Notes on SXSW18: Luke Skywalker, the CIA and the trendy podcast thing
So I have just recovered from SXSW 2018.
My third talk at the iconic conference was a little different to the others – new partner, new focus. But it went down well I think. By that I mean relatively few people left during the presentation or at the traditional time when the questions start in the final 15 minutes.
I was also a mentor for the first time, see below.
Anyway, here’s my thoughts on one of the highlights of the conference year.
Sports was full of data and AI
Thankfully, the sports track was welcomed into the bosom of downtown this year. It was housed in the JW Marriott, a more central location that made it easier to move between hotels and mix up your experience.
I felt there were lots of panels on AI and data, understandable but noticeable. There were less on gaming but then that had been elevated to its own section. Again, understandably, but it went on after the main sports track so I missed out. Shame
Everyone is podcasting
I began recording interviews for my podcast in 2016 but only starting producing them in late 2017. The delay is a long story.
Everyone is at it now and there were numerous sessions at SXSW. Financing, editorial process plus, of course, live recordings themselves.
The boom will certainly subside a little in time but podcasts are here to stay.
It is the product that gives you most exposure and “personal branding” for the least amount of effort.
And it's fun.
Do the BBC get it?
One of the most disappointing panels was selling Manchester. It was lead by Mayor Andy Burnham and involved three sports-related media outlets from the city – BBC Sport, Man United and Lad Bible.
It was a third full when I arrived and thinned out dramatically before the end. This was because it was too salesy (last question: why is Manchester so great?) and did not provide enough value.
That happens a lot.
The most shocking aspect was the BBC Reporter suggesting that YouTube fan channels like ArsenalFanTV, RedMenTV etc were so popular that the participants were now being asked to appear on “legitimate” media outlets… like the BBC.
I thought we were past this.
They ARE legitimate outlets and don’t need help from anyone. Vlogs, blogs and podcasts serve niches (big, small and minute) that the broadcasters do not or can not serve. That is why they prosper and grow. Some grow beyond the usual definition of the word "niche".
I have worked for “legitimate” media outlets all my life and my previous condescension has been beaten out of me by the metrics, in this case YouTube views.
Also, just look at the BBC Sport’s online output and you see more and more elements pilfered from the most innovative YouTubers.
Again, no problem there. It happens both ways.
BBC Sport is still unique, vital and should be cherished.
But the attitude displayed at SXSW needs to change.
Being a mentor is great
It looked and felt like speed-dating. A scatter of small, circular two-person tables in a vast room with one participant pacing about expectantly in anticipation of a stranger’s arrival.
The mentee has 15 minutes each to outline their issue and ask for advice. I’d never done this before but my questioners were outside of my usual sports treadmill and therefore much more interesting company than most. An Argentinean who had created an app to put live content on a big screen was asking how to pitch to sports teams. A Japanese inventor with a video camera that followed you as you moved wanted to know if sports reporters would be interested. And, best of all, the content lead at the CIA wanted hints on storytelling and creative efficiency.
I hope I gave value, you certainly did to me.
Everyone has their own fight
I snagged a ticket to the Director and the Jedi at the Paramount thanks to the excellent SXXpress scheme. It was an intimate fly-on-the-wall about the last installment. It was 7/10 for me but bigger Star Wars fans will love it.
However, that was merely the prelude to the post-movie Q&A with director Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill. To be honest, I sat through the movie just to see Luke-Frickin’-Skywalker in the flesh.
There was a minor stampede down the aisles to ask the first question. The winner was a man with a shakey voice who thanked Hamill for his portrayal as he had been born with only one hand.
In our youths, we all played out the fight with Vader using makeshift light sabres and narrated with homemade swooshing sounds.
It just meant much more to him.
Other things I enjoyed learning about: Drone Racing, Fan-Controlled Football League, VR applications for sports teams, publishing and Wisconsin cheese.