Exhibitions: publishing, media, marketing

Belated report! On Tuesday and Wednesday last week I was down in London at two exhibitions – or possibly four, or one… as they were in the same hall at Earl’s Court.

  • P&ME – Publishing & Media Expo – “The UK’s only multi-platform publishing event covering digital, print and mobile”.
  • TFM&A – Technology for Marketing & Advertising (actually joint with two other acronyms, but that doesn’t matter to anyone except the organisers.

photo (4)There were loads of stands by organisations looking to sell services, and a packed programme of seminars across (counts) actually 15 different “theatres”. It wasn’t a massive show – maybe using a third the space of London Book Fair – but there was plenty on. I’d been told about it a week before, and thought the content looked good enough for a trip. I was there for Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday.

Playing the seminar game, attempt one

You always have to do a show to find out how to do it. In this case my sticking point was the seminar system. I found out about the show a few days before and missed the advance booking. On the day, you had to turn up at the appropriate theatre 45 minutes before your talk to get a ticket. Most talks sold out in minutes, often with ticket queues.

I only got the hang of this after failing to get into several events. With my game designer head, I balked at having to turn up for an event twice, knocking out the chance of going to something else in the period before it. I was told it was an attempt to address previous years’ problems of people standing in long queues just before events, and then failing to get a seat and probably missing out on alternate possibilities. I’m not sure it’s the best solution… anyway, the lesson if I go again is book in advance!

So I was annoyed at missing the seminars I’d been interested in, but relieved that apparently they’ve all been filmed and will be available online in a couple of weeks.

Stalling for time

The hidden benefit of missing seminars was getting round all the stands on the first day. The rapid pass, scanning for stuff relevant to one’s interests. The stealthy swoop, grabbing leaflets before the stand people can tackle you. The occasional conversation and the note for a possible revisit.

I noticed a couple of things straight away. First, marketing people don’t talk like normal people but have their own funny language. Of course I knew this – and indeed, one of the points of events like this is to expose yourself to different cultures and see what you can learn. Second, a lot of people didn’t know how to set up a stand so that it was obvious on a rapid scan what sort of thing the company did and whether it was worth further interest. Pro-tip: if the only way to find out what you do is to stop and talk to you, I’m going to keep walking. That may have been more on the publishing side; but even so, these are people who should know all about using keywords to catch attention.

The stands had a lot about managing email lists and databases; running SEO (search engine optimisation) campaigns; app production; and software helping non-techy users to get publications on to portable devices. The publishing side had a few printing companies: I don’t know whether it was because I wasn’t tuned to that at the time, but they seemed rather low key. Perhaps the overall theme was a digital land-grab in progress, both for portable device usage and the attention of consumers through online marketing, and a profusion of services springing up to support those who want to buy in skills. A lot of the stuff that’s gone digital can seem very abstract, especially SEO, with whole new language subsets evolving to talk about the subtleties of information ecosystems.

As something of an outsider, I would have liked to see cool, original stuff that made sense on a generalist level. But what the stand purchasers are there for, of course, is to sell services to people in the industries who have particular needs. Many of them are aimed at larger businesses too. So as a little guy with nothing specific in mind it was a bit harder to make conversations go! There was a pretty good atmosphere in the hall though, making it as pleasant as big busy events get.

Seminars 2: this time it’s personal

Having done the stands, day 2 was going to be all about seminars, so I’d spent some time planning a timetable of zipping around that would let me grab tickets and attend some of the ones I was most interested in. It worked, and I used the in-between time to go back to a few interesting-sounding stands. That meant I ended the day a much more satisfied bunny. Here are some quick summaries.

Content as currency in today’s attention economy. Telling good stories about brands more important than chasing digital channels. Right now, brands want publishers’ expertise to help them tell stories; otherwise they’ll develop in-house teams and the opportunity will be lost.

The social break-up. Why do people stop engaging with brands/companies on social media? Part of a series of research-based booklets by agency ExactTarget – you can get them free (for your email address). Some of the top reasons are about contacts feeling they’re getting too much stuff from you.

Digital Only: the best magazine you ever saw. A company called Nxtbook presenting on its changing work producing digital magazines over the last few years. Customers have moved from conversions of print titles to digital only, saving print costs and enabling features like moving graphics and interactivity. And they haven’t lost advertising revenue by doing it.

From the tablet to the tablet. Started with a history of communication, which interests me, from speech to symbols to semaphore. Felt it didn’t quite succeed in following through dynamically into present and future stuff.

Utilising social channels to leverage SEO links. OK, it lost points for “utilising”, but gained them for tight, clear points. Agency Branded3 talked particularly about making sensible human contact with high-profile people who might share your links; and about the importance of genuinely good web content.

Tim’s sit down with a cup of tea. Rounding off the day with great wisdom. Useful links to restaurants in Earl’s Court. 😉


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