nextMedia Toronto First Day Summary

My intention to live blog and microblog the nextMEDIA conference were dashed by the almost total lack of Internet connection and only one power outlet in the place. The venue CiRCA, is not appropriate for a conference. I’ve been here before for a conference – or rather unconference, CaseCamp – and the novelty of being in a trendy nightclub (complete with S&M figurines) was cool but the novelty wears off when one is spending an entire day here, let alone two days in a space designed for clubbers to bump and grind rather than sit and learn. Symbollically, the S&M figures were covered up today so as to not offend the less-hip conference go-ers. Waiting almost an half an hour in the cold to get in to then register started the day out for me in a grumpy mode, but fortunately I was able to recover due to the caliber of speakers. Grade A line-up of speakers with reps from YouTube, eBay, Google, CBC, Nokia, Rogers, Canwest, comScore, the infamous SuicideGirls.

The conference was sold out, so much so that quite a number of people didn’t even get a seat. There seemed a better mix of people – young and old, content creators and marketing types, men and women – than at most Toronto Internet or tech events.

The theme of the nextMEDIA conference is monetizing digital media . A great topic as having lived through the first dot com bubble I was wondering how these web 2.0 darlings were going to make some money. As the opening keynote speaker, Shelly Palmer, declared the Internet is good at creating value, but not so good at creating money from that value. (There did seem consensus that no one could figure out how Twitter was going to make money.)

If there were common points from today’s presentations, it would be that it is possible to monetize digital media and industry-standard metrics for digital media are needed. Regarding the latter, the term engagment was used a lot. While most bandied it about as the holy grail of digital media, Palmer pointed out that this terms means different things to different people due to various ways of measuring this and until we can agree on a common definition it is hard to sell deals based on engagement. Thus we are left with metrics such as impressions or click-throughs that may not work for us.

Some of the tips for monetizing aren’t that earth-shattering: affiliate marketing, storefronts, transactions, corporate sponsorship, advertising.

Interestingly, the keynote was to be “Economic Meltdown: Will ‘Free” Save the Future” but Palmer changed topics as that one was “too depressing”. While some of the digital media projects presented today, whether cool mobile apps or online television, are really excited both from a consumer and insider perspective, I would have like Palmer to have addressed the topic. Having lived through a collapse of online advertising dollars, I am curious who and survive and how.