If your company's IT guy had requested time off at the beginning of the year or your gadget-inclined friend texted you from a blackjack table last week, it's very likely they both were in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Now that Comdex has joined other large-scale events in permanent hiatus, CES Las Vegas has assumed the top spot as the tech-obsessed annual pilgrimage. More than 100,000 journalists, bloggers, corporate PR reps, and others attend to view and experience new products.
Initial feedback from the show has been mixed. Some reporters said they felt attendance was down, and some of the estimated 140,000 attendees griped about the hotel prices and that the product announcement failed to wow them enough to justify the trip. As this column went to press, organizers were already floating out trial balloons about potentially moving the show away from Las Vegas.
The biggest challenge to CES - and other trade shows - might not be the venue's location, but rather the limitations of live events and how emerging technologies are making them less relevant. An early adopter could muck to Las Vegas (admittedly not a terrible proposition), or he or she can call up multiple windows to TechCrunch, Gizmodo, Engadget, and other blogs that have devoted wall to wall coverage on the matter.
When the National Football League and its member teams first began televising football contests, the organizations took care to ensure this new opportunity to attract new audiences would not detract from the traditional revenue stream of ticket sales.
Initially, some teams only broadcast away games, and then they tried creating blackouts for any television set in a 75-mile radius of a particular game. The current policy is to blackout games in the area if the game does not sell out, a prospect that still happens to small-market teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The teams' and league's decisions were born out of fear that television would provide a better viewing experience than actually attending a game. And, on aesthetics and comfort alone, most would probably choose television over the live experience. But television can't emulate the thrill of seeing the game in person.
In many respects, trade shows are going through the same issues that NFL games experienced. Before the new exposure in both (television for football games, a proliferation of blogs covering every angle for consumer trade shows), the traditional media handled coverage of the events. But a C1 recap of a trade show or a box score has never been able to illuminate either event's scope.
So, while the thrill of seeing the CES pomp live will likely remain a strong draw, the stellar coverage devoted to the event by a few, estimable blogs could sway some of the devotees to trade in their plane tickets for a maxed-out Web browser.