Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm in good company

Scoble has joined the ranks of those totally annoyed by the Twitter Suggested User List lately, and has been on a tear about it. First on Twitter itself, now in this post.

Thanks Robert, happy to be in that company!

Every time I'm tempted to say "Who cares about the Twitter Suggested User List? Who cares about rankings etc.?" (Because I don't really pay attention to them or even my traffic, truth be told) I"m reminded that back when we started BlogHer, people asked the same about the Technorati Top 100 and other rankings that included next to no women. And the argument then and now is that such rankings and lists are used as feeds into other avenues of power. The media uses them as sources. Companies use them to determine who to partner with. If they are arbitrary, exclusionary or unfairly homogenous, it has a ripple effect.

So, I might personally not care, but I'm glad Robert is caring for me!

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

The thing about swag

Since BlogHer '09 happened, about six weeks ago, there's been a mini-debate about an age-old marketing tool: Swag, IOW: Stuff We All Get.

This is a somewhat lengthy post, but I urge you to read it all, if only to read about some shocking "swag" given out at ComicCon this year.

Back to BlogHer: There was a lot of swag at the conference. Some folks were bothered by the quantity. Some folks were bothered by how the availability of swag changed the quality of some attendees' behavior. Some folks maintained a "different strokes for different folks" attitude and urged people to Just Say No to swag if it bothered them. Some folks started making gross generalizations about the kind of people who might like swag. Some folks, having clearly never attended other trade shows in other industries, thought the swag availability and ensuing pursuit of said swag was unique to bloggers. Or women. Or mommies. Some folks who didn't witness any swag pandemonium or weren't even at the conference had a lot of fun talking about it and, even better, waxing judgmental about it. Some folks expressed genuine concern about waste and our consumerist society. There are lots of ideas about how to better manage swag for next year's conference, including some great ideas about how to make sure it's all as opt-in as possible. You can see a lot of debate about the issue on our post-conference post soliciting feedback on the swag issue and other issues. You can add your own thoughts there too. We take the issue seriously, and we added several question about swag to the post-conference attendee survey too. We think we can make improvements, and we intend to.

But here's the thing about swag and why most companies are always going to want to give some and, let's be totally honest, most attendees are always want to get some: It works. I could go into a long dissertation about it, but Amy from Pretty Babies pretty much already did in this post. You should read it. She brings up everything from business practices to classism. She's smart.

I'm going to tell one personal story about how swag best does its job.

When I as growing up, my siblings and I each started doing our own laundry at a fairly young age. I used laundry detergent. And I used dryer sheets. I honestly don't know if my mom didn't believe in bleach, fabric softener, stain remover and the like, or if she had that stuff, but I was too young (and probably lazy) to mess with it when I started doing my own laundry. Either way...I have done my own laundry for almost 40 years and have stuck to buying only laundry detergent and dryer sheets.

I confess I even had a cynical attitude towards other products. With no scientific back-up I had the attitude that stain remover, as an example, was simply re-packaged detergent. I don't know why I thought this. I never tried it.

Until, after BlogHer, when I used a sample of a stain remover given by one of our laundry sponsors. The product was biodegradable and cruelty-free, so it met my basic requirements for such a product. I decided to give it a shot on a grease stain that had been on one of my black tops for ages. I kept wearing that top, thinking the black on black stain was probably not very visible to other people, but I was always a little self-conscious about it.

I tried the stain remover, and it removed the stain.

Maybe, to some of you, this is not a revelatory statement.

But I can tell you this one item of swag will change an over-20-year pattern of purchasing habits, which is exactly what that company is hoping for. Sounds extreme, and maybe it is, but in the post-conference survey we found plenty of similar experiences expressed.

Is there such a thing as crappy, useless swag? Oh absolutely. But uselessness is also in the eye of the beholder. Long ago I stopped picking up t-shirts at trade shows. I have a stack of industry t-shirts (from three different industries) about three feet high. I don't need another t-shirt in my life. I don't even wear them that often. But TW from Retro Food has often blogged that her day-to-day wardrobe is made up of such t-shirts, so she's always on the hunt for more. I love picking up notebooks. I actually use a notebook in my day to day work. I have tons of them. I know lots of people who think they're a waste of paper and a waste of time. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

So, while we continue to mull the meaning of swag, I continue to believe that, as with most things, it's about how you do something more than whether you do something.

Bonus Conclusion: The promised "shocking swag" story. And i think I can promise this will not be how BlogHer does things:

According to Joystiq, EA was there promoting a new game. They had the usual set-up in their booth where you could take a picture with a hot booth babe. According to their promotion it looks like the girls were going to be in bikinis, but who knows, that could have been false advertising. (Where's the FTC when you need them, eh?) Tweeting your picture with the hot booth babe (and "committing acts of lust" by finding other hot babes to take pictures with and tweeting those) would enter you in a contest to win:

"Dinner and a SINful night with TWO hot girls..." plus a limo ride and other "booty". Pun intended I'm sure.

This promotion takes the unpleasant "swag whore" moniker a little too literally for my taste, how about you?

This happened at Comic-Con, which was the same weekend as BlogHer this year. While you can find some blog posts abut this controversy in gamer blogs, I only found one mainstream outlet's blog that picked it up. And certainly no hand-wringing mainstream media reports about the moral state of gamers today because of this promotion.

Susan Getgood may be right that the mainstream media has "mommy issues".

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

BlogHer '09 interview links...BlogHers in their own words

Wanted to point out some of the great coverage we got at BlogHer that let people basically speak for themselves.

I thought a lot of the more traditional media coverage was very, well, traditional. Some folks came knowing the story they wanted to tell, and they interviewed folks until the found the soundbites that supported the story, and then they crafted that story for public consumption.

But those kind of stories are never the whole story. Not when you have 1, 500 (mostly) women from all walks of life and all segments of the blogosphere there, and raising their voices.

So I enjoyed the outlets that actually shared their interviews with different attendees and let us hear their stories in their own words.

Webmaster Radio's audio interviews tend to focus on organizational attendees. But even there, there is diversity. Hear Gina McCauley talk about founding Blogging While Brown, or Michelle Whitlock talk about the non-profit Pearls of Wisdom or Anne Collier talk about Internet safety. Plus many more.

Then hop on over to PBS's YouTube channel and check out their BlogHer '09 Playlist. Yes, you can hear my story about trying to unplug when in Africa, but you can also hear from self-proclaimed "worst mother in the world", Lenore Skenazy, conservative blogger Fausta Wertz, and community keynote original mastermind, Eden Kennedy. And they tell me more videos are coming.


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