Blog World Expo: A Review

blog-world-expo-convention.jpg Jim and I have been to a handful of blogging and “new media” conferences since we started The Fun Times Guide in 2004.

Our first was Blog Nashville, which was held on the Belmont campus here in Nashville. Our most recent was Blog World Expo which which took place last week in Las Vegas. In case you’re wondering, this year we also attended SES Toronto in June, and we’ll be at PubCon in November.

I thought I’d share some highlights of our trip to Vegas for Blog World Expo 2008.

 

These Feet Were Made For Walkin

Okay, these are not my feet. But I admit, my feet looked very similar to this. (Notice all the bandaids?)

These are the feet of some poor soul who sat near me. It was a full house for this particular session (“Facebook Fortunes: How to Market Your Blog, Business & Brand on Facebook”), so I decided to sit up front on the floor — where I had an excellent view of peoples’ feet.

blog-world-expo-feet.jpgI remember snapping this photo and thinking these feet symbolized so much more than words could tell. Most of us walked… and walked… and walked… from the hotel to the convention hal to the Vegas Strip and back and forth. Why is it that we even attempt to bring our coolest newest shoes that haven’t even been fully broken in yet?

Anyhoo… back to the conference.

The best takeaway from this Facebook session: A Facebook “group” is best for interacting with people. A Facebook “fan page” is best in terms of visibility. (However, it was never explained why or how to make each of those avenues work best.)

By the way, I thought Shama Hyder was a great session leader. Plus, she called 2 other “experts” from the audience up to share their firsthand experiences with Facebook as well (Mari Smith and Kevin Nations). For the most part though, the content overall was pretty basic.

 

Very Few Advanced Tips Were Revealed

Overall, the conference was entertaining at first. Then boring toward the end. Mid-way through the first day of this 2-day conference, Jim and I both realized that the sessions were extremely beginner-level; better for new bloggers. Not that we know everything there is to know about blogging, but we’ve been searching (and now we’re still searching) for that “next level” of expertise and insider tips to be shared at a conference for bloggers.

Of course many of the “experts” in the blogging world were in attendance like:

  • ProBlogger (“Blog tips to help you make money blogging”)
  • John Chow (“I make money online by telling people how much money I make online”)
  • Shoemoney (“Skills to pay the bills”)
  • Guy Kawasaki (“How to change the world”)
  • Copyblogger (“Copywriting tips for online marketing success”)
  • Dave Taylor (“Free tech support… ask Dave Taylor”)
  • Tim Ferriss (“Escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich”)
  • Gary Vaynerchuk (“My 2-minute take on life”)
  • and others

But I only saw one session (plus the 2 opening keynote sessions) that was specifically headed up by such experts who were truly looking to share some “advanced” ideas with fellow bloggers. And to think, I almost skipped that session — because another one sounded good on paper — but I ended up walking out of that one and joining “Making Money Online With A Blog” just a few minutes after it had begun. I’m glad I did.

Initially, I thought this session would be about black-hat ideas or things that only worked once as a fluke for these advanced-level bloggers and there’d be little chance of average bloggers succeeding by doing the same thing. But there was a pretty good dialog going between some of the professional full-time bloggers mentioned above and the bloggers in attendance who were eager to learn from them.

john-chow-zac-johnson-darren-rowse-brian-clark-jeremy-shoemaker.jpg

 

Some Takeaways From “Making Money Online With A Blog”:

  • John Chow: “Put your best posts into an e-book, then give that e-book away for free to every subscriber.”
  • ProBlogger: “It’s okay to repeat things in your blog. Not everyone reads everything.”
  • John Chow: “Try Aweber. It’s really great.”
  • ProBlogger: “I ended up having to pay 5 figures to get the .com for ProBlogger later.”
  • From the group as a whole:  Their s ites are mobile-friendly, but they say mobile sites are very hard to monetize right now. It’s too soon. These guys s pend 12+ hours writing; no days off; “Our blogs are our hobbies… this kind of blogging is not easy.”

Oh, and in case you’re wondering… here’s how John Chow really makes all his money:

john-chow-grabbing-money.jpg  john-chow-catching-money-bwe08.jpg

John Chow is catching free-floating bills inside of a cash-machine. It was part of a marketing gig for a company called Market Leverage. Shoemoney participated in the challenge as well. Of course, there was a huge crowd every time one of these guys did anything at the conference!

 

Keynote Sessions

Richard-Jalichandra-Technorati.jpg The first keynote session on Day 1 was led by Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati. He was discussing the results of a survey about blogging. The only catch: I’m pretty sure he said the survey was only 1,300 people who actively use Technorati. So the results are hard to generalize to the entire blogging world. We tried to find him (or anyone from Technorati) at their booth all weekend, but “fill-ins” were always there instead and they didn’t want to tackle any Technorati-related questions.

The biggest surprise of the weekend took place at Sunday’s opening keynote session. Linkin Park‘s Mike Shinoda was front and center on the panel with Tim Ferriss (“The 4-Hour Work Week“)and  Rohit Bhargava (“Personality Not Included“). What a great panel.

The best part: they were sharing real-world examples and first-hand experiences with regard to the business of blogging. And I, personally, was thrilled when Shinoda threw in his $.02 at the end regarding the music industry and how you’re really better off being an independent artist rather than signing with a label. (The reasons: rules, politics, red tape, obligations, control, freedom.) I’ve always got a soft spot in my heart for the independent artists & songwriters.

tim-ferriss-mike-shinoda-rohit-bhargava.jpg

Mike and Rohit were nice nice guys. Very personable and a joy to listen to.

Tim seemed a tad stiff, but interesting nonetheless. The best points I took away from hearing Tim Ferriss talk were:

  • “Don’t just be the best in your category… create a new category!”
  • “Write your blog like you would talk to your friends after a couple of beers. Loosen up, yet inform your readers in a casual way.”
  • “The 80/20 rule… try to identify the 20% of your work that takes up most of your time, the 20% of your work that creates the most income and the 20% of your work that creates the most stress. Your goal should be to get rid of that last 20% and reduce that first 20% so you can focus more on the things that make you the most money.”

I went right out and bought Tim’s book when we got home. Jim’s enjoying it at the moment.

 

Words To Live By

A couple of interesting/funny things that were said at the conference:

  • Rohit to Ferriss and Shinoda: “How important is it to your success to not be an asshole?”  (That woke the crowd up a bit! … it was a great line. And each discussed at length how it pays to be real and honest, rather than an egotistical jerk in your blogging life.)
  • And I think it was ProBlogger (Darren Rowse) who said, “Be the BEST at whatever it is you do… If you’re a shy person, be the best shy person you can be.” (That just makes me smile.)

 

Six Apart & Movable Type

It was fun meeting all of the folks at Six Apart (we’ve been with them since 2004 when we started using Movable Type for TheFunTimesGuide.com).

Did you know the company was named such because the 2 owners (Ben and Mena Trott, who are husband and wife) have birthdays that are 6 days apart? Now, I just need to ask them why they have 8 dots in their logo. Yes, it’s those types of burning questions, that type of earth-shattering new media journalism that keeps me going. (I can make a few guesses at the answer, but I’d love to hear the “official” explanation.)

six-apart-staff-blog-world-expo-2008.jpg  chris-alden-six-apart.jpg
byrne-reese-six-apart.jpg  anil-dash-six-apart.jpg

 

Ask Dave Taylor

ask-dave-taylor.jpg It was also a nice surprise to finally meet Dave Taylor, who we’ve corresponded with via email in the past, but never personally met.

Jim and I were so disappointed that we missed the very last session on Sunday — which was being led by Dave Taylor — because we got stuck at the “half price tickets” booth on The Strip trying to get tickets for a show that night. (We got good seats for Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity at the New York New York casino. I’ll write about that in a separate post about our trip to Vegas real soon.)

 

Media Bloggers Association

bob-cox-media-bloggers-association.jpg And finally, we come full circle with Robert Cox and the Media Bloggers Association. He was at Blog World Expo hosting a session entitled “Legal Risks Facing Bloggers”. Bob was instrumental in setting up the first blogging conference that Jim and I went to: Blog Nashville back in 2005. That’s where we first met Bob and joined his Media Bloggers Association.

The MBA offers an insurance policy that protects you as a blogger should you be sued, or need to seek legal action on behalf of your blog. This media/professional insurance is called BlogInsure.

 

Unique Things Seen At Blog World Expo

First of all, everyone who was anyone was Twittering. If you were awake and upright, you were Twittering! In fact, you would think the audience at Blog World Expo powered the entire Twitterverse by the looks of peoples’ fingers dancing on the keys of their laptops and mobile phones round the clock.

twittering-on-two-mobile-phones.jpg And talk about an obsession… many people even had two mobile phones and they would use them simulataneously to check 2 accounts or do 2 things at once. Those people could not be paying attention to the session speakers, and they actually became somewhat of a distraction to those of us who were. Who knows, lots of folks were probably there just to rub shoulders with the big wigs and participate in the networking opportunities. To some, the sessions seemed more like a place to pull up a chair and rest your feet than a place to learn new information. At least we tried to pay attention and get something from the sessions…

twitter-live-feed.jpg @JimWalczak even got in on the Twitter craze while we were waiting for the second day’s keynote speaker to arrive. Unfortunately, this was his first tweet at BWE, and he didn’t realize that it was going to appear “live” on every big screen in every room associated with the conference. (They ran a live feed of all #bwe08 tweets all weekend.) Posting it to his personal Twitter followers was one thing, but posting it to the audience he was Twittering about was another! @FunTimesGuide decided to save her thoughts about the conference for a post rather than a tweet. :o)

Overall, it was quite surprising (if not annoying) that at any given time two-thirds of the audience in both the keynote sessions as well as the hourly sessions seemed to be “checked out”. Except for the fact that bloggers are incredibly skilled multi-taskers and can listen and type at the same time, you would think that no one wanted to be there! Most were checking email… Twittering… posting blogs… Twittering… posting photos they’d taken… Twittering… looking for photos of themselves in others’ feeds and posts from the weekend… Twittering…  writing email… and did I mention Twittering?

However, it was interesting to glance at all the different &
quot;looks” that people have chosen for their Twitter pages, browsers, and other computer programs. That was quite fun. For example, most people (at Blog World Expo) choose green as their color scheme for Twitter, their browser, and many other programs. Usually, it was an earthy green, rather than a limey, pale, or neon green.

Also noticed at Blog World Expo: many people toted their laptops around in wheeled laptop carriers — you know like rolling luggage. Hmmm… I have one of those. But it’s so bulky. Maybe next year I’ll take it along — if we decide to attend Blog World Expo 2009.

 

Best Takeaways From Blog World Expo 2008

We were introduced to a handful of new programs at Blog World Expo. Jim and I plan to explore each of these a bit more closely:

In the end, here’s what I was hoping to get out of this conference: tips, suggestions, reviews, and advice from bloggers who’ve been there, tried everything.

I was mostly eager to hear about actual products and services that can save bloggers time, energy, and money.

Ideally, you want to hear firsthand reviews from fellow bloggers, rather than the sales pitch delivered by the companies’ marketing teams who are standing at their booths in the Expo hall, but we’ll take what we can get. Most of our takeaways from Blog World Expo came from the vendors themselves rather than from the speakers at the sessions (…which in itself isn’t all bad).

 

Blog World Expo 2009?

jim-trying-to-stay-awake-beyond-adsense-session.jpg Jim and I are kicking ourselves that we didn’t sign up for the “Executive and Entrepreneur” conference that started a day earlier at this year’s Blog World Expo.

I think that track was better suited for us than the mainstream bloggers track — as most sessions were simply very very basic and 101-level stuff.

Jim and I even split up each time too, so we were able to experience twice the number of sessions than the typical conference attendee. As a result, I think we have a pretty good feel for what Blog World Expo is like.

I highly doubt that we will attend #BWE09 (Oct 15-17, 2009). But who knows… perhaps the E&E track will be worth a visit next year.

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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