Robert Scoble apparently started a meme last night on FriendFeed asking the pointed question: “Are bloggers & social networks killing the big shows?”
Wilson Rothman over at Gizmodo asked a similar question earlier today: “Will Trade Shows Survive?”
Rothman puts the question in a more pointed context, that of the declining value to Apple of the MacWorld expo:
“I don’t think anyone really considers Macworld a “trade show” like CES, CEDIA or IFA. It’s a show, sure, but it’s one where Stevie J is the main attraction.”
The Scobleizer, on the other hand, thinks that the incredible reach of launching products from one’s garage utilizing “Stickam, Ustream, Qik, Kyte, YouTube, Flixwagon, Viddler, Vimeo, SmugMug, etc and blogs” completely kills the need for people to gather in meatspace for an event.
This completely overlooks the need for real-world networking, not to mention the insatiable need for bloggers and content producers for new content.
There are Major Economic Advantages to Content Producers for MeatSpace Conferences
Certainly, in the web world, there is a diminished need for a meatspace meeting. I’m living proof of that. Save for a couple of company-funded excursions over the last fifteen months, I’ve lived in the thriving metropolis of Tyler, TX (population 185,000 or so) and tapped out upwards of 1000 words a day on the goings on in the Web 2.0 and social media world.
Still, one of my few regrets was not traveling more. On my trip to Washington DC last year, I was able to produce enough video content in four days to power the podcast for another month. The SummerMash tour produced enough interviews to last another four months. The OWA event in 2007 produced enough video content in one night to keep me posting video interviews for two months.
Those are just web-only events. Think about gadget bloggers and folks in the consumer electronics blogging world.
They’re catering to a much larger market in terms of audience, and they produce content at a much more fevered pitch. Their hunger for new devices knows no bounds, and for CE companies to send each blogger one of their devices can get very pricey in a hurry.
I don’t think that it’s particularly noteworthy to acknowledge the obvious economics of this situation – instead of sending out tons of gadgets to the hordes of bloggers and socnet influencers, invite them out to a show and let them play with them on your terms.
Of Course, I Haven’t Run an Event Since 1995
I’m not familiar with the modern economics of running a conference. I know prices are astronomical for some of the mega-conferences, and I know first hand how expensive a conference can be when it busts.
But to say that there is eminent obsolescence coming for the tradeshow and the conference? Maybe for some segments of the conference-going public, but definitely not for most, particularly in an age where everyone is a content producer of some magnitude.