So a talking yam and a New Kid walk into a conference... Blissdom Canada
From Oct. 13 to 15, Toronto hosted the second annual Blissdom Canada conference. If you don't have a clue what that is, you're not alone, but it's also clear that you're not a part of the social media discussions happening in the biggest corporate boardrooms in Canada either. A conference which celebrates and educates blogging and bloggers, as well as the companies and websites that support them, this year attracted "legacy media" CBC participating as a major sponsor, with brands like General Motors, Kraft Foods and Presidents Choice Financial jumping over the shark and on board as well. And let's face it, any conference that kicks off with a talking yam (CBC's wildly successfully MammaYamma), and ends with Jordan Knight from New Kids On The Block singing karaoke at the closing night costume party clearly has something different and significant going on.
I attended (and spoke at) the conference and met women from Halifax to Victoria, and everywhere in between, from across Canada. Because of the physical conference location, most participants were from the Toronto area, but unlike many public gatherings, at this one what city your front doorstep is in was far less important than where you stood on issues of values, social justice, business principles and human connections.
From food to travel to viral to video to branding and grief and photography and blogging and monetizing and mommies and more, Marshall McLuhan's statement that the "medium is the message" has never rung more true. These women are the media for their own messages.
The stream most of these 200 participants (99 per cent of them women) are used to is more of the Twitter type than the mainstream media one, as they work towards finding varying levels of success through their social media channels. Not to mention the continuing uphill struggle most bloggers ("Mommy" or not) have in proving themselves as "real" writers with valid opinions to share. And while it has been somewhat true that the "if you write it, they will come" edict works in attracting readers in the world of searchable and viral online blogging, the dichotomy still exists that the most controversial sites will bring in eyeballs, but not necessarily sponsors. This is unlike the world of television, where the more shocking the content, the more the advertisers seem to line up. The difference here is mainly that the corporate sponsors of blogs view the bloggers' voices as an extension of their brand, whereas a traditional medium like television sits on the couch with us, an audience, to see what people will be hoarding, eating, or dancing into next. An interesting discussion which took place during the formal panels, in the hallways, and online (through blogs, not surprisingly) afterwards, and will no doubt carry on to next year's conference.
As a sidenote, the ongoing struggle between making a living through working with brands, and not "selling out" and finding and using a true voice was explored as ironically the Occupy Toronto march took place outside the Hilton Hotel doors; their target the greed of corporations, as conference attendees struggled to heft their corporately filled "swag bags" up the escalators. The waters are muddy and judging by the Twitter stream post-conference, the thinking, strategizing and concluding will continue for a long time as this new media force, in this new world of media, continues to define itself, and its goals.
What was clear was that the need for women to connect, whether online, offline, in person, over drinks, coffees, massages, or even dressed as gnomes hugging an 80s icon, the true character of social media will clearly land on the side of social, while the media gather to watch.