We drove to Vegas on Thursday afternoon. Neko Case, Silverchair, Interpol, and Thievery Corporation accompanied us on our journey. Not literally, of course; our car isn’t that big.
On Friday we rode the monorail all over the Strip, gawking at the utter freakishness that is Sin City. This place always makes me feel lonely, although it’s more bearable now than when I was younger and had difficulty coping with loneliness.
That evening we saw Tony Bennett perform at the Hilton, where we were staying. The man is 82 years old, but as a performer he’s still at the top of his game. His band swung like nobody’s business (drummer Harold Jones played with Count Basie in the late ’60s), and Bennett’s voice remains remarkably crisp and forceful, with a rich vibrato that men half his age would be lucky to possess.
On opening day of Blog World & New Media Expo, I attended the two sports sessions, hosted by Yardbarker. The first, “Promoting Your Content — Establishing a Following in the Sports World,” discussed strategies for getting noticed in the ever-expanding blogosphere. The big themes were to be different and unique, don’t be afraid to promote yourself to mainstream media (but pick your spots; make sure you’re offering quality), and keep your own needs in mind as well as those of your audience.
I found the second session, “Capitalizing on Traffic — Monetizing Sports Blogs,” less useful. It seems there isn’t a real consensus on how best to make money from these things, although everyone agreed that Google probably isn’t the way.
The speakers at both sessions presented their material well and were open to dialogue with the participants, small though we may have been in numbers. This brings me to my one gripe: Where were the sports bloggers? It was more than a little disheartening to see so few of us there. For all the talk about gaining acceptance, credibility, yadda yadda, you’d think that more than a handful of folks might make the effort to attend an industry event. Other sectors (business, military, etc.) didn’t seem to have this problem, as I was reminded every time a session let out and hundreds of attendees roamed the halls. I don’t know if it’s the economy or a general disinterest, but the lack of sports bloggers made it difficult to achieve much synergy.
I’d planned to attend non-sports-related sessions later in the day, but my motivation was shot so I ended up going out and enjoying Vegas instead. That evening I made a cameo at the opening night party and connected with a few bloggers, though again, nobody in my sector. I enjoyed talking with people who are passionate about what they do and comparing notes about blogging in our various sectors, but I really wouldn’t have minded chatting with a few sports bloggers. On the bright side, if I’m ever in the market for a summer home in Colorado, I’ve got a guy for that.
I attended two more sessions on the second day. Only one sports session was held, and it was by far the best of the lot. “Emerging Trends and Transitions in Sports Blogging” featured a diverse group of speakers, including NFL agent Jack Bechta and former Los Angeles Times columnist Jay Christensen.
The panelists noted that there is a movement toward more citizen journalism and that younger athletes (e.g., Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley) tend to see value in blogging, where older athletes don’t always get it. The speakers also discussed the importance of analyzing the news rather than simply breaking it, which heartened me, because I’ve always thought that analysis is where we — as participants in and observers of our world — are best positioned to add value.
Some of the talking points seemed to me fairly self-evident, although it was good to hear these things confirmed by people who are approaching the medium from a different angle and who have actual professional experience in the field. Be accurate and dependable. Be authentic. Cover an angle that nobody else is. Think more like a columnist than a beat writer. Focus on the big picture. I’m paraphrasing what I heard, and filtering it through my own biases, but I think you get the idea. The only downside to this one was the fact that two of the scheduled panelists (who had been there the day before) didn’t attend.
Next, I attended a session called “Book Deals, Digital Assets and Corporate Sponsorships,” which had nothing to do with sports. As someone who has written two books and is working on a third, I figured this would be right up my alley and it was. The panelists focused on the importance of marketability, with the two big lessons here being that price is all about perceived value and that you always want to keep your end game in mind, ensuring that everything you’re doing is pulling you in that direction.
In some ways, this was the most enlightening session for me because it forced me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to ideas in a field where I have no expertise whatsoever. It also reminded me that, despite the poor turnouts for the sports sessions, the conference was well attended.
On balance, I enjoyed the experience. Yardbarker did a nice job with the sport sessions; I’m only sorry that precious few heard their message. Networking opportunities abounded, and I expect that bloggers in other sectors made plenty of connections.
In the future it would be nice to see more folks from the sports blogosphere out there. Among the sports blogging networks, only Yardbarker had a presence and that’s because they sponsored the entire track. Thank goodness for them; otherwise there might not have been anything for the few bloggers in our sector who made it to the convention.