Abandoning my SXSW Listening Project

So I did have this thing going where I was recording my responses to every single SXSW session podcast. I have dropped that. It just got too boring to write either “I skipped it after 5 minutes” or “I listened to the end but it was pretty forgettable” over and over. I get the strong feeling that SXSW is much like the Podcast Expo in that just listening to the sessions doesn’t begin to give you the experience of being there. The value is not in the panels and talks, it’s in the halls and around the event.

There are two sessions of particular note though. A while ago I heard the From Blog to Book and just yesterday listened to the Lonelygirl15 case study. My experience of both of these sessions was very similar. In it, people who produce something I’ve never seen talk about their raving success at it and how popular it is. The difference in the two is that I at least knew the name Lonelygirl15. In the Tucker Max case, as he goes on (and on and on) about how popular his blog is and his best-selling book, I was scratching my head because I had never even heard of the guy. In both sessions, there was something vaguely creepy about the whole deal and nothing about the proceedings gave me any reason to want to go and explore more. In fact, it was kind of the opposite. They were good sales pitches that neither these blogs nor the Lonelygirl15 videos are for me. Obviously they are for someone or they wouldn’t get the traffic, but not me.

I guess is there was a take home lesson in these sessions, it is that the new media sphere is not free from cynicism and calculation. Tucker Max described a number of shady things he did to get his traffic up and generally seemed icky about the whole thing, and he’s apparently quite successful. I got a real scumbag vibe from him, which seems to be what he is shooting for. I guess plain old-fashioned weasel tactics and opportunism work just as well online as they do in the real world.

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