What goes online

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m incredibly skeptical about the benefits (for me) of blog-related conferences.

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m incredibly skeptical about the benefits (for me) of blog-related conferences.

I've only attended one (blame goes to skepticism and conflicts), but that was enough to make me wary of dedicating a day or multiple days at an event where bloggers either excoriate attendees and their companies for not "getting it" while praising each other's posts that harp on a similar theme.

If I'm oversimplifying all conferences because of my one experience it's only because it seems to be in vogue: I find it hilarious that every blogger in entry-level America suddenly professes to have the salve for Fortune 500 marketing - sprouting generalizations about the myopia of corporate America's resistance to new marketing communications strategies. All this because a few small businesses pursued aggressive online campaigns and scaled their sales.

While I'm not sold on the overall benefits of the keynotes and the seminars, I do applaud how new media conferences offer the great opportunity for people to decamp from desks and bricked offices to meet those they've only communicated through blog postings, conference calls, Skype podcast interviews, or instant message dialogue.

And it's heartened to see everyone comment on how nice and important it is to finally meet people face to face, even if I find a bit stale the age-old chestnut whereby someone astonishingly comments on how a seven-year relationship was finally publicly consummated. Indeed, while many of the speeches during my one blog event were turgid or facile, the conversations I had after the fact were enriching, and full of revelations; you know, the type of things you would hope to hear when listening to bloggers.

Many assail the sponsor creep that increases each year, as BusinessWeek cover stories spook traditionally-minded execs to pull out checkbooks to underwrite a conference for the next fad. But at least with sponsors, you know people have paid good money to laboriously detail their services. The real problem is that the speakers I witnessed weren't saying anything new. When you get an A-list blogger tell you again about Kryptonite, Cluetrain, Dell, or Scoble, it's a wonder they feel compelled to pump out new posts everyday.

The truth is, for a working journalist, there's often very little to report from these events. For one thing, these days everyone is live-blogging everything, even events watched by millions of people like the Super Bowl and the Oscars.

So, given all this, it may be surprising that I'm heading down to South by Southwest (SxSW) for the interactive festival. I've never attended this one before, and it will take a few days out of my hectic life. There are a lot of events, speakers, and "geek luncheons" planned. There are sponsors. There will, undoubtedly, be a significant discussion about Kryptonite. Of course, I'll check these things out, but my main focus is on capturing those rich blog-like dialogues that happen to occur outside the schedule.

Ubiquitous marketing is PRWeek.com editor Keith O'Brien's bi-weekly column on how technology is changing how companies interact with and position their wares to consumers. Keith can be reached at keith.obrien@prweek.com.

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