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Tom Kelley is a freelance auto journalist specializing in trucks. He is founder of the Southeast Automotive Media Organization and Executive Director of the Truck Writers of North America. Reach him at: tom.kelley@deadlinefactory.com


Back From The Edge

Blogger Convention Moving Mainstream

Tom Kelley
Tom Kelley

As little as one year ago, BlogWorld, the trade show of the blogging industry (yes, industry), could have been viewed as being out there on the “edge” of media and communications. My report from last year’s event (see the November ’09 edition of AW.com at http://autowriters.com/blog/the-tom-tom-a-view-from-the-edge/ ) emphasized that through its title, “A View From The Edge.” This year, both the show and the industry are moving in from the edge and becoming a mainstream facet of mass-market communications.

The 2010 edition of “Blog World & New Media Expo” marks my fourth visit to the show. I continue to recommend attending the show to anybody who is serious about still being in the journalism business beyond the next few years. Yes, for a freelancer like myself, it is an out-of-pocket expense, rather than an auto manufacturer funded junket, but what I learn on a “free” junket will only help me write a few stories, while what I learn at BlogWorld will help me create and distribute content for the rest of my career.

Although the official attendance statistics remain elusive as of this just-before-deadline submission, early reports place the 2010 attendance at more than 3,000, up more than 35% from the 2009 event, which is impressive given the current state of the economy.

What continues to perplex, however, is the absence of autowriters at the event.

This is not to say that the auto industry was absent from the event. Ford was again a top-level sponsor, with an expanded presence on both the show floor and test-drive fleet outside. Had Ford been at the event to reach current and future auto-centric bloggers, they would have been just as disappointed as I was by the absence of mainstream automotive journalists.

Ford’s key reason for supporting and attending the show was to reach “vertical” market bloggers, those who write about multiple topics for a specific audience segment, with “mommy-bloggers” being a key example.

While saying this may qualify as heresy among dedicated autowriters, there are great numbers of car buyers out there who care nothing about how quickly a car can make it through an autocross course, or the difference between pushrod and OHC engine, or least of all, whether the writer has their own helmet, fire suit and SCCA license.

“Moms” are the sole decision makers for a significant percentage of car purchases, and are highly influential in the decisions for another large percentage of purchases, yet the autowriting fraternity has vastly underserved them. Only a handful of “traditional” autowriters have ever pursued this audience. Is it any wonder that Ford is reaching out to a growing cadre of mommy-bloggers and their hyper-loyal audiences?

Beyond the audience demographics lesson, there were many informative sessions to attend, 120 sessions featuring 300 speakers over 3 days, as a matter of fact. As a gear-head, I would have preferred a few more “nuts & bolts” technology sessions, rather than business or strategy sessions, but the split was well balanced for the wider audience.

BlogWorldThe most important take-away from the event, however, wasn’t something that could be learned from a sponsor or during a session, but rather, was a lesson that was best learned from a 30,000-foot view of the entire event. That lesson, sorely under-learned by many in the traditional media, is the example set by the collegial atmosphere at BlogWorld, and in the blogging industry at large.

At many auto press events, there are dozens of less-than-collegial behavior examples, from hiding keys, to deliberately trashing vehicles, or my favorite example, those at auto shows who just have to go that last four to eight inches of obnoxiousness by flipping their camera flash units to the bounce-flash position to shoot a subject who is 80 feet away, and who is already lit to melanoma-inducing levels with about ten bazillion watts of HMI lights. Excuse me Mr. Ansel Adams-Wannabe, your four AA flash batteries are of no consequence to the photo you’ll never use, but you’ve effectively screwed the sightline and/or potential shots of anybody behind you.

Conversely, if one sets aside the occasional right/left political humor jibes that get tossed around, mostly in good fun, it would be tougher to find a more collegial gathering than BlogWorld. The blogging community has many “stars” in the truest sense of the word, and virtually all of these stars attend BlogWorld, sharing what they know by leading the sessions, helping the show managers with organizing session tracks, and networking with even the newest of bloggers.

While being there is the only way to really learn the lesson of collegiality, the show organizers have gone to the effort to make much of the show’s content available to those who could not attend, but still want to learn more about blogging. Most of the keynote speeches can be viewed for free at http://www.ustream.tv/BlogWorld, and recordings of most sessions can be accessed for a fee far lower than the cost of attending the event.

Borrowing the spirit of BlogWorld, there are efforts underway to re-start the “conference” side of the International Automotive Media Awards. What would you like to learn there? What subjects could you teach there? Would you attend such an event even if there is a small cost involved? Please let us know.

Send your comments to: tom.kelley@deadlinefactory.com

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Scott Monty

    Tom – thanks so much for picking up on Ford’s commitment to this space. As you mention, our focus (pardon the pun) is on more than solely automotive writers. We realize that virtually anyone has the opportunity to be an influencer. We’re glad we can have a presence at something so non-traditional as BlogWorld Expo and that we can have a lasting impression.

    Hope to see you there next year!

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company

  2. Rick Calvert

    Thank you for a very kind and complimentary article about our event Tom. We would of course welcome more auto writers, automotive bloggers and Forum hosts at BlogWorld. We firmly believe our event represents the future of journalism and have even considered hosting a track specifically for traditional journalists looking to learn more about new media tools and techniques.

    One last little fact you most likely are not aware of, several years ago before having this crazy BlogWorld idea I was the Director of Sales for the SEMA Show. I was asked to speak at the last event a couple of weeks ago now on how automotive aftermarket companies could effectively use blogging and new media tools in all facets of their business. My partner Dave is a complete gear head and is still very involved in the automotive space.

    Thank you again.
    sincerely
    Rick Calvert
    CEO & Co-founder
    BlogWorld & New Media Expo

  3. Dave Cynkin

    Tom,

    Thanks so much for joining us and sharing your BlogWorld experience. Kinda silly that you and I haven’t met yet, what the heck, the event isn’t thaaat big. I’ll share a secret. One of the main objectives that motivated me to produce this event with my partner Rick was to learn more about emerging forms of new media for publishing quality online content…automotive content. Yes, I’m a closet automotive junkie. We need to talk!

    Prior to us planning the first BlogWorld event back in 2006, I’d been compulsively writing detailed posts online for years about car design, racing technique, suspension installations, auto safety gear, etc and I was really yearning to start my own online community, automotive portal and move toward writing a book about the auto enthusiast culture which I enjoyed so much. I’d even put together meet-ups for my online auto enthusiast friends, with fellow car-lovers showing up from many miles away to join me and a few hundred other four-wheel fiends for face-to-face get-togethers, spirited caravan drives and enjoyable roadside meals. It was social networking, old-school style. 😀

    I used to sneak out on my household chores on weekends and do a little of this too: http://bit.ly/ajkbsm

    I’ve spent more than fifteen years in and around automotive culture and business including online communities, automotive forums, auto racing, PR, photography, marketing and advertising. Prior to working for SEMA, Rick worked for the company which produced the SEMA Show in the ’90s, my company lent marketing support…and through a circuitous turn of events, here we are. 🙂

    Btw, a couple years back, I was trying to bring automotive journalists to BlogWorld, with an eye toward having an entire new media conference track focused on the automotive industry; I just wasn’t reaching the right people–or perhaps I was too early. Let’s talk about getting a killer auto industry new media panel going for the next event at the very least.

    Best,

    Dave Cynkin
    Co-Founder, CMO, Sleep Deprivationist & Thrill Seeker
    BlogWorld & New Media Expo

    http://www.twitter.com/dave_blogworld

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