The prior two days were an amazing experience. I attended the 5 year old conference Northern Voice for the first time. What started out a blogging conference has grown and morphed along with the entire sea of media, content and business of the past five years.
Frankly, I was very concerned that at some point I'd be outed as a ad man and burned on a stake made of retired 386's fueled by spit of social media trolls as chants of "TV is dead, newspapers are dead, advertising is dead, now you die!" While I knew a few people there, I knew of many more, but knew very few.
These fears proved unfounded. This proved to be one of the most thought provoking and fruitful couple days of thinking I've enjoyed in a while. While my ticket was $60 is was worth twice as much as other conferences costing thousands that I've attended.
The collections of backgrounds, professions and experiences was fantastic. It was a spastic couple days listening to the likes of the founder of Flickr (pictured above) to hard core photo tech sessions to a stand up comedy routine/speeech debating whether Teh Internet is Funny to a curated discussion of contemporary and classic punk rock photography with Kris Krug and Bev Davies.
I am also glad to have jumped right into the first with a Moose Camp session, trying to bridge what I do, brand building, and blogs. The discussion was so much fun jumping around with attendings bouncing from branding within the context of an ADD coach to the stylish fellow from Sub Pop records (who I've worshiped for everyone of their 20 years) the director of CBC Radio 3 and self proclaimed creator of the world's worst radio station.
Here are a couple of my favorite thoughts from Northern Voice.
1. Acceptance of Humility
When you have the publisher of one of Canada's largest metro dailies sitting on a panel with the founder of leading citizen journalism property you expect some fireworks. What amazed me was the lack of tension and more the humble discussion of lessons learned over the past couple years and the identification of issues to address. I loved the humility of the old world baron acknowledging it is a work in progress, not likely a couple years ago, and the new world aspiring baron acknowledging work to date hadn't gone as planned and nobody is "dieing."
Takeaway, we've finally moved beyond the flippant "death of..." rhetoric and everybody is figuring out how to do what they do better. This was observed in a number of sessions, most notably this one.
2. Moving beyond the echo chamber
Obviously if you work in social media, you want to evangelize social media as much as you can. What is fascinating is the next generation of social media-ites who come from different worlds and are using the social media tools not to replace legacy mediums and business models but build new once that couldn't exist without. Best example was the civic news site that is investigating and breaking stories previously overlooked by both media and government.
Takeaway, the story of social media itself is rather tired but the story of new businesses emerging and people "doing" meaningful and original things with it is really fresh. We also have no ideas which ones are actually going to survive/thrive.
3. Too busy to worry about the recession
The only time "recession" emerged in a conversation was when speaking with a fellow corporate warrior, there were a few of us but not many. Everyone else had far too much work going on aparently for it to be much of a focus. That's awesome.
Takeaway, Not only are more and more individual ways of making a living emerging so to is fresher and less investment dependent innovation. This isn't new, the VC's on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley noted this a while ago but the ability for anyone to become an innovator or business creator is truly being realized. What's stopping you from starting a business off the side of your desk part time or on the kitchen table. Not much anymore.
4. Talent matters
Now that the newness of social and "new" media, which has been around quite a while, is wearing off, we are moving past the interest in the simple novelty of what is possible and getting down to making actually good stuff. The story that anyone can now be a dj or host their own radio show as a podcast is no longer very interesting. What is interesting is when someone has a great radio show, or whatever, and it happens to be in social media. We can focus on the content again.
This reinforces a couple things I've been saying not here, but in the real working world, often feeling a bit silly because of the crossed eyed blank stares that come back, but "all media is social" and "all media is digital" in today's world. With the one important caveat - if it is good. No matter what the medium, if you create something interesting, people will talk about it. It is so easy to treat digital and social media as "things" which are reinforced by agency departments and specialist divisions. There is no point being on Twitter if you don't have anything interesting to say, or at least say something uninteresting in an interesting way. Just like there is no point being on prime time TV if you don't have anything interesting to say, or at least say something uninteresting in an interesting way.
Takeaway - focusing on ensuring everything a brand does is interesting and done great is more important than ever. That should be priority one, then figure out where to say it and adapt accordingly for the context.
So that's what I got out of it, or at least as much as my patience can withstand typing. More great thoughts around the 2010 Independent Media Centre, whether social media actually helped Obama and beyond are floating about. So much good stuff.
If you were there, what were you main takeaways?