Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Issues When Media Companies Host Conferences

Posted by Tom Foremski - September 14, 2009

The popular TechCrunch50 conference started this week. Organized by TechCrunch, the conference attracts many young startups.

This is part of a broad trend by media companies to host conferences in a bid to improve revenues. GigaOm, VentureBeat, also have their own conferences because the revenues from advertising alone are far from sufficient to pay for ever larger staffs.

The attraction for companies participating in these conferences is good because it guarantees that each media organization will cover its own conference. This brings up a potential issue that this is a pay-per-post scheme.

Techcrunch avoids such criticism by charging the conference audience and not the main 50 companies that are presenting. However, it does charge exhibition fees of $3,000 for each of the 100 companies in the "Demo Pit."

VentureBeat is now co-producer of the DEMO conference. It'll be interesting to see how it deals with potential conflicts of interest regarding pay-per-post because DEMO companies pay to attend (after they've been selected.)

The advantage to companies from getting media coverage from a TechCrunch, GigaOm, VentureBeat, etc is considerable. It can dramatically boost the Google pagerank for each company's website. And that translates into big bucks in savings in terms of online marketing.

Google uses pagerank to decide the importance of a website within its ranking of results for a specific topic. And pagerank is determined by the importance of sites, and the number of sites, that link to a page. A good pagerank means that companies will show up higher on a list of Google results and these types of "organic" search results are far more effective than paid search ads.

However, because each media organzation is covering its own conference, this can discourage other reporters from writing news that is announced at the event.

For example, a quick search on Techmeme reveals very little media coverage of TC50 outside of Techcrunch.

Could companies could have gained broader media coverage and therefore a higher pagerank if they hadn't taken part in a media company organized conference? Probably, but only if they have some important news to release.

This could be an issue at the upcoming DEMOFall which boasts that "each DEMO translates to over a billion media impressions worldwide." Will VentureBeat's involvement dampen media coverage?

Maybe this is why traditionally, conference and trade show organizations were always independent of the media.


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