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August 23, 2010

BlogHer '10 vs. Affiliate Summit East '10

This month we attended two conferences: BlogHer and Affiliate Summit East. BlogHer is a conference for women who blog and Affiliate Summit is a conference for affiliate marketing.

We've already done a full recap of both events:
10 Things About BlogHer '10
10 Things About Affiliate Summit East '10
The two conferences are very different, but since we attended them basically back-to-back (and coincidentally, both events were held at the New York Hilton), we couldn't help but compare them and look at each event through the lens of the other. So, we thought we'd share some of our observations.

First, here's a quick rundown of some of the differences that we noticed between the two events:

BlogHer: Lots of women! There are a few male attendees every year, but obviously the event is almost all women.

ASE: Lots of men! Conference organizers estimate that women made up only about 25% of this year's attendees.

BlogHer: Attendees were encouraged to bring their children. On-site child care was provided and babies were allowed in the sessions.
ASE: No one under 21 (including infants and toddlers) was permitted. No suggested options for child care. The bar in the Expo Hall remained open all day, and Atomic Shops brought a keg.

: Breastfeeding moms in the Lactation Lounge.

ASE: A beer bong and daily beer runs in the Blogger's Lounge.

BlogHer: Cutesy session titles, like "Gen Y Passionistas" and "Social Media is Bringing Sexy Back to Branding"
ASE: Buzzwords and jargon, like "Affiliate Freakonomics", "verticals", and "outclicks"

BlogHer: "Mindful" Monetization

ASE: Nothing but monetization

BlogHer: Sponsors in the Expo Hall included brands like PepsiCo, P&G, Playskool, and Hallmark.

ASE: Sponsors in the Expo Hall included lots of affiliate programs and ad networks with names like AccuClickLinkNetShareBankBiz.

BlogHer: Bruce Jenner and the Pillsbury Dough Boy could be found in the Expo Hall

ASE: Bikini Babes could be found in the Expo Hall

BlogHer: Drink tickets were provided for official parties at night.

ASE: No official parties, but drink tickets were provided for drinking in the Expo Hall in the afternoon.

BlogHer: There was a Green Team and a Swag Recycling Suite to try to keep the conference as eco-friendly as possible.

ASE: There were some messy attendees who left trash everywhere, and no noticeable focus on recycling all of the paper given out in the Expo Hall. (The organizers do plan to work on ways to address the recycling issue in the future.)

: Sample titles from the conference bookstore:
ASE: Sample titles from the conference bookstore:

BlogHer: Keynote speakers were Alison Stewart (“Need to Know” PBS anchor), Marie Wilson (founder and president of The White House Project), Gloria Feldt (author and activist), P. Simran Sethi (journalist, environmentalist)
ASE: Keynote speakers were Frank Luntz (political consultant, pollster and author) and Jim Kukral (CEO of JimKukral.com)

The most significant difference that we noticed had to do with the attendees' attitudes towards monetization. At BlogHer, there were Professional and Job Lab tracks on the agenda, but monetization really wasn't a main focus. What many BlogHer attendees are interested in is working with brands, usually by reviewing products and doing giveaways for their readers. And many big brands are interested too, as the packed Expo Hall and long list of private branded parties indicates. But what we've noticed is that most of these women are doing this "brand ambassador" work just for the free products that they get, and usually they're not getting paid. In many cases, we've even noticed that women are hesitant to monetize their blogs or to ask for money for the work that they're doing for big companies.

Take this question from BlogHer's "Mindful Monetization" session, for example (Note: We didn't attend this session; the quote is taken from the official liveblog):
Question: My name is Sherry. I do a lot of give-aways and someone said, well do you get paid? And I never thought about that, that someone would pay me. So do you do that? Do you have experience with it?
So this is a woman who is giving away products on her site (and most likely doing product reviews as well), which means she's working with companies and promoting brands. And it never even occurred to her that she could or should be getting paid for all of that work. An attitude like that would be totally foreign to the attendees of the Affiliate Summit, who are all about maximizing the earning potential of their blogs and websites. We're not suggesting that this attitude is necessarily better, and there were definitely some ASE attendees doing things that cross our personal line - pop up ads for diet pills and penis enlargement email campaigns, anyone? But we did think it was interesting to sit in rooms full of women who are hesitant to monetize, followed by rooms full of (mostly) men who are anything but.

At both conferences the fact that women make 85% of consumer purchases was brought up. At ASE there was a whole session about how to market to women. And at BlogHer women were working with brands on giveaways, reviews, and other projects that were all about... marketing to other women. The companies at ASE recognize the significance of women as online consumers, while the sponsors of BlogHer get that women are also powerful online influencers. So why aren't there more women using their own power and taking this to the next level by becoming successful online sellers and advertisers? If the men working as affiliate marketers and the large companies on the Expo Hall floor at BlogHer can recognize the huge power of women and profit from it, we'd like to see more women doing the same.

On the flip side, the BlogHer community is all about great content, and at ASE that's secondary. While there were other bloggers at ASE, a lot of the time when we explained what we do people were totally confused:
Evil Sluts: "We're bloggers."
ASE: "So you have an online store?"
Evil Sluts: "Well, it's a blog."
ASE: "Oh, so you're... content creators?"
Evil Sluts: "Um, yeah, we're writers."
ASE: "So it's like, advertorials and stuff?"
Evil Sluts: [Sigh]
It seemed like a foreign concept that the quality of the content of our blog might come before the money-making aspect. On the other hand, for a lot of the women at BlogHer, content doesn't just come first - it is everything. That's pretty much a foreign concept at ASE. We understand that there are plenty of reasons to write a blog (for fun, for self expression, to connect with others, to spread information about a cause, to bring about social change, etc) that have nothing to do with making money and that's legitimate. However, we've seen too many talented women who are afraid of embracing monetization or who do not value their work enough to think they deserve to get paid.

We're not saying that either conference is better or worse, or that there's anything inherently wrong with either point of view. And we realize that we're doing some generalizing here. There were women at both conferences who do monetize, and there were women who don't because they choose not to and/or feel it's not right for their blog, not because they're hesitant or unaware of the opportunities. There were also people at ASE who did care about having good content and not just making as much money as possible. But based on our experiences, we think that we're looking at two seemingly very different communities that could actually learn from a lot from each other.


jtGraphic: James Thompson said...

Frank Luntz says that men worry about money and women worry about time. Just sayin...

I on the other hand worry about having fun. Sometimes that involves money, but most of the time it just means find a beer funnel and drinking a ton of beer with a famous blogger and then chatting to some people and remembering you had a conversation, but not actually remembering what you said.

Condo Blues said...

Hmmm...I smell a conference session topic. It seems to me (rightly or wrongly) that to make serious money in affiliate marketing and all that was happening at ASL that content takes a back seat and be somewhat sploggy. Featuring big advertorials with key words and the opinion that will sell the product. A "real" blog post seems to be content first. Real opinions whether they encourage the person to buy the product or not and not sploggy. Can you have a successful and honest and 'real' blog affiliate program that makes money and doesn't have to resort to becoming a splog or bikini babe playground?

Vinny O'Hare said...

Great review of both shows. I was at BlogHer and talked to a lot of the attendees. I am still in amazement that most of the attendees of BlogHer work on their blogs and promote brands for what is peanuts in return. I feel it is a shame and if most of the attendees tried harder to monetize there sites and not depend on brands they would do much better if that is their goal. Some people are happy with swag and thats just fine.

The reason none of these brands are at Affiliate Summit is because they would be laughed out of the place if they tried to offer us swag for a review. Swag doesn't pay the bills.

Condo Blues: Making spammy blogs is not the way most affiliate marketers make their money.

Deborah Carney said...

I think the two conferences have very different attendees, but that they are getting closer. There were a lot of women that were at BlogHer that were then at Affiliate Summit. The idea that you shouldn't make money with your blog is coming to an end. Affiliate Marketers blog, Bloggers are becoming affiliate marketers.

Like Vinny said, free products don't pay the bills. Evil Slut, there were more people there than the "sleazy" ad agencies, we were there with 2 merchants in the Meet Market on Sunday, and have 12 merchants that we affiliate manage that can all be on women's blogs and make them money. No diet pills, no sleaze.

We will be at BlogWorld in October which has now added an affiliate track to their session schedule. It would be great if BlogHer would do the same. I would love to show bloggers how to make real money and not just get free products. We have a podcast where bloggers share how they are monetizing their blogs, would love to have you as a guest!


Deborah - We actually only met one other woman who had been at both conferences, but we'd love to hear from more. And we realize that there were plenty of 'non-sleazy' companies there - as we said in the post, that was just one element that we noticed. We're going to be at BlogWorld this year too, so we're definitely interested to see how that compares.