1. Conferences and Events

WidgetCon: The Pro to the Con

Jeremy Pepper was at WidgetCon this morning and is less enamored with it than I am. Okay, maybe I’m not enamored, but against my will I’ve learned a few things, made a few good connections, and had a few too many chocolate-frosted cupcakes. This made it well more than worth my while, and I’m convinced my agency’s clients will be the better off for me being here, which is something I can’t say about every event I’ve participated in.

Before beginning, one regret: that I don’t get to attend every conference with Jeremy. It’s so much more entertaining when he’s around.

Let’s tackle a few of Jeremy’s points out of context; please read his post in full to appreciate where it all comes from.

Jeremy writes:

NYC is about monetization. San Francisco is about community. Or, NY is
about style and SF is about substance – either would work. And, at this
conference, no one seems to care about the community.

First of all, monetization is not a bad thing. If you get a widget that’s a smash hit and gets a million people embedding it, how do you pay for the hosting and bandwidth? Why do it in the first place? A public service? Maybe you’re a widget developer looking for PR or a new job, but ultimately there has to be some promise of financial reward, and it shouldn’t only be left to those who don’t need to make a return on the widget itself. There will be much more breadth and quality of widgets if those with financial resources and promises of financial gain get in the act. Otherwise, it’s like watching YouTube in a world without network TV. The dancing rhinos are fun, but I still need my Heroes and Mythbusters.

Jeremy writes:

Think about it: you are a blogger (or a vidcaster or podcaster), and you are being pitched a widget. Just like any outreach, though, there needs to be a reason I should care. There needs to be a message there that makes me want to put the widget on my desktop or on my blog – but this is the missing idea at the conference.

Contrary to what Jeremy writes, there’s a lot of talk about making widgets viral. Everyone here understands that you don’t have anything to market with if no one adds it. Case in point: the 7 Rules for Widget Success from Freewebs. Those rules talk about providing value for the consumer. RockYou’s case study, which Jeremy missed, is all about making something that spreads (they will be developing an ad network – you can do community and commerce – it’s okay to do this for work).

Jeremy writes:

Um, I ain’t your tool to be monetized and I ain’t your tool to be measured. I ain’t no tool – and, well, as a PR/marketing professional, I do understand the client needs for measurement, but there is still a chance to be part of the community and work within the community to value the community.

Yes, consumers are more than tools, but no one here said marketers should ignore the community. The community’s great. Someone early on talked about measuring not just distribution but how well widgets penetrate a given community – say, Tampa Bay Devil Ray fans (all three of them). What’s implied is that there has to be something of value to that community, and some understanding of that community. Maybe some things weren’t said as explicitly as Jeremy hoped, but it’s possible the people in this room, at least (who, by and large, are not client-side marketers but widget developers, agencies, pubilshers, analysts, and others) get the community part and have beaten that to death, so they want to talk about what’s going to fuel more widget innovation. Part of it’s community. The other part is cash.

Jeremy writes:

Update: Okay, I left the conference right before lunch, because there was no reason to stay, and I knew I would learn nothing at this keynote. But, on the way out, I was talking to a reporter and talked about the NY vs SF vibe. He then got all NY media elite on me … which I have never had happen in all the years in PR.

As a response, consider what Jeremy wrote at the start of that same post:

NYC is about monetization. San Francisco is about community. Or, NY is about style and SF is about substance – either would work.

Maybe the reporter was a short-sighted jerk, but Jeremy was playing up all the stereotypes in his own writeup of the event. That’s how he introduced it. And, for the record, Freewebs, which hosted this event, is based in DC. So, umm, what is DC about? Why doesn’t he just talk about DC lobbyists and prostitutes and crack addicts and whatever they’re into?

Commerce. Community. Crack. Now you’ve got the full spectrum of WidgetCon.

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Comments to: WidgetCon: The Pro to the Con
  • July 11, 2007

    Hee. It was good seeing you too, David. And, conferences are fun with you.
    I was really surprised at the lack of concern or desire to be part of the community.
    I got an IM from a friend that seemed to sum up my thoughts:
    *you nailed it. marketers are identified by how much they hate their consumers.
    *they can’t even digest the term customer.
    And, that is a potential problem. I believe in monetization, but not at the detriment of community. And, that’s what it seemed like to me: it’s about money, and only money.
    Yes, when things go viral, they can make money (or not, as we see on YouTube); and that’s fine. It should be that way, and it should be that companies use widgets, applications, gadgets and virtual goods for smart marketing. But, I didn’t hear about that – I just heard money, money, money.
    As for RockYou, I saw them at the VGSummit and really do like what they are doing in Facebook applications, and with widgets.
    And, well, as for leaving – I did come for the two first panels while on vacation. 🙂
    Take care, and I’m back to napping.

  • July 11, 2007

    I still think there was more than you saw, even if not as much as they have in the crepe-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, Alcatraz-escaping Bay Area. I’m sure I could come up with more, but I’ve had enough of widget gab for one day.

  • July 14, 2007

    could someone pass me the granola and zig zags? thanks.

  • July 14, 2007

    All I’ve got here are bagels, sorry.

  • July 14, 2007

    Bagels and Dunkin’ Donuts. I go home tomorrow, and I’m gonna miss them. 🙂
    It was great seeing you – even if we did just argue across blogs. Take care, and congrats. 🙂


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