“There’s no good swag this year” said the attendee at South by Southwest Interactive. “What’s the use in coming if no one’s giving out any good stuff?”
“I don’t know,” I told him. “Maybe to learn and meet other terrific people?”
Are bloggers going swag crazy? Is it all about the merchandise and sponsorships? I never really thought about it before but as I find myself having to seek sponsorship to attend blogging and social media conferences, I’m wondering if we’re all selling our souls to the devil. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think sponsorship is a great thing. Many bloggers need it to survive – we sell ads on our blogs, don’t we? Conference sponsorship takes advertising to a whole other levels and brands are doing a good thing by embracing us. At what cost, though? Expecting a lot of stuff in return for a blog post seems to be taking priority over providing quality and enlightening content.I don’t think sponsorship is a bad thing if done correctly…if we keep it under control.
Swag, on the other hand is a whole other ball game. I was thinking about this the other day after watching Chris Brogan’s video about that ugly little incident between the BlogHer attendee and Croc’s George Smith, Jr. I won’t get into too many details, but I do think the idea of getting lots of free stuff is keeping us from doing lots of good stuff. For instance, I’d much rather attend a kickass session than stand in line for a tshirt or box of laundry detergent. I’d much rather have dinner with folks I’ve networked with on Twitter and am finally getting a chance to meet, than fight over a pair of shoes in a swag lounge. I’d much rather see a demo of a new tool or service that can help my readers and me, than troll the conference floor for keychains.
Don’t get me wrong. I love free stuff and I do take home swag from conferences, but that’s not front and center. I mean, do I really need another be-logo’ed plastic slinky or gel yoyo? (Though in all fairness, they make great “souvenirs” when you don’t have time to find gifts for your kids, if you know what I mean.) I love free stuff, but I would attend conferences even if vendors were only giving out business cards and marketing brochures.Are we losing site of what we’re there for?
I realize bloggers are influential, but are we using our power for evil or good? Brands are right to reach out to us as we have the ability to reach thousands, if not (collectively) millions of people. Let’s not turn it against our favor though. Are we blogging to teach and to share, or are we blogging in return for stuff? If we are blogging in return for stuff, how honest are our reviews?
I’m often written off as being “old school” but I don’t mind. Old school blogging had a warm and fuzzy vibe. It was about sharing. It was about community. It was rarely about stuff though, and I like it that way.