Podcamp Boston 3 – Birthday Month Bonus?

April 23, 2008

According to CC Chapman of Managing the Gray, Podcamp Boston is the best thing since sliced bread and I guess I want to go for free. That means I’m posting this diatribe to get his attention and to share my opinion and mostly to get him to sponsor me for the July 19 & 20 tech and new media event.

Here’s my take…

Podcamp is one of the original ‘unconferences’ and the rules of an unconference were adjusted this year to ignore the FREE component.

I think this was done to defray expenses of venue and T-shirts and other pieces of the Podcamp puzzle that make each event valuable and fun. My concern is that in jumping to a $50 entrance fee, the organizers have inadvertently excluded some people who can’t afford the price. They have also taken the event off the ‘grass-roots’ platform and moved it to a media conference where more will be expected than was delivered the past two years at PC1 and PC2.

Here are some of my other thoughts…

While $50 isn’t a ton of money, the conference becomes a little more elitist at that price point. I’ve shared this with Chris Penn already, so I’m not posting this and trolling for angry comments just for the sake of site traffic.

It seems to me that the organizers want Podcamp to remain a break-even event and therefore didn’t price it lower (as I would have done) and just make the fees entirely non-refundable. They also didn’t sell stickers or shirts or get a cut of the food or vendor sales last year (as far as I can tell from the ledger).

This might be a philosophical stance that a non-profit shouldn’t be seen as making money, but I disagree. Make money and then save the surplus for future events. We’re all of the belief that Podcamp isn’t going away, so treat it as an ongoing entity instead of a repeating ‘one-off’ happening.

If the main argument was that bodies might not show up if the price was too low, then screw the people who don’t show up. You get $20 and don’t incur the expense of seating, feeding, treating a body. FREE $20 for Podcamp. The added benefit is there would be more room for F2F interaction, more shirts for the Boston homeless and still no deficit.

Finally, we had a session at the close of Podcamp Boston 2 where the audience was asked about the possibility of charging for a future Podcamp. The audience agreed nearly unanimously that charging was a good idea to eliminate no-shows and defray costs. The amounts mentioned were in the $10-$20 range and everyone went away happy. The part that irks me is that I wasn’t contacted with a poll or an informal questions about the cost for PC Boston 3. I think the organizers just decided that $50 wasn’t a lot of money, but was enough to make someone think twice before registering willy-nilly.

They may have been well-intentioned, but I think they fell prey to the situation that grabs us all as new media and social media adopters and professionals–we’re not taking the pulse of our audience, we’re just talking to ourselves. And in that closed conversation between organizers, a $50 price tag was put on an event that already has two of the same sessions listed on the agenda that ran in the previous two conferences.

I posit that about 70% of the content will be the same…maybe given by fresh faces…and that 80% of the audience will have attended the Boston event before. This doesn’t mean that the content isn’t worth $50 and it doesn’t mean that the only thing people will get from the event will be session-based info.

What it does mean is that the Podcamp Boston crew will likely get exactly what they hoped from putting the pricepoint where they did…a more serious attendee.

I think it also means that we may have inadvertently failed the people that are just getting into the field of podcasting and new media. The happy and energetic podcaster wannabes who would be tempted to break out of their comfort zone and attend a true unconference just won’t be willing to part with a week’s groceries or a day’s pay for something they don’t truly know the value of yet.

Let’s stop talking to ourselves and get some people to cross over the trough. Or maybe all the future Podcamps will just be held on iTunes for us to download for free.

More to come…