In the early 2000s, I partnered with Gary Bolles in something called Conferenza Premium Reports. It was a subscription-based newsletter that we circulated via email. We covered the major tech conferences of the day, like "D," TED, PopTech, Demo, PCForum, Agenda, the Dick Shaffer Outlook Conferences and more.
We covered what speakers said, what the audience thought abut it and the added our own opinions. We also had observations about the mood of the conference and the quality of food as well as blink.
We wrote for what we thought the conference was worth, sometimes we went as long as 10,000 words. It took several days to write and edit. We thought that if we got it out in a week, we had done well and so did the few hundred people who subscribed to us.
We never made a living at it, but we did get free passes into the coolest tech gathering. We met many interesting people and picked up some consulting fees from time-to-time.
Then, in late 2003, these clusters of people started showing up. They were mostly respected members of the tech community and they were doing something new and different called blogging.
Gary and I almost immediately understood the threat. These guys were writing much shorter pieces then Conferenza produced. They weren't doing the legwork we were doing, but they were loosely-joined reporters, linking to each other's works.
Conferenza was longer and deeper than any of them was producing, but collectively they were contributing more information than we--as individuals--possibly could. They were posting nearly instantly, and we could not possibly post ours with the filtering, editing and polishing we thought our readers required.
Worse--much worse--they were offering these new blog posts for free.
As a great many media companies of much larger size would son learn, Free was a very tough competitive price point.
By 2004, we knew were cooked. We changed Conferenza into a blog and hoped for ad support which never really materialized. I went on leave from Conferenza, took the style Gary and I developed and started writing books in 2005. In March of 2009, Conferenza seemingly stopped posting without fanfare and to be honest I had not really even noticed.
By 2005, live blogging was flourishing. Every tech event had multiple free reports being generated to the world by audience attendees. Photos and video clips were flourishing. People started to post blogs on non tech gatherings, particularly educational and government. They were filling a void caused, nut just by the small death of Conferenza, but by the steady atrophy of trade and business journalists who had been attending these conferences.
The live bloggers were a new cadre of citizen journalists and I considered them important to a social media revolution. Each speaker on any dais in the developed world could be heard and seen by anyone who was interested. Several bloggers would post from multiple perceptions giving those interested a balanced point of view. People everywhere could comment and ask questions that could be heard in the room. Speakers who lied got caught and it was reported even as they stood on stage fabricating.
Then along came Twitter. Obviously, I considered this also important and revolutionary. I still do. But it has occurred to me that this, faster, easier, shorter way of reporting through "live tweets" has replaced the longer, deeper, more thoughtful social media form,at of live blogging. It has done so in a very short period of time and my sense is something is being lost.
Tweets by their nature are terse. An audience members usually says who is speakig & maybe the topic. A rave review is the that she or he "rocks." But the coverage of what is actually being said is reduced. So are the questions and comments coming from outside the room.
I have noticed this year, that there were fewer live blog posts at conferences I was attending that there used to be. But I wondered if that was partly because my path has veered to some degree from the tech sector where live blogging had been so strong so recently.
So, this morning I checked out Le Web. Being held in Paris, it has over 2000 attendees from 46 countries and is probably the largest gathering in history of social media people. A search on either Google or Bing produced less than 20 blog results.
Then I looked at Technorati, the fading mainstay for blog searches. I almost spiked this post after taking a first look, which produced 1759 results. While that still seemed low for a conference of 2000 people running over five days with a sterling of prominent speakers most of who are known to have a good deal to say.
But a closer look, cut the number way down from that. Many of the Technorati posts were duplicates. Others were traditional media posting about columns that appeared elsewhere, I guess these count, but they are not quite citizen-generated. Still more were old, talking about would would happen. Quite a few were by scheduled speakers announcing they would be on the dais.
On a quick look, my guess is there have been a few hundred posts of attendee reporting on what was being said from the dais. Those focused mostly on the most prominent speakers. Few discovered new people with new ideas. Very few spaned a lot of commentary.
I did not bother to compare this Le Web with the last or the one prior, but my guess is there is less coverage and far fewer diverse opinions coming through blogs.
Meanwhile the tweetstream has been a whitewater gush of little tidbits. There have been thousands of them and I guess I could get some substance from them if I went to #LeWeb. I could see what the producers had to say, if I joined over 14,000 people to follow @LeWeb on Twitter the official account.
The all may be useful and interesting. They are also extremely good at spreading the word about what is happening almost as it happens. But they are also shallow little spoonfuls of information, lacking depth and missing nuance.
As I wrote in Twitterville, Twitter works best when used with other social media tools including photo, video and in this case, blogs. I certainly remain a proponent of Tweeting conferences, but I believe something is being lost as the world so rapidly blows past the very short Era of live blogging.