A few quick reflections on the EconSM conference before hopping on a plane… The event title, the Economics of Social Media, was certainly what attracted me, making this the first conference I’ve attended as a delegate rather than a speaker for probably five years. Just about the most pressing single issue for the media industry as a whole is what the business models will be for the emerging space of social media, neatly encapsulated in the event theme. In addition, Rafat Ali’s PaidContent has clearly established itself as one of the most authoritative publishing sources on the space.
It was great to find several hundred people in the one room where you could assume a high degree of understanding and knowledge on social media. There is something indefinable yet recognizable about a social media geek (or suit). The cast of attendees, let alone speakers, was very impressive, representing most of the really serious players in social media, including the large mainstream media organizations.
The day was entirely panels, which generally worked well, but I felt that they often didn’t drill down beyond the more obvious issues. Since this is the first conference specifically in this space, it is laying some of the groundwork on the industry discussion. However it still felt that while we had some fabulous conversations about social media, sometimes we didn’t get to solid takeaways. It’s interesting to see the shift in events from speakers to panels. I think event formats will evolve further. I’ll be trying to do my bit on that front.
What came out more strongly than anything else duing the day was the enduring and evolving relationship between mainstream media companies and the emerging social media space. Many of the large companies are putting money and effort into developing their own social media initiatives. Yet more activity is and will be in acquisitions. Two specialist media investment banks were platinum sponsors of the event. Both are experiencing very strong deal flow. Valuations of social media companies continue to pick up. One (unidentified) deal that closed today was $15 million in cash for a company with $2 million in revenue, showing that revenue multiples is once again the yardstick for sales. Esther Dyson made the comment that a few years ago everyone was talking IPOs. Now the talk is about which companies will buy the emerging stars in trade sales. As such, much of the conference was about the dance between major media and start-ups. This is going to move a lot further over the next six months and beyond.
My other two blog posts on the conference: