Where the Wild Things Blog
What we're afraid of finding and who we're afraid is finding us when we tell stories on the Web
If 2006 was the year blogs really made it onto the Interactive agenda, 2007 is the year user-generated content rules. More than a dozen daytime panels will attempt to unravel the complex relationships between comment and commerce, between microbrands and marketers, and to consider the mercantile implications of social media like blogs and wikis, in addition to their cultural and personal impact.
In other words, don't expect any skeptical executives to make dismissive remarks about how to monetize bloggers in pajamas during the Q&A this year.
Consider the evolution from last year's Does Your Blog Have a Business? to the Global Microbrand: Are Blogs, Suits, and Wine the New Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll? Not only is blogging a business, after all, it is apparently the business offering digital creatives new avenues for collaboration, autonomy, and self-expression while tantalizing companies with "an incredibly effective and efficient marketing spend when done right," in the words of Monday's session Why Marketers Need to Work With People Media, featuring the founders of Sphere and Federated Media.
"People now have much more control over their professional fates," says David Parmet, a public-relations executive who left a traditional agency in 2005 to specialize in social media. "The key is to start the conversation. After a while the blog becomes your résumé."
"As someone who's been a self-employed writer for years, this is the best gig I've ever had, money notwithstanding," agrees Asha Dornfest, editor of the collaborative family blog Parent Hacks. "Blogging has been the most dynamic, interactive writing I've done. As much as I have always loved writing, I have hated the isolation. Blogging has turned all that around, thrusting me into this community of like-minded people."
"Give it away, and people will come back for more," Parmet adds. "Provided it's good, of course."
Yet the question of what is "good" and what isn't good online is stickier. Many sessions will feature discussion of the best practices for business applications of participatory media accountability, credibility, and collaboration between clients, designers, advertisers, and users, who can smell a fake.
Maintaining credibility is one topic of World Domination via Collaboration, a dos-and-don'ts discussion of business models involving online community, featuring founders of SwapThing, BlogHer, and LiveWorld, along with Microsoft community program manager Betsy Aoki.
Expect discussions of transparency to dominate Sunday's case study of the YouTube phenomenon Lonelygirl15, featuring the faux video blog's three creators, who were busted last August by sleuthing fans, and GreenCine Editor David Hudson as moderator.
Liz Henry, who will present the Fictional Bloggers panel with blog-novelist Odin Soli of Plain Layne fame, emphasizes the importance of disclosure. "We want lying we can trust, lying that's transparent," she explains. "We don't want to feel stupid and be tricked by hoaxes. But some lying, the lying of fiction, is good and ethical. It creates distance between a person and the world, and in this distance we can explore crazy, fascinating ideas."
Henry adds, "If corporations used fictional blogs seamlessly and with artistry, a lot of people wouldn't mind the fakitude. They'd be entertained. We could potentially love the PSP2 fake bloggers just as we love Chaucer Hath a Blog if the PSP2 blog was any good."
Instead of being good, the ad company responsible for Sony's viral campaign, Zipatoni, drew the ire of consumers with the blog's lack of corporate disclosure, ostensibly teenage pidgin, and blatantly fake "flogging." ("so we started clowning with sum not-so-subtle hints to j's parents that a psp would be teh perfect gift," read the first entry on www.alliwantforxmasisapsp.com/blog, itself shut down last December.)
"Companies who want to build out a fictional character should hire novelists and playwrights, role-playing gamers and LARPers, bloggers and social media people creative world-builders who understand how to bring life to an online presence. Blog readers and Web-entertainment consumers are sophisticated. They want depth to a character," Henry says.
Other bloggers are less optimistic about blogging for dollars. "I don't think it's corny to say that the blogs we write for the love of it have a completely different appeal," says Dornfest, who will speak as part of the Parent Bloggers 2.0 panel.
"I see all these corporate sites rushing to capitalize on this passionate community, and I wonder: Do they really think people won't notice the marketing and the product placement? Do they really think that the same people that are rejecting traditional media in favor of authentic communities will congregate there?"
World Domination Via Collaboration
Saturday, March 10, 10am, Room 10AB
Parent Bloggers 2.0: Can "Diaper Diarist' Make Real Dollars?
Sunday, March 11, 10am, Room 9AB
Lonelygirl15 Case Study
Sunday, March 11, 11:30am, Room 12AB
Sunday, March 11, 4:05pm, Room 8ABC
Why Marketers Need to Work With People Media
Monday, March 12, 3:30pm, Room 18ABCD
The Global Microbrand: Are Blogs, Suits, and Wine the New Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll?
Tuesday, March 13, 5pm, Room 10AB