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Where Content & Community Meet: Interview with Rick Calvert & Dave Cynkin of NMX

Posted on Dec 17th, 2012
Written by Lee Odden
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  • Where Content & Community Meet: Interview with Rick Calvert & Dave Cynkin of NMX
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    Dave Cynkin & Rick Calvert NMX

    Dave Cynkin & Rick Calvert Photo Credit: New Media Expo (NMX)

    In college I had a diverse group of friends, people that represented different interests and common experiences which made my time during those years a lot more fulfilling. Even better was that these different groups all came together fairly regularly for a themed event at a local watering hole. Connecting with diverse interests in a meaningful way has been a tremendous business advantage to this day.

    When I attended my first BlogWorld conference in 2008, it was a similar experience in that there was a convergence of different groups: from new media/bloggers to public relations, to internet marketers to brands and business owners.  The common experience of using blogs and digital content as a communication platform has brought a lot of people together in a way like few conferences have. I’ve made some of the most meaningful connections for my business and personal growth through BlogWorld, now known as NMX.

    The two guys behind NMX are are of course, Rick Calvert and Dave Cynkin, who I am eternally thankful for. They’ve built a community and a conference that is really something special. They’re such good guys that just weeks before the huge NMX event coming up, they took the time to do an interview about who NMX is for, practical social media advice and future predictions.

    Congratulations on NMX! You’ve continued to expand and develop the event each year. When I first attended it was really focused on blogging, but NMX is more of an overall content conference. What’s driving that evolution and change?

    Rick: Many people don’t realize the event’s name was “BlogWorld & New Media Expo” When we first announced it in 2006. I really think Twitter had a big part in people just shortening the name to “BlogWorld”. Those 140 characters force you to be brief. Still there was definitely a much heavier focus on blogging because back then blogging was the term people heard every day in newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. Podcasting was really strong back then two but it was a much smaller community of content creators than bloggers simply due to the fact that it was a bit harder to start a podcast than to start a blog. I litterally started my first blog in five minutes.

    Really in the last year you have seen this explosion on WebTV and video and Podcasting is experiencing a new renaissance. I think you can attribute that to the technology making it so much easier for people to create content in those two areas. For video YouTube has been the single biggest influence on the growth. It is just so easy for people to distribute their video content and for their audience to consume it. WebTV is about to explode. That’s why you see groups like IAWTV emerging.

    We changed the name in June to reflect how podcasting, WebTV and video were becoming a much larger part of the show.

    Dave: Thanks Lee! As Rick mentioned, in the beginning, the event was called BlogWorld & New Media Expo, and incorporated all forms of new media content. But, no matter what the official name was, everyone just shortened it to BlogWorld in conversation and that’s how it’s been referred to over the years (until we shortened the name to New Media Expo in 2012–NMX for short). We wanted it to be obvious that the industry’s big event is about all new media, so this was the logical solution.

    Looking back, this has always been a multi-faceted content event. Podcasting leader Leo Laporte gave the opening keynote at our launch event in ’07. Matt Mullenweg and Mark Cuban gave keynote talks about blogging. Gary Rosenweig taught his Secrets of Great Video Production. There was a single YouTube presentation that first year; YouTube was less than two years old. And there was this thing many of us tried that first year called Twitter…

    Our mission has always been to help content creators become more knowledgeable and successful, so the changes we’ve made have really been a reflection of attendees’ needs and the industry changes we see in motion. We work hard to bring some very smart people to teach in the conference, aimed at giving the community the jump on emerging industry trends in online publishing and broadcasting. That’s what drives the evolution of the event; the knowledge content creators ask for…we just do our best to listen and bring what’s needed in one place.

    Who is NMX for and what can attendees expect? What makes NMX different?

    Dave: NMX is for content creators. Bloggers, podcasters, web TV & video creators. It’s for businesses too–everyone needs to tell a story, bring it to life. But it all starts with great content, so the creators are the core.

    Attendees can expect to learn. A lot!

    What makes NMX different? It’s a big, diverse snapshot of what’s happening globally in content, communities and social. We’ve had attendees from over 50 countries, all different genres of content focus… emerging niche bloggers to podcasting pros, video bloggers to web TV series producers with millions of viewers…It feels like a content creator world’s fair. So many interesting and talented people, each with great stories to tell and many leaders you’ve never met, until you get there!

    Rick: First and foremost we are not a technology event or a “social media” conference. We are a content event. Our core mission is to help content creators succeed. That includes anyone distributing content on the web; bloggers, podcasters, WebTV and video.

    I’ve noticed that you’ve been able to attract some real heavyweights in the industry to speak like Guy Kawasaki, Ann Handley, Mitch Joel, Robert Scoble and Dana White from the UFC. You’ve also included a large number of speakers that are highly talented and with deep expertise that are not so well known. How do you manage the mix of big names with introducing new or up and coming speakers?

    Rick: We work really hard ha ha. One of the things our community loves about the show is that we are always exposing them to talented people they may have never seen before. I love reminding Robert Scoble how many people have never heard of him. He is one of the biggest technology bloggers in the world but at New Media Expo he is just another content creators to many of our attendees and so they approach him differently than a fanboy of his might at CES or SXSW or other tech focused event.

    Dave: Interesting that you asked that. I spoke with a major journalist recently who had no idea who Dana White was. I’m a big fight fan, so that was pretty shocking at first, but it’s no different than what happens at our event. Rock star bloggers in one microcosm meet podcasters, bloggers or video creators from another–and they’d never heard of each other before. The new media world is a big place, and when these microcosms overlap at this event, you begin to realize that the big names are part of a much, much larger world. That’s pretty exciting if you think about it.

    Even though social and content have helped create a world of information overload online, quality advice from people “who know” is more important than ever. What practical advice can you share as a fast growing company to other businesses out there trying to decide where blogging, podcasting, online TV and social media fit in their mix? How important is social to the future growth for most businesses?

    Dave: Wow, this is a huge question, Lee. Social is critical for every business. It’s as simple as asking yourself when you start a coffee shop “How important is it that I talk to my customers every day, to find out if they like the coffee I’m making for them?” Customers have all embraced social, and they’re having conversations online continually, so if you’re going to know your customer and best serve their needs, there is no question as a company you must be where those conversations take place. If you’re not talking with your customers, somebody else is. My practical advice for businesses is this: The only way to understand how to give real value to your customer is to talk with them, and listen to them. Social isn’t tech, social is relationships. Get the tech you need to connect, start, maintain, and grow relationships with your customers, and make it a part of your business ethos. That’s the only way you’ll know if you’re making the coffee right, or if you need to change flavors.

    Rick: There is no doubt social media in all forms is going to become a larger part of everyone’s business regardless of what kind of product they sell. The first thing to do is realize that. No one is insulated from this. Once you know that, the sooner you start learning about the dynamics of social media the sooner you can apply what works specifically to your business to give you a competitive edge. Some people will tell you everyone needs to be blogging or creating video but I certainly disagree. You can’t just write or broadcast commercials for your product and the truth is not everyone has a good story to tell or they don’t know how to tell their story well. What everyone can do is listen and react. You can monitor what your customers and prospects are saying about you and help amplify the positives, address and hopefully fix the negatives. Any business that doesn’t at least do that is really sticking their head in the sand.

    The new year is almost upon us, any predictions on the state of social media and content in 2013? What bubbles do you think will pop and what do you see as breakout technologies, platforms or ideas?

    Rick: WebTV and Podcasting are both going to grow exponentially in 2013. The other gigantic need we all have is for quality filters. There is so much content out there now, we need to be able to easily sort through the irrelevant stuff and find those amazing bits. There are thousands of tech geeks out there trying to figure that one out right now.

    Dave: I think mobile publishing, mobile video capture and streaming from consumer devices is going to surge. Mobile device usage is overtaking desktops and laptops rapidly. We’re going to see a continual explosion of mobile content sharing and consumption–and the little phones we carry around will become more and more powerful as personal media portals. Laptop sales will drop. Tablets will rise further. No surprises.

    Companies will be able to learn more about their customers through easier-to-access social analytics, but most of the biggies will still stumble with engagement due to the lack of understanding that relationships are driven by people and personal engagement at the core, not tools. Small companies will keep kicking big companies’ tails with social, as the C-level in small business is closer to the customer.

    I’m very curious to see how Google and Facebook will compete with one another for social platform users. And how Twitter will evolve to get users and companies to potentially think of it as their main platform instead of an accessory. And what the new My Space will become versus what it once was. It’s going to be an interesting 2013. I think we’re in for a big battle of the social superpowers.

    Thanks Rick and Dave!

    You can find out more on the January 6-8, 2013 NMX conference here, which includes major tracks for Blogging, Podcasting, Web TV & Video and Social Business. You can find both Rick and Dave on the social web here:

    Rick Calvert
    Twitter: @blogworld

    Dave Cynkin
    Twitter:  @dave_blogworld

    TopRank Online Marketing is a media sponsor for NMX so be sure to follow us on Twitter @TopRank for tweets during the conference and liveblogging from TopRank staff. We’re also producing an eBook,”Tips from the New Media Rat Pack”, with practical advice from NMX speakers and TopRank Marketing smarties on Blogging, Branding, Content Marketing, New Media Law, Mobile, Podcasting, Social Media, Video, Tools and Thought Leadership.