Thoughts On Mouth Media’s I (Still) Do Event In Las Vegas
Several of you have asked why I haven’t discussed Heather Spohr and Brittany Gibbons’ new endeavor, Mouth Media, and especially, the event they are planning in Las Vegas, I Still Do. Here’s the deal: Heather and Brittany are friends of mine, and I had originally planned on recusing myself from a discussion of their project because I wasn’t sure I could be objective. I’m still not entirely sure I can be objective, but I’m going to try. However, since several people have asked me to weigh in on it, and because I’ve discussed it with both Heather and Brittany, and they have both said they are willing to hear feedback, good and bad, in order to be more successful, I’ve decided to go ahead and discuss the event here. I hope you guys will weigh in with your thoughts in the comments as well.
1. Mouth Media is a free-form company that is designed to help them retain profits without using a third-party ad network or agent/PR company.
When I initially read Mouth Media’s “About” section, I thought, what is this? What is this for? Because there is not really anything exactly like it out there right now, and it wasn’t immediately clear to me what they planned to do with it. But after thinking about it, I realized that whatever they had planned for it would involve taking ad networks out of the monetizing equation and saving more profits for themselves. And so then I started thinking more about it and decided it was a good move for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that any time you attempt to take the ad network out of the equation you are on the right track.
Here’s the other issue: monetizing opportunities and techniques in social media right now are changing constantly — they are changing daily, even. You cannot afford to be waiting around for monetizing opportunities to be presented to you. If you work to create relationships with brands on your own now, then when an idea comes to you, you can pitch it right away. Mouth Media is Heather and Brittany’s company for doing this type of thing without an ad network acting as their broker. The description is loose because the projects and the monetizing opportunities in social media are largely unformed at present.
2. I worry, as always, about trust capital.
When Heather and Brittany announced the Las Vegas event I was hesitant. I had reservations — I still do. As we know, I have been questioning how comfortable I am with corporate sponsorship in general lately, though when it is clearly separated from content (as it is here) that makes a huge difference for me. Still, I would guess there is going to be corporate affiliation with Heather’s and Brittany’s personal brands as a result of the event, and I do not know if this will impact them long term. I question whether or not there may be a finite number of brands you can work with in this kind of capacity before people get sick of it. I tend to think that people expect an ostensibly “big” company like BlogHer to be using corporate sponsorship for its events (though they still get flack for it, of course), but Mouth Media is a partnership, so it will still be strongly associated with Heather and Brittany as individuals. Because of that, I think there may be a psychological block, i.e. this is not a promotional event thrown by a company, it’s a party thrown by two women for their friends. The same event, but an important distinction in how tolerant people are of the corporate element.
3. Events are the easiest thing to monetize in social media right now.
That said, events are wildly successful in social media right now. Conferences continue to propagate and sell out all over the place. People not only go to them, they will pay lots of money to go to them. This event that Heather and Brittany are planning does not pay for your travel or accommodations (but they don’t make any money off that, either, by the way), but it’s also free when you get there. So it’s a far better deal than a conference, for much the same thing that most of the conferences are offering. I’ve been to conferences, and with a few notable exceptions, they do not offer much except for the opportunity to meet and network with bloggers. That is what Brittany and Heather are offering here, in a smaller environment. Events are highly successful and brands are very excited to be a part of them, and I would guess they’re happy to not have to dance around the useless conference tracks and tedious keynotes with the same people making the same speeches that don’t say anything or mean anything to anybody or impart any useful knowledge. This is a smaller BlogHer with all the stuff that people hate about BlogHer taken out of it. That is a huge plus, both for the sponsors and the people who are considering attending it.
4. There is a difference between the reaction of the blogger-reader and the reader-reader.
So, as I said, Heather and Brittany are friends and even with my reservations I want this event to be successful for them and their brands. So it’s troubling to hear this kind of stuff from the peanut gallery: “She’s throwing herself a wedding with sponsors,” or “How is this any better than the Mighty Summit?” I’m going to attempt to break this down without being overly biased, and you guys can straighten me out in the comments if you think I’m failing. First, let me say that popular bloggers like Heather and Brittany have audiences comprised of readers who have blogs and a much larger group of readers who do not have blogs. The reception of readers who do not have blogs versus those who do — and those who are active in this community and on Twitter — tends to be different from the readers who have blogs. The “fans,” the larger part of the audience, are not nearly as harsh about this kind of stuff as we, the bloggers, are.I would guess it has to do with the fact that they are not really participating in a “community” as such, but really just reading blogs. They don’t expect reciprocity or anything, so they don’t care as much about people having high traffic levels or becoming popular or getting better deals or any of that stuff.
What I’m saying is, even if the initial reception of this new event is frosty, it might be mostly coming from one segment of the audience and not necessarily indicative of the success of the endeavor. If the fans like the event, then it’s a success, and that’s all they need. And if that happens, then the other bloggers will copy their model and do it themselves, and it won’t matter that people were critical initially — this is what happened when Dooce first ran ads. It’s very possible that this will happen with the Las Vegas event.
My second point, regarding how this event is different from the Mighty Summit: my thought is that it’s different because it’s not an exclusive gathering of preordained luminaries chosen by God to be sprinkled with pixie dust in the Napa Valley while sipping merlot in matching $130 gifted ballet slippers, and then traipsed about on Flickr feeds so that all of us at home who weren’t invited can feel bad about ourselves. So, while there are still the financial barriers to entry that are part and parcel of living in a capitalist country, potentially anybody can go to this event, they don’t have to be deemed important enough for it.