I spent a few days last month at the BlogWorld conference and New Media Expo in Las Vegas. I didn’t gamble a cent– I like to say I’m not dumb enough to play a game of chance, not smart enough to play a game of skill– but I learned a lot, tweeted a lot, and met heaps of interesting, engaging people. I even got to see Beatles LOVE courtesy of Cirque de Soleil. The show was magical and it was fun to watch 20-something Eastern European acrobats dance like ’60s-era Yanks to “Back in the U.S.S.R.” But getting back to the learning part, in the spirit of making sure what happens in Vegas stays online, here are a few old and new media lessons from BlogWorld:
1. Online vs. traditional journalism is not a zero sum game
Despite some stinging comments hurled at CNN anchor Don Lemon during one panel, I was surprised by how much love “legacy media” were getting in BlogWorld. NYU journalism prof Jay Rosen advocated using search data to determine what readers care about. Blogcritics publisher Eric Olsen waxed nostalgic about the tactile experience of print magazines. Rather than eye each other suspiciously, old and new media types shared best practices and ideas for preserving quality journalism.
2. Video kills the blogging star
Since most of us bloggers came out of the print world, we sometimes tend to overlook the power of multimedia content. But panelists ranging from Facebook evangelist Shama Kabani, to consultant Jay Berkowitz warned that anyone who forsakes video is leaving money on the table. According to Berkowitz, only four percent of marketers use YouTube, even though the video-streaming site is also the world’s second most popular search engine. So whether you’re filming it or embedding someone else’s, video ought to be part of your content strategy.
3. The Internet is just a big search party
Speaking of search engines, almost every BlogWorld speaker mentioned the symbiotic relationship between content and search. Chris Baggott, an expert on corporate blogging, said that many content creators foolishly buy into what he called “the myth of the audience.” Most websites get roughly 66% of their traffic from search engines, Baggott said, and so all content should be written for the first-time reader. This means defining—and relentlessly repeating—a strategic set of keywords that people are likely to search for. “Think about what [prospective customers] are going to type,” Baggott said, “And talk about it.”
At first this rubbed me the wrong way; I’m a big believer in fostering community and building relationships with readers over time. But I now realize that these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Defining a set of keywords and writing clear, pithy content around them is simply good communication. One thing that Twitter has demonstrated is that brevity can go a long way. People don’t have time to decode your cutesy headlines when their RSS feeds and Twitter Lists are packed with goodies. So don’t just think of search engine optimization as a crude marketing strategy. Think of it as good writing.
4. Nice guys finish first
In the heady days of ink-stained newsmen and billionaire publishers, loutishness was a virtue. Think of newspaper tycoons William Randolph Hearst (the inspiration for Citizen Kane), Conrad Black or Rupert Murdoch. But now that media is no longer a product but a conversation, to paraphrase Dan Gillmor, the meek have inherited the (Word)press.
The “rock stars” of BlogWorld were celebrated not for their egos but their generosity. This was evidenced by the drastically different receptions given to Guy Kawasaki—billionaire venture capitalist—and Chris Brogan, the so-called “nice guy” of social media.
Brogan is known for superhumanly responding to every @reply on Twitter and playing “matchmaker” between vendors and clients, as he put it. Kawasaki is notorious for his automated “robo-Tweets.” During his keynote, Brogan preached mantas like, “Selling is never about getting more than you give” and “I like making relationships before I make money; I’m not a hooker.”
During his moment in the spotlight, Kawasaki reminisced about cruising down the streets of L.A. in a Ferrari and stubbornly refused to play along with comedian Kevin Pollack’s hilarious “Larry King game.”
I met lots of people at BlogWorld. There was the group I joined for dinner after they put out an open invitation on Twitter, and the successful podcaster who told me about his family on the way back to the hotel. And then there was the guy who ping-ponged from table to table pitching his product and boasting about the 500 business cards he had “collected.”
I’m not sure how many cards I collected. But I’m certain I got more out of BlogWorld than he did.