One of our favorite events to attend as a team each year is BlogHer. The BlogHer community is always welcoming and we never fail to come home on a positive note. This was the first year we weren’t able to attend. Instead, the entire NMX team headed to San Diego for a marathon team meeting so we could plan our own event. What we love about the blogosphere is the ability to live vicariously through blog posts, videos, tweets and Facebook updates, so that when we do miss out on an event, we can still feel like we were there. We eagerly read all the BlogHer ’12 news and updates.
In many of the BlogHer recaps, attendees expressed a different vibe this time around. They felt the event had gotten too big and lost some of its intimacy. Many wished for a smaller event like in past years and I’d really like to talk about that today. As someone who helps to plan a conference, I feel kind of funny commenting on BlogHer and I hope it’s not out of line to discuss this. However, I also think that this gives me a unique perspective that most attendees may not see.
All Conferences Want to Grow
When I first began working for NMX I was shocked at how much it costs to put on a conference, especially one where everyone wants to have food and fun programs. Some venues will charge $200 to plug in a power strip or ask for $50 per head or more to provide everyone with a $7 sandwich. If the conference has a food or beverage sponsor who wants to provide free or discounted food or drinks, the organizers still have to pay full price for the items in what is called a “corking fee” in the event industry. The organizer also has to hire bartenders and food servers from the venue at union rates (typically $20 an hour or more) as well to serve attendees their “free” food and drinks. Each room or exhibit hall booth space comes with its own set of costs too. So it’s in a conference’s best interests to grow.
The more people who attend a conference, the easier it is to cover costs. Plus when you have a lot of attendees, there’s a better ability to land sponsors and exhibitors. These sponsors and exhibitors help to keep ticket costs low and allow the organizers to provide food, parties and other fun stuff. It’s not easy to find sponsors for a small conference. When you also factor in people who are, in essence, stealing from the conference by hosting unsanctioned events or suitcasing (selling products and services at an event without purchasing an exhibit space), conferences really don’t make money unless they get bigger. BlogHer is a business and all business owners agree they need to continue to grow and profit to succeed. The bottom line here is that if you want BlogHer to be successful then you should want to see them grow.
A Sign of the Times
There are other reasons to be happy for BlogHer for their growth beyond the business point of view. This growth is a positive sign for all who work in new media and all content creators. It says “we’ve arrived.” Exclusivity is an interesting thing. On the one hand, we like to have our little clubs and niches that other people don’t belong too because it makes us feel like special, early adopters who knew about a cool thing before the rest of the world found out. Yet, we complain about people who lock their tweets or don’t let us into a Facebook group or membership forum because they’re being too exclusive and cliquey. We really can’t have it both ways.
We, as a community of content creators, should be proud when a conference such as BlogHer achieves such growth. It tells us that our industry is growing and reaching the mainstream. Growth tells us there will be more jobs and opportunities in blogging, podcasting, web TV and video. It also tells us that we’re going to be taken seriously and not just written off as a bunch of insignificant bloggers. It tells us finding sponsors for our content is getting easier, and fewer people will be rolling their eyes at us when we say we blog for a living.
Conferences for radio or television broadcasters or book and newspaper publishers reach tens of thousands of people. If we want to be thought of in the same light and prestige as old media, we can’t think of ourselves as an intimate group that doesn’t want to grow. There are more online content creators than there are news reporters or radio disc jockeys. We should be embracing our numbers rather than lamenting them, because the numbers are where the big money and recognition is. The numbers mean there will be a place for us in the future.
Maybe the issue isn’t that BlogHer has so many people. Maybe it’s that folks feel that when a conference begins hosting thousands of people attendees feel as if they’re not receiving the same personal service. Maybe we’re not as upset with the numbers as we are disappointed that we’re no longer attending events where everyone knows our names. The challenge for any event is to not lose the personal vibe with the growth. As long as people still receive good service, and we can still welcome them with a smile and genuine appreciation for their participation we’ll be just fine. The key is to try and maintain the same feeling our community and our industry had when we were small even when we hit the big time.
Congratulations to all the people who organize and help to run BlogHer. Five-thousand attendees is a wonderful accomplishment and an important milestone for new media content creators. Here’s wishing you many more years of growth. All of us at the NMX team applaud your achievements!
Read on for More About BlogHer
Here’s a great roundup of posts about BlogHer so you can feel like you were there too!
- My Thoughts About BlogHer 2012 – Robyn’s Online World
- Highlights of BlogHer 12 – SheKnows
- BlogHer 2012: A Recap – Mommy Reporter
- BlogHer 12: The Aftermath – TypeA Parent
- How to Evaluate Your BlogHer 12 Experience – MediaMum
- 10 Reasons You Should Attend A Blogging Conference – BlogHer 12 Review – Thrift Diving
- The Weirdness of BlogHer 121 – Mom Spark
- After BlogHer 12 What You’re Tweeting – BlogHer
- BlogHer 12 – The Good, The Bad and The Unbecoming – Stirrup Queens