This post needs to start with a few disclaimers:
1. I like parties. My husband often says that I “don’t know when the party should end.” This is a true statement and is why I usually have black circles under my eyes.
2. I work for BlogHer as Social Media Manager. The opinions I am about to share are opinions I have held since last summer, when I attended BlogHer’10 in NYC, before I worked for them. This is also a true statement. You can ask my friends, because they listen to me when I want to vent about said opinions and I shared these a long time ago.
3. No one asked me to write this. I should have written it in August, but didn’t want to insult anyone. I am hoping, by writing it now, others will learn from my naiveté.
4. If you’re not a blogger, you can stop reading now. Unless, in your industry, you’re a frequent conference attendee.
(To my computerless mother, for whom I will have to print this blog post: BlogHer is the largest community of women who blog with more than 40 million unique visitors a month. That means, BlogHer is a pretty big deal and they know their stuff. Get it? I didn’t think so.)
In less than five months, I will be attending my third BlogHer conference in San Diego. A couple of days ago, I got the first of what will be many invitations for events and product giveaways from companies who are, in no way, affiliated with BlogHer.
When I went to my first BlogHer conference in Chicago, in 2009, there were suites throughout the hotel where I was sent to get free stuff. I won’t lie, it was pretty nice. I got a cute, buttery-soft t-shirt, a free pair of jeans (I loved them so much, I went to the store and bought more) and an awfully nice backpack. At the time, I didn’t realize that the companies involved were not sponsoring the conference.
Conference sponsors at BlogHer are valuable to the attendees who buy a ticket at at the Blogger Rate of $298 (for the record, there was early-bird pricing of $198 through the end of February). This Blogger Rate ticket is subsidized by the companies who are there to share their brand and products. If it wasn’t for them, there would also be no Expo Hall where you can meet companies on your own time and there would be no food (and I, for one, really like food).
If you do not want your ticket to be subsidized (for instance, if you take issue with the policies or products of a sponsor), you are free to pay the Self-Sponsored Blogger Rate of $598. I know, exactly, one person who has bought a ticket at that price.
Everyone I know bought early-bird tickets at $198, or $99 a day. That price gets them fed, lets them choose from more tracks than any other blog conference, admits them to all cocktail parties and to the Expo Hall. All of those things are part of the conference because of official sponsors.
This is why BlogHer made the decision to have non-sponsored events barred from the conference in NYC. You can not question this move. If it weren’t for legitimate sponsors, most people could not afford to attend and it isn’t fair to the companies who subsidize our tickets to have our attention focused elsewhere. Mom, are you with me?
Non-sponsors curtailed this in NYC by inviting bloggers to off-site parties. Attendees were sent all over Manhattan for everything from soap to manicures. I chose not to attend these events, not because I’m high-and-mighty, but because I wanted to spend the time with fellow bloggers. I take that back; I attended one, and that was only because someone else wrangled an invitation for me. I spent over an hour being schmoozed, watching a presentation AND NOT TALKING TO MY FRIENDS. All for a bottle of lotion.
Don’t get me wrong, I would not begrudge someone the life-experience of being taken via limousine to a private party held by a company they really believe in. If a brand is giving away free vacuum cleaners, or those aforementioned jeans, then I say, “Go for it!” Also, get me some! Just consider the time you’re investing before you do it.
If you had asked me in Chicago if I wanted to pay for a cab and spend a couple of hours away from invaluable socializing and conversations with intelligent and insightful women so that I could get a free backpack, I would have said no. And, for real, it’s a super nice backpack.
If you know anything about blogging, you have heard of ROI (Return on Investment). Personally, I get the best ROI by engaging with people who inspire me. For me, BlogHer is about igniting creativity, about sharing ideas, about connecting with friends and making new ones.
And, you can’t do any of that if you’re across town getting schmoozed with free lotion.
* This post was updated on June 17, 2012 to reflect my current position with BlogHer and the reach of the BlogHer Publishing Network