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BlogHer Business 2009 Recap

July 29, 2009

imagesLast year, I was fortunate to attend BlogHer Business.  At that point, it was a 2 day conference held in winter in NYC.  I was so jazzed about it, and the inspiration it gave me, that I was moved to write this and this post.

This year, I attended BlogHer Business 2009.  It was held last week as a 1/2 day conference the day before BlogHer 09 in Chicago.  Even though it was held before the conference, it felt very much like an afterthought.

I didn’t plan on writing a blog post about it so soon, but I had many people, some from my company, some who follow me on Twitter, ask about the conference and whether they should send in their registration for next year.  I felt an obligation to admit that this year was in no way the experience I hoped for.  I have a LOT of good things to say about BlogHer, and those were covered in this post.

So what was different, other than quantity of session time?  Honestly, it’s hard to imagine the conference going in this direction after the razor-sharp focus it had in 2008. The day started with Lisa, Jory and Elisa reviewing the latest study of the social media habits of women.  All good information, and it was interesting to see what trends were continuing from the year before.

Then, Jory kicked off the first of 5 case studies of successful blogger outreach and social campaigns.  In 2008, we had savvy marketers partnered with social media folks to truly dissect what made the campaign successful.  You walked out of each session understanding what they did, why they did it, what worked and what didn’t, and what they learned.  This go around, it was very “view from 30,000 feet”,  mostly what happened, without going into enough depth about why the campaigns were successful and what the take aways were.  That theme continued through the rest of the case studies.  I hate to use the word “fluff”, as I think the term “not enough meat” would be appropriate.  It just didn’t give me the background and the information I needed to really understand these campaigns to the fullest.

What particularly annoyed me was the feeling that the whole day was a big old ad for the BlogHer Network.  Time and time again we learned that the PR/marketing folks in the case studies chose to do their outreach and advertising through the BlogHer Network.  As well, the social media study in the beginning repeatedly pointed out how much more in tune with the online world the BlogHer Network member is.  I have no problem with promotion like that, but generally when a marketer sits through something like that in media, it’s called an upfront, and I’m not charged $600 for the pleasure of hearing it.  I know that BlogHer is proud of their reach and all that they have accomplished in a short time, but there is a way to present it at a professional conference where it doesn’t come off as shilling.

An exception to pattern of the day would be Lisa Stone’s keynote with Lauren Zalaznick, president of NBC Universal Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks.  Yes, she was probably there because of BlogHer’s strategic partnership with iVillage, but that didn’t matter.  She was sharp, engaging and gave great insights into consumer behavior and how to keep marketing to the customer who is “recession proof.”  She’d be great anywhere.   I thought Lisa was a great interviewer for this discussion, and I definitely count it as the most worthwhile part of the day.

Even the networking, which last year was superb, was sub-par.  In my opinion, most of the attendees seemed a little out of it and were not energized for discussion.  I came away with a few contacts, but certainly not what I had in 2008.

So, count me in for BlogHer 2010.  But I’m honestly not sure what to do about BlogHer Business.  It should be so relevant to my business that I really shouldn’t miss it, but I don’t feel like wasting my time like I did this year.  I had a number of discussions with other people who attended BHB this year who felt very similarly to the way I did.  Will they blog about it?  Don’t know.   Will they talk to the organizers about it?  I hope so.  I certainly would welcome a conversation with anyone from BlogHer.  As one of the biggest champions of this conference, I as much as anyone would love to see it return to it’s former glory in 2010.  If I can be a part of that, great.  If not, at least I had the chance to give feedback.  I don’t want to start a flame war or be seen as a villian, just a humble marketer trying to get this all right.

*** In the spirit of full disclosure, my company was a BlogHer sponsor for the past 3 years and sponsored BlogHer Business in 2008*****

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2009 3:10 pm

    Ellen,
    Your description fits very closely with what I heard from other attendees this year, and that’s a shame. I wonder if as BlogHer got bigger and better strategic alliances, like the Tropicana Community, and another 7 million in VC, if it just seemed like not a good idea to give away the milk? Or maybe simple time constraints made it challenging for presenters to really drill down. At any rate, I hope it’s corrected for next year, as I’d love to attend. All best!

  2. July 29, 2009 10:55 pm

    I agree with your assessment, Ellen. In past years I’ve felt like BlogHer Business was incredibly “meaty” (I’m sure there’s a better word but you get what I mean), and this year the combination of the shorter time allocation and selecting so many sponsors to be featured just made it… not. I was disappointed.

    I’m hoping that with some constructive feedback from attendees, BlogHer may reconsider this format for BlogHerBiz next year. I guess we’ll see.

  3. Ann permalink
    July 30, 2009 8:36 am

    Spot on assessment. I really likes the “case study format”, but I didn’t hear enough about the nuts and bolts of the campaigns. Not enough focus on the pitfalls and unsuccessful tactics that were tried and abandoned (surely not every tactic employed worked great). I also question the appropriateness of the some of the presenters–not all seemed to know their brand and business objectives as well as they should have.

  4. August 1, 2009 9:12 am

    I agree, Ellen, and I’m interested to read your thorough assessment – this was my first time at BlogHer Business and I wasn’t particularly impressed. I’m an academic who researches blogs, not a marketing person, but I frequently give talks to and consult with businesses about how to use blogs so the case studies were useful to me. I thought the main problems were that the time was too short, there was hardly any time for networking, and the overload of sponsors. Unlike you, I didn’t find the keynote useful either – it wasn’t really about blogging, which was the topic I wanted to hear about.

    I wrote a brief blog post about my disappointment as well as short posts about the case studies I enjoyed – and I had some Twitter conversations about it all as it was going on – hard to link to all, but here’s a comment from Elisa Camahort on my criticism of the heavy sponsor speaker time.

    I would probably attend another BlogHer Business if it were given more time – but I’m not up for a repeat of this year’s mini-conference.

  5. Rebecca Self permalink
    August 3, 2009 10:34 am

    Spot on assessment and comments. Nuts and bolts of each campaign, etc. would have made a difference. Speakers didn’t seem to be thinking of audience take away. I will go next year hoping for improvement. There’s much potential there. Definitely seems like managing the multitude of sponsors got the best of them this year.

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