After this weekend’s 2011 Online News Association Conference in Boston, I thought I would share some of the big takeaways I had from the conference.
1. What a difference a year makes!
During last year’s conference, in Washington, the two biggest pieces of buzz were TBD and Patch. That was certainly not the case this year, since TBD now exists only in a scaled-back form with almost none of its original staff. Patch is still expanding, but after reports of AOL’s hyperlocal brand losing millions of dollars surfaced, conference-goers seemed to be less interested.
2. So, where was the buzz? Live coverage.
People love that stuff. Live tweets, live blogs, live anything! From a wonderful panel about social media and the Arab Spring featuring The New York Times‘ Jennifer Preston and NPR’s Andy Carvin to the Online Journalism Award won by Al Jazeera English for their live coverage of the Arab Spring, there certainly was an appetite for people to learn how to run the most comprehensive and accurate live coverage while being the fastest.
3. Can haz job(seekers)?
Not sure what the deal with this was, but multiple recruiters who attended the annual job fair that precedes the conference told me there were far fewer job seekers who attended this year’s job fair. Are people discouraged? Was it difficult for folks to make it to Boston?
4. Keep an eye on Ben Huh’s Moby Dick Project.
I wrote the headline for no.3 like that on purpose. Ben Huh, the CEO of Cheezburger Network (yes, the guy who runs the sites we love to spend too much time on) hopes to fundamentally change the way online news is consumed. Called the Moby Dick Project, he hopes to have people stop consuming news the way it’s been consumed since 1899. The details of exactly what he wants to do are unknown, but pay attention to this guy. He knows how to draw lots and lots of traffic (and, he has a journalism background, too).
5. This conference grows in size and importance ever year.
Yes, this an obvious statement for anyone who’s gone to an ONA conference before. But for me, the real turning point for the conference took place this year, when Google News used it as a venue to make a major product announcement. Regardless, this shows that major companies are beginning to realize the importance of this conference. Google, Facebook and Twitter all had more prominent representation this year. Perhaps most exciting is how the number of young attendees seems to grow each year.