Brilliant start to the day thanks to UKTI, who gave the West Midlands delegates a chance to visit the Texan State Capitol. Learned a lot about Texas’ fight for independence, its forefathers and the inside workings of the Texan government.
After this, it was a stroll back to the Convention Centre to just catch up on some folk. Lunch was in order and went with a few WM friends at a beer garden and I had tacos. A post-lunch Key Note from Twitter CEO Evan Williams was in order, so headed to one of the Ballrooms to listen to him speak.
He talked about the interesting use of Twitter – e.g. after Chilean earthquake. Twitter was improving communication as people are able to get in touch with one another during disaster time. This, he said, was very gratifying for Twitter. He mentioned that they always held it important for Twitter to reach the ‘weaker signals’. SMS still important to them because it can reach people, especially those who are on the other side of the digital divide.
He said that getting a short message as long as a Tweet can be very important. So, they’re really working on making a difference in people’s lives.
Evans said that it “comes back to someone getting value out of Twitter, which can include those who don’t have an account and encounter a Tweet via public display or a link. It’s a two-way medium – can be as simple as a RT or a reply – doesn’t have to be a straight broadcast.
He added: “It’s about democraitisation of information that actually changes the world. And we haven’t really realised the full effects of that.”
The CEO said that they have a bit of dichotomy. The goal is not to maximise the things people want to follow. Twitter wants to help direct people’s attention that best interests them. It’s not about spending a long time on Twitter. They actually want to reduce that. Want to be a force for good.
Twitter’s big picture vision/ambition comes down to fostering information. Evan said that they want to give people control over what they want to pay attention to or help them find out what’s happening in the world and what they care about without costing them time or money and this ultimately as Evans puts it “powerful”.
He said that they only do and want to do win-win deals.
“Anyone having to lose out means it’s not sustainable and this is why there aren’t a lot of revenue streams put in place on Twitter at the moment,” he said.
It was good to hear Twitter’s principles: pay attention // make things happen // build trust
He ended with a couple of tips. Firstly, focus – he said it was “ok to do five things at the same time”, but really one still needs to start with one. And finally, think bigger, which is also one of Twitter’s core principles. That night, I met the Twitter bird.
From there, it was a mad dash to the next panel session, which was Packaging, Pitching and Presenting Your Digital Content (#packagepitchpresent on Twitter search).
- Barret Garese
- Max Benator, C10, writer/director/producer – helps figure out content to go online
- Nathan Coyle, digital content practice / develop propositions and secure funding
- Keith Richman, Break Media
- George Ruiz, head of new media (represent a lot of people who are massively popular in the online world)
The first thing they talked about was what is the proper way of approaching a digital agent. Ruiz said usually by referral. He was introduced to internet sensation Felicia Day, however, there have been examples where he’s found the talent online himself. Note that he doesn’t accept unsolicited material.
In terms of who they work with Coyle said that the reality of this medium is truly the “wild, wild west”. It really varies case by case. He worked with platforms like Hulu most of the time and other times he works with an advertiser. He has mentioned this new web series he’s working on – Private – here he worked with Johnson and Johnson.
He mentioned having guidelines – questions asked – to determine whether something will work online:
- Tell me why this wouldn’t work on TV? If there is no answer, then it’s not a good idea. There has to be a good answer about user engagement and a reason why it can’t be achieved on TV.
- How could the idea work and benefit the advertiser.
Benator made a point that you can hit a broad audience online just as much as TV and propositions don’t need to have an overthought web content.
They tackled the current state of digital business in the US. Benator said that there are a few big studios that want to figure out how to get the money to make it work through their digital arms and to be brand friendly. The state is about creating own content as an individual and growing that name and moving to the larger circles and this because there isn’t money in online at the moment.
Ruiz added that if one a first time creator, then it will be “tough” because the established brands will do well. He said that the hardest working producers are going to do well too like Felicia Day and Alex Albright. This is because they’re talking everyday to fans and bloggers and spreading the word. It’s the two-way connectiveness that gets them the attention.
Really enjoyed that and thanks to NATPE for organising the event. Another session they put together was Multiplatform Storytelling with Heroes creator Tim Kring (search #multiplatformstorytelling for conversations).
He started off by showing a clip from the 1950s featuring Prof Marsahll McLuhan. He talked about further audience engagement, which was quite avante gard at the time.
The general message was gone are the days of just pushing content to your audience. Audience participation = higher engagement.
Tim showed a video of the 360 elements of Heroes. He spoke about the notion of “transmedia”, which essentially is about sweating / exploiting the assets and making content available from one platform to another.
He said that the Heroes new media budget comes from NBC. Heroes going multiplatform shows a desire from a big corporation to push new media that met with a TV show that suited their aims, so it created a fantastic collaboration between the show and NBC.
The growth of the $4m per episode show’s multiplatform elements made content important to marketing. But Kring highlighted that you must have a creative force driving this.
He said: “People have to start getting out of the mindset of this one way street of pushing content to people. The audience wants to participiate and connect to a show and want to feel they have some influence and some participation. Participation is a must now for building fandom.”
After a brief chat with him, we may be working together on something when he visits the UK this year, so watch this space.
A margarita or two with some friends at the Radisson started the evening well. I unfortunately had to leave early to get to the world premiere of MacGruber (based on a Saturday Night Live character). Good thing I did leave when I did, because the queue was huge. We all got in 2 hours later and was glad to have got in the packed 1200-seater Paramount cinema. The main cast members were there including Val Kilmer and Ryan Philippe. It had such a great atmosphere thanks to the fans, which made the viewing experience quite memorable. Lots of clapping and laughter, which was a good end to the evening.
I end this post with the movie trailer.
My very first trip to Texas was quite overwhelming and SXSW Film and Interactive has been such a great experience and this is why I am going again. I’m flying from London rather than Birmingham this time around and do watch this space for my 2010 SXSW experiences.
I’m most looking forward to seeing the Midlands crew rocking Austin and meeting up with the rest of the British contingency from London and Bristol over there. Of course, I’m also excited about meeting some very interesting people from around the world, since it feels like almost every country is represented at the festival.
This time, I’m staying longer to get a feel of SXSW Music, so expect margaritas and steak stories from time to time.
After a busy Day 1 of getting to know so many friendly people, Day 2 proved to be a busier day.
I was supposed to go to the Polaroid Breakfast at Katz’s Deli, but the confusion over the hotel’s shuttle and taxi booking meant that I missed it and so had to go to Champion’s Bar and Restaurant for a quick brekkie. So had a Texas state shaped waffle, which I had to cook myself with some scrambled eggs, some scone looking thing, which the lady serving drowned in some grey gravy, which was nice. Had to eat really quickly because I didn’t want to be late for my first session, which was Transatlantic Troubleshooting: Getting into Europe’s New Media Market.
The panel consisted of:
- Aleks Krotoski, Chair, technology journalist
- Stuart Townsend, Sun Microsystems
- Mike Teasdale, Harvest Digital
- Nigel Eccles, Hotdub
- Mike Butcher, European Editor, Techcrunch
The message is that Europe is going through a huge cultural shift and so there is a big potential for technological changes as well. They had mentioned that within the UK, London is not the only place where everything is happening and US businesses might want to consider looking at:
The other message is that Europe very much has a ‘face to face’ culture. You need to shake a few hands to establish that relationship and make a deal. For those US companies who want to network with European forces, the panel advised that they should make use of events like The Web and Deconstruct.
After this, I went to the other end of the Austin Convention Center to go to the I Love You, Man: Are You Man Enough to Say It? film talk. The cast were there – Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jaime Pressly, Rashida Jones, John Favreau as well as the producer and writer of the film – Donald De Line and John Hamburg respectively. Chaired by Mark Olsen, LA Times correspondent, the talk was about the making of the film. What was amazing about it? De Line had been developing the script for a few years and the film’s just come out now. Also, Favreau and Pressly believes in word of mouth. So they think that if the cast engage with the fans through something like this, those who wish to tweet about it would help promote the film. As expected, the two main guys were mobbed by people and they happily obliged to have a few photos taken with their loyal fans.
Starving and slightly starstruck, Becky and I met up and went to Champion’s again for lunch. Then, we sat down to look at our schedules and got asked about our Bostin Austin shirts. Turned out the woman who asked is a presenter for Austin Lifestyles, so we happily obliged to give an interview. We legged it to our next session and mine was: The Future of Social Networking with Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group.
There was quite a lot to absorb from here, but message is that social networking will play a big role in our lives to the point that it is going to be as essential as air, but this is going to require a lot of hard work and it will be an uphill struggle. She thinks the secret to conquering this issue involves three things:
Grabbed a juice from The Hilton and then went to Designing the Future of The New York Times. The speakers were Tom Bodkin, Assistant Managing Editor and Design Director of The New York Times and Khoi Vinh, who is also the paper’s Design Director. The overall message: The NY Times is trying to find ways of evolving but not losing the element of good storytelling and high quality journalism.
They want content to be platform agnostic and for the reader to have a cohesive experience with the multimedia features.
That over, we all went to Champion’s again for dinner.
It’s the end of Day 1 of SXSW.
Got registered fairly quickly and so Becky and I went to IHOP for breakfast. I had pancake and scrambled eggs and Becs went for blueberry pancake. The portions were huge, so we were better off sharing as one meal could feed two people. We both headed back to the Austin Convention Center again and parted ways to do our chosen sessions. Session 1 for me was Getting the Most Out of SXSW Film.
I went because I wanted to get tips from SXSW Film veterans about how to tackle this bit of the festival. As a fresher, I wasn’t exactly sure what the ettiquette is, so I just wanted to make sure I was doing it the right way. The panel consisted of:
Agnes Varnum, Chair, Austin Film Society
Amy Dotson, Producer and Managing Director, IFP
Kevin Kelly, blogger
PJ Raval, Cinematographer
Michael Lerman, programmer for the Woodstock Film Festival
- Make sure you visit The Paramount and The Alamo even if you’re not watching any of the films being premiered
- Try not to go for the big screenings because the queues will just be so long
- Go to the SXSW Block Party
- Anything that is being organised by Voodoo Cowboy is cool
- Visit sxswfree.com for any free stuff you might want
- The mini meetings are great because it gives you the chance to get access to the film industry’s elite
- Check out the first time filmmaker films and ‘Midnight Madness’ horrors
- Take advantage of the free shuttle open to film badge holders
So, with these in mind, I waited for the next session, which was How to Rawk SXSW. This one is more of a general talk about the whole festival. The panelists had a really cool rock and roll intros and they consisted of:
- Glenda Bautista, Chair, Agendacide
- Ernie Hsiung, blogger
- Baratunde Thurston, comedian and web editor of The Onion
- John Styn, hugnation.com
- Zadi Diaz, Smashface
They were doing the session as the swigged on a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. They were even more informal than the first lot and seemed like a really fun bunch. They’ve been going to SXSW for years and their tips were:
- Deepen the conversation – don’t be so blatantly obvious about networking – be subtle and have more meaningful conversations, so you establish a relationship
- Visit the various SXSW sites – my.sxsw.com, sched.org, sxsw.ning.com, pepsicozeitgeist.com and upcoming.yahoo.com/tag/sxswi
- Make sure you try a breakfast burrito
- Get out of the convention centre and make connections when you’re out to breakfast, lunch or dinner and of course, the socials/parties
After this, the West Midlands contingent went to a Mexican restaurant on 6th Street. I had one of my favourites – tacos. We then went the Soho Lounge, which was a bit dark for me and then went to Coyote Ugly, which was quite cool, because I absolutely loved the film. Becky and I said goodbye to the rest of the squad and pedicabbed it to her hotel where I got a taxi back to mine.
This concludes Day 1 of SXSW.
Well, here’s the first installment of my SXSW adventure.
BHX to Newark, NY
Surprisingly a mild morning in Brum. Got to Birmingham International later than I initially planned, so there was no time to hang around Duty Free. Thank goodness Rebecca (@beckycad) was already there to let me know where to head. The queue was long and it was getting warm in the airport with all the early morning travellers just wanting to check in. Headed to Boots to get some last-minute bits and then we both went through security, but strangely enough (!) I got asked to go to one side to have myself and my black rucksack checked. Becky heads over the seating area, whilst I take my coat, cardigan, scarf and shoes off. My bag and wallet were also inspected including pages of my Alexander McCall Smith book ‘The Miracle at Speedy Motors’… as I start gathering my stuff, the other security guard sees my Aquila (@aquilatv) business cards and asked what a Digital Development Ninja meant and asked if he could keep one of my business cards. I found this rather disturbing, but shudder to think what would or could have happened if I refused giving him one of my cards. Perhaps I am overreacting and have watched one too many Spooks.
We boarded the plane and take off was great. Bumped into Sally from the Arts Council, so it was nice to see a familiar and friendly face. She’s also heading to SXSW.
Having indulged with a variety of reading materials, breakfast was served at 8.45am UK time and Becky being a vegetarian got given a ‘special breakfast’, which consisted of a small tub of fruit, bread roll, salad and vegetable masala… I, on the other hand, got beef with rice and veg, salad and a brownie. Yummy as it may be, it’s not quite the brekkie we were thinking of.
The in-flight entertainment was great. I thought it was anyway. I started with an episode of CSI. It’s so new that I have never seen it and so it was a shock to find out that one of the lead characters had died. I was mortified. It was a good episode though and that has just reignited my love for the show. That was followed by cheese-tastic CSI Miami. I’ve never seen a workplace filled with so many good looking people and well coordinated clothing from the people at Miami Dade Police. I was getting groggy at this point, so I actually can’t remember much from the episode. CSI New York was next and again, it was just a great episode. Even groggier than before, I pushed to watch a bit of Everybody Hates Chris and an episode of House. I love Hugh Laurie but this was the programme that sent me to nod land.
We got given lunch, which had a strange combo and we were increasingly getting impatient. We realised that we’ve literally spent an equivalent of a whole work day literally just sat on a plane. A few Bookworm games and House episodes later, we finally land in New York and it was such a tease to see the buildings. I was glad to get off the plane, because the lady who sat behind me was a pain in the behind. She either yanked my seat to support herself everytime she got up for toilet break and it was every 30 mins. She also decided she was going to play a game and tapped the screen like there’s no tomorrow, which is of course attached to my head rest!
Immigration is always fun and got asked the normal questions. This time, I was nervous, so I didn’t do my jazz hands although I was of course very excited to be in the US. Anyway, off to baggage reclaim only for us to recheck the bag and I literally had to head off to my gate going to Houston. I said good bye to Becky and Sally. I now have to spend three hours in Houston before I reach Austin.
Newark to Houston, TX
Had a really good seat – had leg room and although I am vertically challenged, it was nice to be able to stretch the old legs. To my right were a couple and to my left were a young family with a screaming child. This toddler pretty much cried all the way to Houston. When he wasn’t crying his mother was reading Dora the Explorer short stories. The woman beside me was getting increasingly irate and told the young mum to sort her kid out. It was like a Jerry Springer moment! Good thing it was only three hours and bit going to Houston, so I indulged in more Bookworm game, Free Cell and more House. The lady on my right was in awe of my ‘English accent’ that she just chatted and chatted and forced me to watch the end of ‘Australia’. Yes, it’s the Baz Lurhman film with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. It is not one for my DVD collection and although I don’t want to use the words ‘really’ and ‘sucked’ together – the film really sucked and apologies to any ‘Australia’ fans. It also made me realise that it is in the same league as ‘Four Christmases’ with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn – I started watching it on the plane, but just fell asleep because it was just simply not entertaining enough.
Landed at rainy Houston at around 10.30pm UK time and it was tipping it down. So much for this longest drought ever claim they’re making!
The airport is great and so I found myself a Papasito’s Cantina and had a beef in crispy taco and washed that down with rootbeer. I. Am. In. Heaven. I don’t know whether I was just hungry, but it was good stuff. I only paid £3 for it and the drink, which was ginormous in the first place, was refillable.
Now, I am just waiting at the gate to head over to Austin. It’s supposed to leave at 2.45am UK time, but it’s now delayed, so am stuck here for a bit. I managed to survive the long walk from whichever gate it was that I started as I nearly got run over by the airport buggies three times… I phoned the hotel to organise a shuttle to pick me up – this is going to be interesting. I refuse to pay for Internet access, so just walked around the shops. Since I love bovine stuff, this is probably my kind of place as they have tons of the stuff. I nearly bought a ‘You don’t mess with Texas’ mug, which I might get when I leave.
Watched a bit of basketball. It was Lakers V Spurs. Go Lakers! The flight is still delayed because of visibility issues in Austin. Met Claire (@Minkette), which was great. After an hour and a half of delay, the plane takes off and heads to Austin. Bit of a problem with the hotel’s airport shuttle, so was standing outside the airport for a while, but finally, I managed to check in to the hotel and got to my room. Thank goodness for that. There’ll be more interesting things to say tomorrow as I embark on Day 1 of the SXSW festival.