For the last eight or so hours I have been sitting on planes and in airports to make my way from Washington, DC to Austin, TX for South by Southwest (SXSW). It’s a long and crowded journey down south this year, a sign of just how popular SXSW has become. As I anxiously make my way to Austin, I’m excited to take part in my third SXSW and be part of an industry that has gone from niche to mainstream. This rapid growth has me questioning what SXSW will bring this year and whether the conference has passed its tipping point.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m in full digital PR girl geek mode as I type away and admire the gadgets of others on this plane. But, as the industry expands it seems harder and harder to locate the conversations that push me to think about my profession in new ways.
Once SXSW was the place where Twitter and Foursquare debuted. Now, social networks launch regularly without a fan-fared debut and rise to fame overnight (think Pinterest). In a time not so long ago, outlets publishing digital news were unheard of by my peers outside the industry. Now, they read Mashable daily and “oooh and aaah” over my veteran SXSW status.
Has SXSW’s notoriety led to an echo-chamber of “best practices” that prevents us from exploring outside our comfort zone? SXSW is a time to postulate and innovate. Too often we become caught up in the daily needs of execution and miss that opportunity.
It’s a changing world out there for us communicators. I’m glad to be at the forefront of it and have high hopes for this year’s conference. Let’s make it one that challenges us to think smarter and harder about how we can use technology to improve our industry. Here’s to a successful SXSW 2012, thought-provoking panels and learnings I can apply.