Update 2014-05-13: Spotify conversion rate, session moderator at Media Convention got it wrong.
Stefan Zilch CEO Spotify GmbH Germany clarifies – Spotify enjoys a 25 percent conversion rate from freemium to paid client status, not 30 percent (see comments – below).
See also comments by Johnny Haeusler – co-organiser – re-publica 2014.
Both re:publica 14 (May 6 – 8, 2014) and Media Convention Berlin (May 6 – 7, 2014) had their own hashtags, #rep14 and #mcb14, respectively, and both were held in the same location. On May 8, Media Convention Berlin’s venues were taken over by LinuxTag attendees and exhibitors.
re:publica 14 advertised itself as being the event of the year:
– three days,
– 500 speakers, and
– 250 hours of programming.
I had gotten myself a ticket for both re:publica 14 and Media Convention Berlin, and here are some of my impressions (of course, I was unable to attend all concurrent sessions, so my account is a partial view of both events).
Somebody told me I needed to attend Teresa Bücker’s talk (30-minute video below), but I really wanted to attend the session, Supergeiler First Kiss – Viralität nur gegen Kohle (Stellar First Kiss – Virality Only Comes From Cash), but the session was overflowing and the doors had to be closed to comply with fire regulations.
So I had to find another session to attend, and chose Teresa’s. Probably a good thing, since it exposed me to something different. As Albert Einstein would have said, “If you attend a session understanding nearly all, get out of there, choose another presentation or panel where you know little to widen your horizon.” That is what Teresa’s talk offered me, new insights.
Her talk ‘early’ (i.e. some of us had sufficiently recovered from our night on the town so we were up and able to attend) on Wednesday illustrated some activism issues, namely how tough, time-consuming and nerve-wracking it can be to be an online activist. This was a personal account of somebody trying to move and shape things in the political arena using social media, and she was engaging as she shared her tribulations, failures and successes.
Because of this I thought I needed to attend the afternoon workshop with Teresa Bücker and Ingrid Brodnig (check out Ingrid’s VERY interesting blog, see also her fascinating book, which she gave me to read). The workshop gave Ingrid an opportunity to present her ideas and experiences with managing comments on user forums, blogs and so forth. This interesting session’s focus was on traditional media outlets (e.g., newspapers) having online forums. It also gave us the chance to ask some questions for which there was not enough time during Teresa’s morning session. Both Teresa and Ingrid gave us a run for our money, and a lively discussion evolved towards the end.
Among other ideas, Meike Rensch-Bergner (what a blog – go get ’em – check it out!), pointed out that sometimes you need a thick skin to deal with comments, and one cannot take them personally. Such acts of self-preservation seem necessary, especially when your blog or forum addresses a racier topic (Stern somehow managed to get Meike to blog for them on a sexier topic…).
Incidentally, a bigger room with decent seating that is more conducive to this type of work would have been nice, but c’est la vie.
There were many good events at re:publica 14 and Media Convention Berlin – sometimes it was hard for me to choose. One panel was entitled, The Future of News – The Crowd versus the Editor, with panelists from Bambuser, Twitter, BBC Global News and Vice Media.
At first this session worried me when panel member Rowan Barnett of Twitter Germany (first on right, below) stated:
“Twitter has been my primary source of news for years.“
How can that be? How does Rowan find the time to locate the gems of tweets that bring him the news he needs? Does he have any time left for his main job as manager of Twitter Germany, which is to sell Twitter advertising to big clients?
How refreshing it was to hear Richard Porter (BBC Global News) pointing out the more nitty gritty:
- The issue is not crowd versus editor, but how we can serve users best (i.e. meet their needs for quality news).
- Most BBC users want to consume media or news in traditional ways (e.g., getting emailed newsletter, listening to radio, watching the news on tv).
- The challenge of media (e.g., the BBC) is to earn their trust – only if we have their trust will they reward us by watching and listening.
Richard Porter (second from left, above) also felt compelled to point out that the BBC and other broadcasters, whether public or private, must serve three vastly different user groups:
- Those who let the BBC choose their content and watch it on TV or listen to it on the radio, etc.
- Those listeners who want to choose what programs they want to enjoy on their desktop or iPad (e.g., video on demand, podcasts, etc.).
- Mobile users that want a personalised service, where the broadcaster uses an algorithm to deliver content they appreciate most / want (e.g., news in the morning, entertainment shows on weekends).
This was one of the few gems of a session I experienced at Media Convention Berlin. It made up for other panels that included moderators and / or panellists that were ill-prepared because either:
- the moderator had not managed to put together a set of questions beforehand so the panellists could prepare their answers; AND / OR
- panellists did NOT take the time before coming to Berlin to prepare their answers to questions given to them by the moderator beforehand.
Some, like Stefan Zilch (Spotify) did very well – he augmented his answers with interesting data. To illustrate, he pointed out that Spotify enjoys a 30 percent conversion rate (moving freemium to paid user). This is quite high in comparison to the usual 5 percent or less conversion rate others like Dropbox, Xing and LinkedIn have. He had many more such tidbits spread throughout his remarks. This was in stark contrast to his fellow panellists Manuel Uhlitzsch (MyVideo) and Timm Richter (Xing).
Moderator got it wrong, Spotify enjoys a 25 percent converstion rate as per Stefan Zilch CEO Spotify GmbH Germany (see his two appended comments – screenshots – in the comment section below)
The maybe saddest part was that when people took breaks, they often spent them staring at their screens to stay in touch with those far away.
Since I had the chance to talk to these interesting people in person for once, and not via the net, no online stuff for me. Sharing, caring and learning with and from others made this event special for me. So out go the gadgets…
There were some things I was not that happy about. Geh mir weg mit Barcamp (Stop with the BarCamp) is such an example. The room had a pillar in the middle of it, obstructing a large part of the sizeable audience’s view. Five minutes before things got going, the doors had to be closed to those still wanting to attend in order to comply with fire regulations.
Other sessions got big rooms, but failed to add anything to the topic.
To illustrate, the session about Todessternsünden – Hochmut, Geiz, Wollust, Zorn, Völlerei, Neid, Faulheit (i.e. pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth) dealt only superficially with information that is old hat. In fact, Jonny Haeusler (co-organizer of re:publica 14) had posted something very similar to the Todessternsünden presentation on his Spreeblick blog in March 2008. He had simply translated an English Bloomberg post about sins (yes, he gave appropriate credit). Why so much ado about nothing or such a re-hash was put on stage remains a mystery to me.
Other surprises where headline acts that did not provide new insights beyond what most of us know. Definitely not what Einstein meant with the above quote. For instance, Media Convention Berlin had a session by Scott Smith (Data-Driven Media, or The future of data, data-driven creativity) that five of us from four different countries, three working in journalism, talked about afterwards and felt cheated of our time.
Scott Smith’s blog‘s content is rarely shared on social networks, with few – if any – reader comments. Using his blog’s robot.txt file to prevent search engines from indexing his content does, unfortunately, not help his wisdom to spread in the wild.
There were some things that I found outright unethical or immoral. For instance, Greta Taubert gave a presentation about her year of abstinence, where she stayed apart from consumer society – re:publica 14: Allein ist die Wildnis ein öder Ort.
Great, but she stayed at the conference hotel, a consumer palace of the first water (see above). Mingling with airline crews and conference luminaries means abstaining to her?
But this raises another issue about today’s world, where appearances are practically everything. Claiming on stage that we have to abstain from consumerism to avoid the crisis while staying at an expensive hotel is not authentic, is it? Trying to act like the poor for a few months does not mean you understand their experience, nor that you have suffered what they have. It’s all just show!
For instance, does authentic mean you have to be an imposter? Can you try to act Amish or Hutterite and feel and be that? No problem! At re:publica 14, Alexa Clay was advertised as the Amish Futurist and her talk was about the Power of Buttermilk.
Holzach, who spent a year working and sharing the ups and downs of a Hutterite community felt he still was not a ‘true’ Hutterite, even after 365 days. He was still a “White Black” brother. But no problem for people like Alexa Clay, she can just get herself in the mood and be a “White Black”. What kind of cultural anthropologist is she?
VERY interesting for those claiming to require only a day of immersion to be authentic: Holzach, Michael (1982 – out of print). Das vergessene Volk. Ein Jahr bei den Hutterer in Kanada (The forgotten people: One year with the Hutterites in Canada). DTV Taschenbuch.
Watch the video – I think it borders on blasphemy or mocking the Amish. Besides, the first seven minutes are so boring, they should be skipped – otherwise you will already have tuned out.
More interesting re:publica 14 tidbits
What re:publica 15 should do differently
Enough ranting, the great and the good show that there was much to choose from to be inspired. Having organized annual conferences for years, I started wondering: Are there a few things that, if fine-tuned, could make re:publica 15 an even better experience? Want to know? Glad you asked, here are my five (oops, just got to be six) suggestions:
- Session chairs / moderators have a VERY important task: Get session chairs that have the confidence to enforce the schedule: if they fail to inform the presenter when time is nearly up, some presenters might go on forever. Definitely, not in the audience’s best interest.
- Session chairs / moderators must be prepared: Accordingly, that person needs to know the topic. Some journalists at Media Convention Berlin – media rules! failed this acid test. They seemed unable to prepare insightful questions to get the discussion started, if necessary. Some moderators were prepared and got the discussion going until the audience was ready to add its own comments. Hats off!
- Be more systematic when selecting submissions and headliners: Most people I talked to who submitted a presentation, whether accepted or rejected (like ours) were unsure what the deciding factor was for the committee. By telling applicants what you want (e.g., what makes your session unique, what are your 3 key points), and giving them feedback (yes, it takes time), you will help markedly improve submissions for next year’s program. And no, David Hasselhoff should NOT pass muster to talk about what he did at re:publica 14. If necessary, let such people give a fireside chat (i.e. informal gatherings for interested parties). Where is the beef at re:publica 14? See below.
- Blogger event of the year: Most German media seemed to believe this story and convey it to their audiences (e.g., ARD news, May 6). Still, if you aspire to this label, present a program that provides more insights about issues that interest and concern bloggers. Talking about net policy, privacy, pseudonymity and anonymity – issues ACM and EICAR conferences dealt with around 15 to 20 years ago – is fine, but try to advance our understanding by having some speakers that have been involved with these same issues. Sascha Lobo, supposed doyenne of bloggers speaking about net governance – you cannot be serious!?
- Less is better: By Thursday morning many people were just too tired, if not exhausted, so few attended the last sessions (see above, taken at 11:22 am). To successfully fight this trend, the last day of re:publica 15 needs some real presentation gems that attract the tired re:public crowd. I went to LinuxTag instead, and even though Linux isn’t directly up my alley, I quite enjoyed connecting with people who were thoughtful, engaging, and really knew their stuff. Not a great comment on the last day’s programming…
- Look beyond Germany and the US: If re:publica is Europe’s Internet or blogger conference of the year, more people from the rest of Europe need to attend and be featured on the program. This was clearly a German event with a few US guest appearances.
What was the best session you attended at Berlin Web Week or Media Convention Berlin?
Did you get to meet some of those fellow attendees you wanted to meet at re:publica 14?
Any great product, gadget, gossip or innovation you learned about during re:publica 14?
Thanks again for sharing your insights – I always appreciate your very helpful feedback.
Special offer for re:publica 15
If the organizers read this, I want to take this opportunity to thank them for all the effort they put into staging such a huge event – well done! I put my money where my mouth is, so if I or my colleagues can assist you with fixing some of the glitches for re:publica 15, let me know. We are at your service.
His latest book, Social Media Audits: Achieving deep impact without sacrificing the bottom line was published in April 2014 by Chandos Publishing / Elsevier – blog readers => grab your 25 percent discount with free shipping now.