The Hypocrisy of Blog World New York: What Were They Thinking?

by Marcus Sheridan

blog worldI’m not an angry guy. I’m also not a big fan of confrontation nor complaining. But after witnessing the most embarrassing display of ‘blog talk’ in my life today at the final keynote of Blog World New York, I simply cannot hold my tongue on an event that, in many ways, is perfectly symbolic of why the concept of blogging still gets so little respect throughout the world today.

To explain this as succinctly as possible, today’s final keynote (in other words, the icing on top of the cake that is Blog World) was set up in a ‘Talk Show’ format with Chris Brogan as the host and a panel consisting of four people from diverse fields—Chris Pirillo (an ultra successful internet entrepreneur), Andrew Breitbart (developer of the Huffington Post, author, and political thought leader), Shauna Glen (an author and blogger who discusses edgy female ‘topics’), and Sara Benincasa (a comedian with a major political and ‘sexually charged’ slant).

Without going into a long-winded explanation of the entire keynote, let me just point out a few moments that seemed, should we say, out of place…..

-Andrew Breitbart’s segment, although interesting, was almost entirely centered upon politics, not blogging.

-Shauna Glen’s segment was initiated by a ‘spoof’ video she made of her trying to mix cake batter with a woman’s vibrator(yes, you did read that correctly), and references to sex and female organs continued to come up during her time speaking.

-Sara Benincasa started her segment with a stand up ‘comedy’ routine. By creatively re-wording the blogging seminar titles of the week, she managed to drop an F-Bomb in every other sentence, along with another slew of vulgar terms about female organs.

Entering the Twilight Zone

As I sat in the front row, blinking and cringing my teeth over and over again in utter disbelief at what I was seeing and hearing at ‘Blog’ World, I literally felt like I had entered into a twilight zone…

But I was not the only person in the crowd who was in total shock and awe. Two women from my table alone got up and left. Many other people throughout the crowd, with a sheer look of confusion and disappointment on their faces, got up and exited as well.

When I looked down at my Twitter feed so as to ensure that I was not simply going mad and hearing all these voices in my own head, I saw many tweets like this one from Lori Randall Stradtman(referring to what she was watching):

“Horrifying, actually. So much was so wonderful. This is sad.”

To me, Lori summed up my thoughts perfectly—what was a great week of meeting incredible people and participating in some really nice classes was capped off with a sad display of unprofessionalism and out-of-place ‘comedy’.

Although some of you reading this may assume I have a holier-than-thou mentality with regards to this event, the truth is that I greatly care about this industry. 2 years ago, blogging saved my business when the economy took a nose dive. And frankly, I’m sick and tired of ‘bloggers’ not getting their fair share of respect in the ‘real world’. It’s events like these that only hurt the industry and prevent it from reaching the level of success it deserves.

Who is to Blame?

As for who is to blame, I lay all responsibility on the shoulders of those who organized Blog World East. Without question, I do not fault the participants of the panel nor Chris Brogan—they were just doing what they were hired/asked to do. If Sara Benincasa wants to make her living as a ‘shock jockette’, that’s absolutely fine with me. She has that right and no doubt there is an audience out there that loves her work. But asking her to do stand up at the capstone event of a conference of bloggers, professionals, and business owners??? What the heck were they thinking? Who in the world thought this would truly enhance the Blog World experience?

A few weeks ago there was quite a discussion on Gini Dietrich’s blog, Spin Sucks, about the fact that the officials at Blog World had made her and Danny Brown change their seminar’s title from Douchbags and Spin Doctors to something less ‘risqué’. In fact, in explaining why the original title was changed, Rick Calvert of Blog World commented this on Gini’s article:

“…..At the same time I was having several private conversations with old school podcasters and nearly every one of them mentioned your original title as exactly the reason why they thought BlogWorld was a bunch of cool kids and social media douchebags.

The reason I asked you guys to change the title is that people who don’t know you could (and in several cases did) get the wrong impression. Not that you are uncouth crazy bloggers, but that you think you are cool kids with all the answers and anyone who doesn’t do it your way is a suit, not hip, doing it wrong, blah blah blah.”

Sheer Hypocrisy

OK, so let me see if I’ve got this right….The reason a class title with ‘D-bags’ was censored is because of perception from other professionals, yet notwithstanding, at the very same event, (but now with hundreds of people and professionals in the room) we can spend almost all of our focus on politics, sex, female organs, and a bucket full of F-bombs? Can anyone say ‘Hypocrisy’??

Honestly, I was so upset and saddened by what I heard from today’s keynote that for the last 2 hours I’ve been walking around New York City, simply trying to gather my thoughts and as the wonderful Farnoosh reminded us in her seminar today, not allow anger to dictate the words of this post.

The Big Picture

But this post isn’t about anger—it’s about the blogging industry. It’s about what we’re striving to be as a whole, and how we can get there. I have no doubt the directors of Blog World had the best of intentions with everything they planned with this event. But the simple fact is they made a tasteless and highly offensive(to many people) error, and should seriously apologize to the sponsors and bloggers that were in attendance for such garbage.

Your Turn

OK, I’ve said my piece here, and I expect we’ll be hearing opinions from a lot of people on this important subject. Should such ‘events’ as this one be attached to blogging conferences? Also, if you agree with what I’ve said above, please give your thoughts. If you disagree, I certainly hope you’ll feel inclined to share. Just do me a favor and keep it clean and civil, as this is an opportunity to have some powerful discussion that may just in fact make a difference.

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