South Buy Southwest: At America’s Biggest Tech Conference, It’s All About the Sell
Almost everyone at South by Southwest is here to sell you something. Much of the conference is about marketing—and you’re the mark. The guy who promises to teach you how to make your videos go viral is gunning for a cut of your resulting YouTube ad revenue. The folks who claim to know all about social-media metrics want you to subscribe to their service, which tracks social-media metrics. A woman who has “spent her groundbreaking career redefining orgasm” wants to sell you classes in orgasmic meditation. Nearly every panelist has a book to sell, too. Al Gore wants to sell you on the idea that his sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera, an international news network backed by a Middle Eastern petrostate, somehow dovetails neatly with his climate change crusade. (He also wants you to buy his book.) The internet security company CEO who’s warning you that “you are exposed” wants you to persuade your company to buy his web security services. (He has a book, too.)
You can’t walk more than a block near the Austin Convention Center without someone trying to get you to download their app. LevelUp lets you pay for $3.50 Pepsis and $7.00 sandwiches with your phone. Hater, an app that takes seriously the tongue-in-cheek argument for a Facebook “dislike” button, lets you “share the things you hate.” I’ve counted at least four different taxi-related apps. The startup apps are promoted by nervous young women in colorful T-shirts, or pedicab advertisements, or giant foam mascots, or just signs taped to trees, or all of the above.