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Thursday, February 01, 2007


10 Things I Learned At The New York Bloggers Summit

The New York Bloggers Summit, held last night at the studios of WNBC at Rockefeller Center, featured over 130 bloggers and what seemed like 5,000 NBC employees, most of whom stood around nervously and made small talk with all the grace of a concrete block. Theoretically, the Summit was an opportunity to bridge understanding between "MSM" (as they charmingly referred to themselves, like it was still 2004) and bloggers, most of whom look like lifelong grad students. The event taught us all, both TV folk and web folk, a few important life lessons. To wit:

1) Shrimp is really, really impressive.
The event began with a reception in the newsroom ("Studio 6B") where there were sodas, Pax Foods sandwiches, and yes, a platter with fresh chilled shrimp. Or so I'm told, because the hungry bloggers and NBC employeers surrounding the shrimp platter threw mean elbows and growled as they chowed down like hyaenas over a fresh gazelle. Later during the speeches, NBC representatives would tell us over a dozen times how "impressive" it was that there was shrimp served. Not in over four years, they said, had shrimp been served at an NBC function. For some reason, we were not overhelmed with gratitude. (Translation: bloggers are serious bitches.)

2) FourFour is waaaaay cute.
There were many A-list bloggers in the room (more on that later), but I only truly lost my shit when one bald cutie pie identified himself as Rich Juzwiak, the author of the hilarious blog FourFour. Not only do I completely love his blog, but now I love his flair, panache, and smoldering sexy eyes. I tried to meet Rich afterwards, but being completely across the auditorium, it was impossible. And it seemed like screeching "FourFour WE LOVE YOUUUU!" at the top of my lungs would have been less than blogger-cool.

3) Ohmigod, The Max Weinberg 7!!!
After our shrimpfest, we traveled across the hall into the Late Night with Conan O'Brien studio ("Studio 6A"), where our "dialogue" with the newspeople was to take place. It was made clear that we were to be impressed by being allowed into the Vaunted Hall of Conan...like with the shrimp, only bigger and inedible. I was surprised...the studio is not very big. And it's a bit dusty, but in a retro-charming way, like the living room of your Aunt Margaret.

4) Give us your Content, We'll Give You....?
The "dialogue" began with eight different NBC executives telling us exactly why we were there. Basically, they can't keep up with the pace of news in the internet age. So they'd like bloggers to email them "scoops" (their word, not mine), and in return, they will give us "publicity" and "traffic" and "credit" and "linklove" (again, their word, not mine). They were deliberately vague on what "credit" meant, but we guess that "publicity" meant links from their website, and the one word we wanted to hear -- "money" -- was noticeably absent.

5) Arts? Who cares about the arts?
As the session began, the NBC'er who was most helpful, Erin, led an informal survey with a show of hands. Political bloggers in the house? A bunch. Sports bloggers? A few, and very popular. (Just like gym class.) Gossip bloggers? Over a dozen. NYC-centric bloggers? In force. So I waited to hear them ask for "arts bloggers" or "culture bloggers" or "LGBT bloggers". And waited. And waited. Long story short, we were never polled, or even thought of. Because clearly, the arts are not news. (Later, in a discussion of Paris Hilton's storage auction, "culture" blogging was used interchangeably with "gossip" blogging. Because Paris Hilton IS culture, people, and the sooner we all learn that, the better off we'll be.)

6) Padma Lakshmi smokes weed.
After the executives finished their sales pitch, bloggers were eventually allowed to ask questions. One blogger asked if NBC was interested in blog rumors that circulate from time to time. When pressed for an example, one blogger revealed that they had been tipped off that very day that Padma Lakshmi, the host of Bravo's Top Chef, was an enormous pothead. Oh, snap! High-larious! I forgot what was said after that, because I was too busy imagining what it must be like to smoke a doobie with Salman Rushdie. Shweet!

7) ModFab is okay, but Gothamist is really the shiznit.
I mentioned earlier that bloggers were allowed to ask questions. That's partially true; the moderator, WNBC technology reporter Sree Sreenivasan, wasn't interested in anyone who wasn't an A-Lister. So while he went giddy over Anil Dash, Gothamist, Mediabistro, and Gawker, software makers and every conceivable employee of NBC, those of us who inhabit the B-List were left with our arms in the air, hoping we'd be called upon. Oh, well yes, occasionally a smaller blogger was allowed a shot at the passed microphone (our favorite: Varsity Basketweaving) but only if they were funny.

8) Bloggers don't watch local news. They watch Jon Stewart.
This revelation also came by a show of hands. The NBC execs were too petrified to ask why. Had they bothered to follow up, they would have heard what I was dying to say: that the strength of blogging is personality and niche subjects, two things that network news are weak in offering...and that Stewart has in spades.

9) Bloggers are reaaaaaaaally white.
I counted three people of color. Out of 130. Truthfully, there was more diversity in the NBC staff. A disturbing, bothersome truth in a city that thrives on its multicultural makeup.

10) I got a free hat.
Yes. It even says "Blogger Summit" on it. I may never wear it, but hey, free swag is free swag.

I think WNBC was brave in recognizing their limitations, and smart to reach out to bloggers in the spirit of partnership...their hearts are in the right places. However, all joking aside -- they fundamentally do not understand the nature of the problem. Television and the internet are getting closer together every day. To hope that bloggers will help prop up an archaic system of delivering media -- a nightly litany "of tragedies and catastrophies, followed by the weather", as one blogger put it -- is to miss the point entirely. Today's audience wants to select their own content, about subjects they care about, in formats that are useful in their lives...and to experience it on technology that may or may not be a box in the living room. News, like life, is changing. If they are willing to see that, I'm certain that bloggers will answer the call.

P.S. -- I loved hanging with old friends like Brilliant at Breakfast and The Flick Filosopher, plus meeting lots of new exciting blogs, including RIPCoco, Blue Jersey, and especially Poor Impulse Control. There were many more, but that's who I hung with most.

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Anonymous Michael said...

Hello from Germany,
Blogging is a completely mad thing and becomes also here in Germany ever more popular! A very beautiful side is that here!
Many greetings

9/20/07, 5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes this is absolutely great. :) I love it.

10/11/07, 12:42 PM  

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