a media producer today having to deal with all these different systems to get my content up for web audiences. So I asked this question via Twitter, of the panelists.
I’m not sure I was happy with the answer - the panelists said UX designers do their best to make the user experience simple and easy for the producers and editors. In response to my question, one person from the audience chimed in -- she said often CMS systems are designed for editors and producers to manage content, but are not designed well to display that same content for web audiences. I scratched my head and thought -- ‘I would lose my mind if I was at a media company and had to learn multiple complex CMS systems just to speak to my audience on the web’. After all, the twitter hash tag to track conversations from this panel was aptly titled #cmsux. From what I’ve seen of the back end of our Cisco Eos platform, the management of content seems to be a much smoother experience that what I was shown in this panel.
Wandering around the Austin Convention Center, you bump into people, conversations get going, and the next thing you know you are missing more panels than you want to attend. I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon roaming the Exhibit Hall which is full of giants like Google, AOL, and Microsoft, and smaller companies developing interactive advertising technologies, iPhone applications, digital music services, blogging platforms and more. I felt on the show floor a more vibrant web development scene than I’ve ever seen at San Francisco’s Web 2.0 Expo show floor at the Moscone Center.
So there you are learning, getting about, but somehow missing more and more panels. I thought back to one of the original tips from the ‘How to Rawk SXSW’ panel -- panelist Jeremy Keith had urged -- “Don’t think you’ll get to see everything. Go through the schedule and note the unmissable events and make sure you get there.” But wait, I had already scheduled everything and yet I was still missing panels!
Fortunately, the YouTube SXSW Official channel will be populated with professional produced clips of the panels I wanted to attend but missed out on. There’s also always several blogging search engines that can scour attendee’s write ups of particular panels -- I particularly prefer socialmention.com for this purpose. For instance, I was at a Nokia event when I missed the infamous technology entrepneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spar with Avner Ronen, founder of the web video service Boxee, on a panel called ‘Pay TV vs the Internet -- the Battle for Your TV’. Using Socialmention.com, I was able to find this post on the panel from the site Gearlog.com. Here’s the takeaway quote from the Gearlog post:
“If you think that the Internet going to replace cable you’re crazy,” Cuban said, noting that no one in the Internet video space is making money, including Boxee, and that the current model of delivering content for free is going nowhere.
So yeah I missed this vibrant debate about if internet video can replace traditional broadcast and cable TV channels and services. It seems there are so many people I know here at SXSW Interactive. So another techique I’m using to learn, is to ask my friends to share the knowledge they pick up in panels I missed. Two smart innovators, Yujin Chung, a University of Penn Wharton MBA candidate for 2010, and Matt Newberg, a digital media focused undergraduate from Wharton, trekked from Philadelphia to Austin to attend SXSW Interactive. They did indeed attend that Mark Cuban panel I wanted to go to, and in the following video interview, they share what they learned.
They also review why they feel SXSW Interactive is an important conference to attend and their impressions. They review geolocation services (all the buzz this year at SXSW), and the current state of the digital media job market.
By the way, here’s that rap song about Foursquare that Matt Newberg put together -- it’s called ‘Badges Like Us’ and its a fun watch if you are a Foursquare aficionado. Techcrunch, as Newberg mentions, even wrote about it. Funny, I wanted to attend the panel ‘How to Create a Viral Video’, missed that one too, yet here I was getting the knowledge directly from a creator of one!
By the way, I promised to try out location services at SXSW. Well in my use of Foursquare, I’ve found that every time I check into my hotel on Foursquare, I subsquently get a few requests from other SXSW attendees I don’t know who have cash and want to share my hotel room -- weird!
The SXSW Music Conference begins later in the week after Interactive wraps up, stay tuned for more updates as we attend the music events as well. In advance, I noticed this billboard on the way to the convention center. It’s a sign of the music industry in 2010 -- sponsored content. What you see here is Pepsi / Mountain Dew with it’s own online record label Green Label Sound. The Green Label Sound web site offers free downloads and promotes artists -- here’s an AdAge article on the initiative. It’s an interesting model -- Mountain Dew has signed rights to content so you’ll come to their branded web site and spend time there.