SXSW 2010 PepsiCo

The smart ones did.

If you are serious about creating online entertainment there is absolutely no reason that attending SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) shouldn’t be on your must-go list. The five day conference, which just wrapped up Tuesday night drew 12,000 of social media and web junkies for a non-stop, bleary-eyed bender of business cards, panels, free BBQ and new connections. It was like camp for internet people.

And that’s my point. If you’re making any kind entertainment on the web, you are internet people. Meeting other internet people is part of your job. The apps and tools that are emerging out of the developers at SXSW matter to your web series.

Entertainment on the internet spent the past 5 years learning how to go from crawling to standing up and making its first wobbly steps. Now it’s 2010 and mainstream eyes are gooing over this clever toddler of a medium. The really interesting stuff—like location-based interactive ARGs built around a web drama—is just getting started.

The tools and apps startups, many of which came in from San Fran, need the web creators and storytellers, and vice versa. The guys at Boxee didn’t throw their daytime kegger house party on Sunday just to throw back Shiner Bock. They wanted to meet the content folks.

Brands Came To Play With You

SXSW Nokia PartyCase in point, Chevrolet. They weren’t just a SXSW sponsor, they came to get to know the internet and the people making and doing really interesting things with it. And their team came out in force. We’re not talking hired gun booth babes, but the actual decision makers that are figuring out how to best pair their brand with what’s driving attention online.

Chevy even shuttled a number of web video and social media creatives on a 30-minute ride out to a BBQ dinner at the Salt Lick just outside of Austin. They wanted to hear what these creators have in the works, and how perhaps they could get involved to support that.

And Pepsi teamed up with web show hub blip.tv to create the PepsiCo Podcast Playground, bringing in Epic Fu host Zadi Diaz to interview a number of web video people like Kenyatta Cheese, Tim Street, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brett Register, and yes, even me (see below). They care about this space, and it’s much deeper that slapping logos on signage and passing of free soda. They want to know what is coming next.

Web TV Super-Meetup

Michelle DeForest at SXSWThere’s only one place you’ll find a more concentrated gathering of decision-makers in online entertainment—that would be April’s Web TV Week in LA headlined by the Streamy Awards. (My bias duly noted.) But second to that is SXSWi. Let’s say you wanted to get to know the digital content studios and distributors, after five days in Austin you could have connected with the top brass at Revision3, Next New Networks, EQAL, Screen Actors Guild, Funny or Die, Babelgum, Digitas, Katalyst, College Humor, Boxee, Ustream, YouTube, blip.tv—all of whom had a serious presence (not to mention parties) here at South-by.

It’s not just the companies, but the vets of the video scene that are mingling around and are flush with lessons learned and advice on growing an audience online like Steve Garfield (he even wrote a book on it), iJustine, Kevin Rose, Phil De Franco, Taryn Southern, Leo Laporte, Amanda Congdon, Gary Vaynerchuk, Kent Nichols, Shira Lazar, Alex Albrecht, Amanda Coolong and Steve Woolf.

I even tweeted during the Packaging, Pitching and Presenting Your Digital Content panel (produced and presented by our friends at NATPE) that one of the audience members hijacked the panel during Q&A announcing that he was from Oscar-winning production studio Lakeshore Entertainment and that they are just now getting into web content and looking for pitches after the panel. Needless to say even a few of the super-agents on the panel went outside to meet him afterwards.

What about the Cons?

The cons? Cost. Sure, passes to SXSW aren’t cheap at around $500 (depending on when you pulled the trigger), and getting to Austin isn’t free either. So to combat this turn-off I’d suggest a two-fold plan of attack:

SXSW Social Media Clubhouse Bus

  • Bunk Up: Spend the months before the conference asking around to see who you know that’s going—even if it’s just Twitter friends—and talk travel plans. Some people rent local houses and pile in to avoid those steep hotel bills.
  • Budget Early: Make a point to include SXSW in your yearly budget, or in some cases right as a line item into your web series’ marketing budget. Trust me, that $500 you spent on Google AdSense would have returned way better value sending one of your team to internet’s Ground Zero.
  • To help out, Tubefilter will sponsor a pass to 2011 SXSW Interactive for a web series creator who has never been before. We’ll have more details later this year about how we’ll figure out who to take, but feel free to leave a comment below with your name and an idea of how we should pick the creative one to join us.

    One of the best ways to break out of the “LA (or NY, or YourCityHere) Bubble” is to hop on a plane and leave it every now and then.

    Top photo by Steve Garfield. Middle photo by George Ruiz. Bottom photo by laughingsquid.

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