Let me start by apologizing for the self-important topic and for the general who-gives-a-shit, Anna? response many of you will have to this post. The absurdity of me writing a post about not attending a conference is not lost on me, but after recommending Mom 2.0 to anyone and everyone who has asked me about good business-oriented conferences within in the mom blogosphere, I feel like some explanation is necessary for why I’m no longer endorsing it or attending it myself.
Disclosure: I submitted a panel idea for this years’ Mom 2.0 conference (on the topic of maintaining trust capital while still making a living online) which was rejected. I assume many people will think this is why I have changed my mind about the conference, but actually, I had had planned all along upon attending the conference regardless of whether or not I was chosen to speak (and, indeed figured there was little chance I would be chosen to speak given . . . several factors). My experience last year had been well worth the investment without speaking and I had no reason to believe that this year would be any different. However, after reviewing the loose agenda and the speakers list released last week, I’ve decided my money is better invested elsewhere. My reasoning is listed below.
1. Panels have been cut by 25%
My primary concern about endorsing this conference is that the panel time has been cut by one fourth so that there can be an afternoon spent on “practical application” of ideas presented in the panels “in real life.” The opportunities for practical application will ostensibly be presented by activities such as swamp tours and fashion walks in New Orleans — a claim that raises more questions than it answers. I understand that it is several months before the conference and as such, the complete ideas are probably not fully formed, but what this whole thing smacks of to me, frankly, is a choice opportunity for highly paid sponsor product placement for the conference organizers at the expense of conference attendees. And if that’s not what they have planned, then it should be, because it’s an excellent opportunity for getting a bunch of bloggers to take pictures of each other next to signs that say French Market or Who Dat or whatever it is they sell in New Orleans, and then tweet it all over the planet. Good for them, I say: I’m just not interested in supplementing it with $500* from my already sparse conference budget.
In the interest of trying to determine the actual content of this mysterious third session and its utility to people who read this blog, I’ve had several conversations with the Mom2summit Twitter account and the info@mom2summit email account this week (these accounts are apparently empowered with the capacity of speech, as if they have their own human subjectivity). The Mom2summit Twitter account initially contacted me in response to some tweets I made expressing concern about the third session. I asked the account what the third session (the “time off” as I worded it, and the “application time” as the mom2summit email account worded it) would offer to bloggers who are interested in learning how to land private ads or sponsorship deals, because I see that as a primary concern for my readership. The twitter account told me that monetization would be covered in the first two sessions, but that maybe the Twitter account could add something in the third part. I asked the Twitter account to give me a formal statement via email, and this is what the firstname.lastname@example.org account was able to compose for me:
We are still in the process of developing this Saturday programming, but it will be designed to include opportunities for the diversity of attendees’ interests, subject lines, and content needs. For instance, we have mentioned a French Quarter fashion tour, which will be a smaller outing for fashion bloggers, site owners, and media to tour the country’s oldest perfumery and to visit with one of the leading hat designers in the world. That’s just one of the 10 to 15 options. Another will be a video session, where those interested in adding video content to their site will be able to develop a video blog entry with the help of a professional crew. There will be a tour and discussion with educational leaders for those who blog on political or public policy issues. For those exclusively interested in “landing private ads or sponsorship deals”, there will be a more in-depth strategy session on business-development application, coupled with a traditional Ritz-Carlton tea service, that will cover that topic.
Some of these options are no doubt interesting from an objective standpoint, but they don’t really meet my personal needs for a business conference. You might have surmised that the last bit was added in response to my query, so there is now a potential option for people who are not interested in a swamp tour and who are not able to get onto the perfumery short list (pro tip: if you are going with the thought of getting onto the perfumery shortlist — don’t is my advice, unless your last name is Armstrong). The response from the mom2summit email account is much longer than this, and includes references to requests from last year’s attendees for “more case studies.” While I wholeheartedly respect the email account’s desire to meet the needs of the conference attendees, I’m a little confused about what this means, unless we are talking about case studies in the sense that people study them in business school, in which case — nope, still confused as to how that involves visiting a hat designer. And now my head is hurting.
It might be that my interests are not diverse enough to go to a conference organized by a corporate email account working in conjunction with an anonymous Twitter handle. In which case, nicely played, electronic agents of unknown third-party social media maven behest!
2. The speaker lineup is light on business/monetizing expertise.
The speaker lineup released on Friday includes one person I would enjoy seeing speak, an executive from Yahoo Shine who sounds semi-interesting, five dads, and a few other people who are mainstays from the mommyblogging speaking circuit. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here because there’s not a whole lot of reason to, but suffice to say that from where I’m sitting there’s not a whole lot on this agenda that is fleshing out to be innovative from the perspective of business or monetization. This was not the case last year — last year there was all kinds of stuff shared that was not available elsewhere in the mommyblogosphere. People were speaking whom I had not seen speak elsewhere, and they were sharing information that was not shared elsewhere. The list posted is not the full list of speakers, but this list posted suggests a trend, and that trend does not suggest good things to me for the kind of content in which I am interested, or in which the readers of this blog tend to be interested. It doesn’t mean the conference won’t be enjoyable: I just don’t think it will be a good return on investment for people who are looking for a business conference.
*3. 25% cut out of this conference, for me, works out to about $500. A $500 reduction in value, plus a decidedly fluffier agenda, makes Mom 2.0 look like a smaller, more expensive incarnation of BlogHer .
A round trip plane ticket from Los Angeles to New Orleans costs $400-500, and three nights at the Ritz Carlton costs about $700, even without room service. Even with my cheaper conference ticket (I bought it last May for $310), with food and incidentals factored in, I would be looking at close to a $2,000 price tag for attending this conference. I’m willing to pay that much for a conference and indeed have on several occasions, but with a lighter agenda and with 25% of the panels cut out, that makes this conference into a smaller, more expensive version of BlogHer. And the one thing that BlogHer has is that it is BlogHer, and that everybody goes to BlogHer — the only argument for spending money on Blogher is the ubiquity of it. A smaller conference has its benefits, but it loses those once it tries to emulate the bigger, crappier one that only has value in ubiquity. Some of these events will probably be fun, but for this amount of money, and time away, I need a higher ROI to justify it.
Caveat: Maybe, *maybe* consider going if you are a newer blogger who wants a chance to meet big name bloggers.
When I was thinking about reasons to go to this conference, I realized that there might be a reason to go if you are a newer blogger who wants a chance to meet some of the big name bloggers in a smaller setting. Several of them are likely to be at this conference (e.g. Dooce , Maggie Mason , The Bloggess , Design Mom, possibly Finslippy?), and it is much easier to get a chance to meet and talk to them in this context than it is at a big conference like BlogHer. Is that worth paying $2,000? I kind of doubt it, but I thought I should leave that possibility open because it is a legitimate plus of this conference. And I’m guessing that it will be far better run than you would imagine would be possible for an outfit run by a corporate Twitter account and an anonymous email account. I’m just not confident that it will have the same kind of business cache it had last year. I would be happy to be proven wrong, though.