BlogWorld Expo 2010: An Interview With Rick Calvert

Last year Blog World Expo saw approximately 2,000 visitors, this year 4,000 participants are expected at the event. To find out why Blog World Expo 2010 has doubled it’s size I sat down with conference co-creator Rick Calvert to talk about the conference, the state of blogging and what he believes is the future of the industry.

CORPORATE INTEREST AT BLOG WORLD EXPO 2010

Corporate interest was one of the first areas discussed, according to Rick, this year will see an “exponentially greater number of corporate attendees.” Sponsors that include Ford, Kodak, Sony and Budweiser among others. I asked Rick what type of involvement corporations will have at the Expo and he assured me that “Blog World Expo coordinators spend more time telling companies what they can’t do rather than what they can do,” while adding that they educate brands on the right ways and wrong ways to promote brands to work with bloggers, for example, company’s in attendance are told that their brands can’t treat bloggers and new media like consumers. For example, rather than basic Sony product placement, you might find Sony products that can be used to increase your blog posts multimedia output, such as HD camcorders that are preferred by bloggers or a new camera that offers quick post capabilities. Whatever the technology may be, company’s are encouraged to work with bloggers and other online content creators to showcase how their technologies and platforms can help a content creator “create better, more engaging content.” He goes on to state that “most exhibitors have a direct relationship with new media, so they understand the purpose of the conference and work to ensure they stay within that scope.”

A GROWING CONFERENCE

I asked Rick why he believes the conference has grown by leaps and bounds and he pointed to the fact that new media has become “more and more mainstream, while the time to go from zero readers to a big readership continues to become shorter everyday.” He also pointed out that company’s outside of new media want to learn how to use these platforms to increase their own reach. For example the “Social Media Business Summit,” what Rick calls “a conference in the conference” is directly geared towards business owners and executives who want to understand how to use social media and connect to bloggers and content. Questions asked and answered at this conference may include “Do we send bloggers press releases, how do we use Facebook, how do we use Twitter” and other questions that allow businesses to better connect with new media content creators and their overall customer base. As he goes on to point out, new media exists at most organizations now, even within traditional media, unfortunately many of those organizations have yet to figure out how to effectively use new media to their advantage.

CURRENT STATE OF BLOGGING

We also talked about the current state of blogging. I asked what his favorite blogging product of the year is and his response wasn’t so much a new product that he believed to be the highlight of the community at this time, but rather the possibility that a new open source platform may show up on the radar to replace or at least supplement WordPress. He acknowledged that WordPress has continued to grow in dominance, but also pointed to the platforms community breakdown, culminating in the recent licensing issues with the Thesis and Genesis themes. He also acknowledge that more bloggers are “beginning to use multi-platforms with text, audio and video use growing among many top providers.” He says that “with video and audio you are still not able to tag and search effectively the way you can with text. The best way for people to find content is to have a blog with a sister site for that audio and video content, that you can tag, that you can make searchable.”

MARKETING ADVICE FOR NEW BLOGGERS

I had to ask the most over asked blog question of all time. What marketing advice would you give to new bloggers? His response was typical on one side of the coin, “Create good content” but his next response wasn’t about SEO practices, Link baiting or other over typed techniques, but instead Rick believes it’s all about “Networking” both with other people in your niche and also with “as many people as you possibly can” to help gain recognition for your site. He believes that by networking and creating great content you lend your site to real sustainable traffic for longer periods of time.

CREATING CONTENT, DISTRIBUTING CONTENT and MONETIZING CONTENT

Rick alluded throughout our interview that Blog World Expo wants to help with the “sustainable” aspect of content creation by making sure visitors to the conference understand how to create great content, deliver that content where it needs to be and how to monetize on that created content. In short, this conference isn’t about the passionate blogger who wants to post their thoughts online for free (although they are of course welcomed to attend), but rather it’s for “power bloggers” who want to learn how to turn their writing, video creation and audio creations into a sustainable, effective money maker. He used his favorite analogy to explain his thoughts further, “blogs are like guitar players, some blogs are user generated content (like one off youtube videos of cats), but Blog World Expo doesn’t appeal necessarily to those blog owners, there’s nothing wrong with it, people can make music for fun, but BWE is about people who want to either earn direct income from content, earn indirect from businesses through content and to learn about the non-profit or hobby side (Causes, Non-profits Track).

NICHE MARKETS – LEARNING FROM VERTICALS OUTSIDE YOUR OWN

We also spent some time talking about “Niche markets” and how bloggers in various markets can learn from one another. For those of you unfamiliar with Rick’s past, he started Blog World Expo so he could connect with other Political bloggers, at the time he wasn’t really aware of other sectors of the blog world, but now he’s vastly aware of them and he believes people should be aware of verticals outside of their own area of expertise, just as he has become aware of various vertical markets. Rick says he likes to think of Blog World Expo as a the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) or CES (Consumer Electronics Expo) of the blogging world in that various individuals from varying backgrounds can come together and learn from one another. As he puts it, “if you’re a mommy blogger and all you do is talk to mommy bloggers, you’re probably missing out on some great monetization and content ideas from bloggers in other niches who may do things differently.”

Speaking further about Niche markets, Rick spent a good deal of time mentioning mommy bloggers, so I asked why he had such a big interest in that particular niche, he said his main issue was that “mommy bloggers may not to their own benefits have experienced too much attention from corporate America, while missing out on much of the monetization they should be receiving. When asked why he thinks that has occurred he said “It’s not all the bloggers fault, typically there again are exceptions….bloggers have a passion, not always a business model when they first start…..at the same time the corporate entities don’t understand new media enough to work with many of those bloggers on a sustainable model for growth and participation.

THE HOPE OF BLOG WORLD EXPO – BRINGING ATTENTION TO OUR INDUSTRY

The hope of Blog World Expo in many ways says Rick is to show everyone just how big the new media market has become and by growing the show exponentially every year that’s exactly what’s happening. He says “as we grown and more support is shown to the market, the stronger we become in the eyes of advertisers and other company’s looking outside of traditional media” But even if you aren’t too worried about monetization at this time in your online presence, he mentions another benefit of the show, “this may be the first time you get to meet a lot of your friends (people in your niche) and just as importantly it can open your eyes to a whole bunch of new and different possibilities.”

BLOG WORLD EXPO – THE MISSION REMAINS THE SAME

We also discussed the current state of blogging and whether Blog World Expo’s strategy has changed in terms of what the show talks about and how it’s approached in general. Rick said the vision of what the show is has always remained the same, however the understanding of what the blogosphere was four years ago is now much stronger, much better. He did mention that how big the industry has become surprises him, stating that BWE organizers are convinced that show numbers will continue to double for at least several years. Rick believes and I agree with him that in a few years we could see 20,000 even 30,000 or 40,000 people walking through the doors to the show. He also mentioned that there are now parts of the show where they are trying more than ever to educate bloggers about some traditional media opportunities they should take, specifically he points to the hatred of press releases felt by many bloggers who don’t want to be “bothered” by releases. As Rick points out, it’s impossible in most cases to only target bloggers who specifically cover a companies focuses, which means some bloggers receive information they could care less about. He said traditional media has always engaged better with company’s using press releases and more traditional contact tactics and that he applauds that part of their journalistic integrity. He also mentioned that getting bloggers to move back the “shotgun blast marketing” strategies they use may help them grow their brands. It’s not all bad news for new media, rather the opposite, Rick loves that bloggers in niche markets are able to cover material with more knowledge than a traditional journalist who may be assigned a story outside of their own personal scope. He pointed to financial bloggers who may have worked in their particular financial industry for years and who know how to better find information than a journalist assigned to a random story they don’t fully understand.

WHAT NEW TRACKS WILL BLOG WORLD EXPO 2010 OFFER?

Getting back to the specifics of what the expo will offer in 2010, Rick pointed out that their “Medical Track” which started last year has now been named the “Social Health” track. He said the name change came after they had a better understanding of that market during last years Blog World Expo. He also mentioned a few new tracks, the first being TechMunch (A food track) that will include food experiences and even reviewing food at some of the top restaurants in Vegas. He also really likes the Travel Track which started last year and will now include a new “sister track” known as Tourism Currents for CVB’s (Convention and Visitors Bureaus) which will teach visitor bureaus how to connect with travel sites and show how them how to use social media to let people know about their destinations. The Tourism Currents and Travel Track are the perfect example of what BWE does best, they take bloggers and educate them on content creation and distribution, while at the same time showing businesses how to use social media to attract more customers, while learning how to interact in a more manageable way with bloggers who in turn can help them with their businesses and causes.

Final Thoughts From Rick: “I sincerely believe this is the best conference content that we have ever had. It goes back to us better understanding what the space is and what people want and need to get out of the event. This year more than ever we understand what people want to learn this year and I truly believe the conferences sessions even better.”

20% OFF BLOGWORLD REGISTRATION

If you plan on attending the show we have an offer you can’t refuse, simply use registration code: BWEVIP4 and you’ll receive 20% off tickets to BlogWorldExpo courtesy of Inquisitr. Just be aware, the discount is only available to the first 200 people.

To sign up to BlogWorldExpo, click here then follow the registration links. Enter the code at checkout to get your discount.

We’ll See Everyone At The Show

Duncan Riley (Inquisitr – Owner) and I will both be at the BlogWorld Expo and Media Summit this year, we look forward to seeing everyone in Vegas!