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adtech New York

Although I was not sure I’ll be attending ad:tech NY 2009 until the last moment (because of various family and personal illnesses), I’m certainly glad I did. Overall, I can say it was a blast! Bigger than the last conference I attended, Affiliate Summit East (ASE), but somehow less overwhelming too – perhaps because there were more companies that really did not relate to anything I am doing.

 
After thinking about this for a while, I’ve decided to break my ad:tech summary into three separate posts. One describing my personal experiences, the other describing a few companies I got a chance to talk to, and the last describing the (few) sessions I attended. This is a good point to mention that unlike in ASE, this time I came as press.

 
udi schlessinger's press badge

 

Journalism's very best

Journalism's finest



 
Where shall I begin? Ad:tech took place at the Javits conference center and was enormous. It took me about 15 minutes to just find where I can obtain my press badge. But it was well worth the effort, since after getting it, I saw the monstrous line for ’standard’ passes – there must have been hundreds of people waiting in line!
 
As you can see, it was pretty crowded

As you can see, it was pretty crowded



 
Since this was the first time I came as press, I was very determined to do my job properly. About 1-2 weeks before the conference started, I started getting requests from companies to interview them. Since I got so many, I tried to only pick those that are relevant to me/my background in a way. Despite this filtering I must’ve set meetings with about 15 companies.

 
I started walking the exhibitor booths. The first person I bumped into was Eric Schechter, Clickbooth’s Social Media Manager and a really great guy. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with Eric’s videos (here’s one for example), but he makes the most hilarious videos for Clickbooth. I politely asked him to participate in one of the videos and when he hesitated I resorted to begging. Hopefully I’ll participate in one of those – when crazy is required, I’m always the first to raise my hand ;) .

 
Later I bumped into my ex-boss and CEO from 7 years ago (in my previous career as a technical lead/software architect, I created/redesigned almost all of the company’s products). Since both of us changed industries during this time, we were both quite shocked to see each other. Certainly a surreal experience for me. I also bumped into a friend I haven’t seen since 1992 (another surprising incident). Considering several friends of mine attended ad:tech and I didn’t see them even once since the place was so big, I consider the former occurrences one of those weird coincidences that occasionally happen.

 
Although I had a press pass and was really eager to attend some of the sessions, I spent the entire first day almost exclusively running from one meeting to another. Almost surprisingly, this was actually a lot of fun! My first instinct was to ‘pat myself on the shoulder’ for setting meetings with so many companies that are truly interesting and relevant for me, but after talking to several company executives, I realize that the filtering was mutual: it seems many – if not all – contacted me because my background was relevant to them. Most were familiar with my blog and background.

 
I’ll describe those companies in the next post.

 
Although I did get to attend a few sessions, I simply didn’t have enough time to attend as many as I wanted. Fortunately the third day consisted only of sessions, and most people were gone by then (no more exhibitors).

 
In addition I spent a lot of time talking to the various companies – there were just so many! Interesting how my focus changed in the past few months. In ASE I was primarily interesting in finding unique affiliate offers, so had a lot of conversations with both large and small affiliate networks. But now my hands are pretty full in this respect, so this time I was more interested in finding interesting/cheap/unique traffic sources, so primarily was talking to ad networks and other companies that offer equivalent services.

 
During the day I met many friends I know from the NY affilate meetups, from ASE as well as some of my affiliate managers from some networks that I have not met in person until now. It was great seeing Casan Van Langen, my affiliate manager from AzoogleAds, and finally meeting Melissa Emmett, my affiliate manager from MarketLeverage.

 
Also great to meet friends I know, such as Dina Riccobono (from MarketLeverage), Heather Smith, Miki Rapoport (see his picture below closing a 7 figure deal – a moment I was lucky to capture in real time), Ian Fernando, Ken Chen, Steve Fulop, and many more.

 
Miki closing a big deal

Miki closing a big deal



 
I also had a fantastic meeting with Richard Young (from Arcamax publishing). Just like the last time we have met, we had an absolutely great conversation. I wouldn’t have met him if it weren’t for the yacht party in ASE!

 
One fun thing about ad:tech was the Twitter board. There were a few of those, and they included tweets that mentioned the #adtechny hashtag. I think this was moderated, because I found myself talking to a guy next to it and neither of us saw our tweets on the board. Though eventually I did manage to get one in ;)

 
The full Twitter board

The full Twitter board



 
My tweeted message

My tweeted message



 

Parties

A major aspect of these conferences is the after hours parties. Irritatingly – but understandably – they all took place on the first day. I’ve been invited to six separate parties on Wednesday, and planned to attend three. Unfortunately, I forgot to RSVP one (Clickbooth’s). I went to Azoogleleads’ heaven and hell’s themed party which was awesome (and really embarrassed my wife when I wore the glowing red horns, unlike the standard ‘cloth’ ones, during the entire time. Hey, what’s wrong with some attention? :P ). Unfortunately I can’t provide a picture (believe me, I want to!) because the photographer seems to have omitted it from his website, and did not respond to my email…

 
heavenandhell

 
Later I went to the VIP Mix+Mingle event (organized by Advertise.com, Adknowledge and GenieKnows) – which was tons of fun as well. Still need to find my picture which was taken there somehow.

 
I felt kind of stupid when I saw Clickbooth’s party was right across the street from the VIP Mix+Mingle event, and I couldn’t go because I didn’t RSVP… Eric later chastised me for not calling him (I didn’t have his number!).. next time.

 
I also had to miss the BlogUp, an event organized on the second day that aimed bloggers to meet other bloggers – since by then I started feeling unwell again. Based on what I heard, it was a big success and a lot of fun.

 

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Celebrity following

 

As you may know, the famous blogger, John Chow, has recently unfollowed almost all of his followers (~55,000) in a single day and left only a 100. I read his post about this and all the comments (there were a lot of those). I also read several of the posts other bloggers wrote following his decision, some with very harsh criticism. I’ve met John Chow in Affiliate Summit East and spoke to him on several occasions and think he’s a very nice guy. He unfollowed me too, but then again, I can’t say we are close, so I understand his decision, and certainly don’t take it personally.

 
But this post is not about John Chow’s decision. Plenty of words were written about that.

 
After reading all the mentioned posts it made me think: why do people follow celebrities? I don’t think John Chow is really a celebrity, but to a certain audience, he is. When I was an academic, certain people were celebrities in my field, but I assure you, they won’t get recognized on the street and you’ve never heard their names.

 
There are several reasons I can think of why people would follow a celebrity on Twitter (and note that this also applies to other social media sites such as Facebook):

  1. To get a reciprocal follow: meaning, if you follow John Chow, he might follow you in return. I believe that’s usually not the case when dealing with celebrities because there are several other million people you can follow who will follow you back, but I’m just listing it as a possible factor.

     

  2. Because you’re curious about their lives. Why do people follow Ashton Kutcher or Britney Spears? To see what they do in their day to day life. Hey, it’s all public, so why not? They invite this publicity.

     

  3. Because they provide interesting content. Some celebrities, such as Mashable, write excellent content. Really, almost every one of Mashable’s tweets is a winner – I could not unfollow him even if I wanted to because he’s simply too good a source to give up. It doesn’t matter at all that he doesn’t follow me back. The New York times doesn’t read my blog and I don’t stop reading it, do I?

     

  4. Because they want a chance to interact with them. If you follow someone, you can comment on something they do or they may follow you back… and then you may actually get to ‘talk’ to them. Touch the stars. Be a part of their lives. This goes back to one of my first posts which dealt with interaction.

     

I think for most people it’s usually (4), that is, the chance to interact with celebrities, and to a lesser extent, (2), that is, to simply follow their lives out of curiosity. However, let’s face it, the tweets of most celebrities are extremely boring. It’s like seeing the twitter account of your not so bright teenage next door neighbor. That being said, interacting with a celebrity means you get to say “Hey, I chatted with Britney today” even if all she responded to you was “thank you” – and you get to talk about this for years to come! So I think interaction is the main reason, even if it’s trivial interaction.

 
This reminds me of quick personal anecdote: should I be discussing this in a public forum? Never mind. In the mid 90s, a friend of mine used to be a secretary of a very famous Israeli general who – years later – was a candidate to be the head of the Israeli Mossad (he didn’t get the job by the way). You’d often read about him in the news at the time since he dealt with very sensitive issues. When she left her job, she had a small going-away party (for around 20 people), and he came too as her boss. She personally introduced everyone to everyone, so I was introduced to him as well. At some point someone was talking in the background while she was making a speech, effectively interrupting her (rather impolitely), so he shouted “Silence, Schlessinger!”. Clearly he confused that guy who was misbehaving with me (my friend quickly corrected him, “No no, that wasn’t Udi, he’s a good guy”). But for years later I used to say “You know, the potential head of the Israeli Mossad shouted at me in anger”. Silly, I know, but worthy of an anecdote even 15 years later. Don’t you think?

 
Anyway, my above conclusions made me examine my own list of people I follow. I follow very few celebrities, and most of them are in John Chow’s league (i.e. most people won’t know them). I asked myself: why do I follow William Shatner? I really liked him in Star Trek, but his Tweets are boring (no offense Bill if you’re reading this). I know why I follow Mashable (mentioned above). I started following Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek) because – I guess – I was curious and wanted to interact with him, but now I follow him simply because he is a very interesting person. He’s extremely witty and funny, and provides one of the best sources of content on Twitter.

 
After this pondering I realized that very few of the celebrities I follow are really justified. Most are either boring (often very boring) and they most definitely don’t interact with me. So why should I follow them? Once I realized that, I unfollowed most (like all 6 of them ;) ) and left those that either I really find interesting, or have interacted with in the past. Sorry Shatner, you had to go. Don’t take it personally, I still think you were awesome in Star Trek.

 
Just thought I’ll share this with you, my reader: if you follow some people (celebrity or otherwise) on Twitter, ask yourself, why do you do that? Do you really care about them? Do you just follow them because you want an extra follower? Do you find their tweets interesting? Thoughts worth thinking in my opinion.

 

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