Although we arrived back at LAX last night exhausted and missing Austin, we felt no symptoms of the dreaded SXSW SARS. Los Angeles was the new girl in town at SXSWi, and this was LAWeekly.com's first time covering Interactive. Judging from the barrage of tweets and the record number of people we recognized at the airport, both coming and going, it seemed like L.A. – a city which has taken a back seat traditionally when it comes to tech – won over the conference by sheer force of personality, presence, and goodwill. “Austin just became L.A.,” as attendee Ashley Brown eloquently tweeted.
Not only did we seem to have the biggest presence, but also the most positive, which is not surprising when you consider that Los Angeles offers a fresh perspective as the new capital of content; our emergence as national new media force has built tremendous momentum over the past three years. While many other media outlets were all too ready to copy/paste “recession death knoll” sound bytes into their SXSW coverage, L.A. Times writer David Sarno compared his SXSW experience to the “beginning of spring,” likening the resurgence of media to the change in the Austin weather from rain to sunshine over the course of the festival.
Maybe because we also do quite well in the areas of music and film, or most likely because 2009 SXSW Interactive was all about the repurposing of content and DRM, it seemed the Los Angeles contingent offered a glimmer of hope and a dash of glamour. As community evangelist and television reporter Shira Lazar put it, L.A. is bringing “the red carpet to tech,” while at the same time offering “a different kind of intellectualism and possibility to the Hollywood community.” According to Lazar, L.A. is “going against the grain for everything. We're going against the Hollywood grain, the Silicon Valley grain and New York media grain so we need to stick together and support each other.” She echoes what Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh brought up in his SXSW keynote: “It's about relationships, not just networking.”
And we have those relationships; Los Angeles can proudly call lalawag.com blogger vanguards Laurie and Sean Percival our own, we've got media empress Lazar who ruled SXSW by using her Hollywood television experience to secure her spot as the preeminent Internet Geek Girl, we've got the TechZulu crew running around podcasting to everyone stuck back home (apparently there was some kind of L.A. “Suck it SxSW get-to-gether”), we've got the power BFFs Jackie Peters and Nicole Jordan on speed text to find out the location of the latest tweetups when not riding the RVIP Lounge driven by Silver Lake-based Jonathan Grubb and Kestrin Pantera. Aside from RVIP's karaoke on wheels, we've got the Kogi BBQ, the taco truck that tweets, and Mike Prasad, the guy responsible for its social media revolution.
Los Angeles brought force to SXSW – from SEO superstar panelist Tony Adam to the scene's most revered photographers, Wm. Marc Salisbury and Brian Solis (Solis, who accomplished the unprecedented feat of selling out all his new book at SXSW counts as honorary L.A.), to social media pranksters Paige Craig and Francisco Dao. We even had had our own L.A. themed SXSW panel hosted by Mixergy.com's Andrew Warner and Sloane Berrent, which was attended by a group of New Orleans tech professionals spearheaded by Chris Schultz (of Voodooventures) and eager to learn how we're attempting reinvent national tech culture.
More importantly, as Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin emphasized, Los Angeles “has an eye for the audience and what they want.” And in the coming “media spring” L.A. will be at the forefront, eagerly answering SXSW keynote speaker Steven Berlin Johnson's call for “more content, not less; more information, more analysis, more precision, a wider range of niches covered.” We are a niche that doesn't take ourselves too seriously, doing what we do best (content) and leaving the building to Silicon Valley, for the most part. As Lazar explained, “We're not trying to take over; we're reinventing. [We're] the new kids on the block in a new block.” As old models fall to the wayside, our presence at SXSW '09 underscored the fact that Los Angeles has the unique opportunity to bring all three media communities together as well as make our own impact.
And we're the only ones who get to sit next to Seth Rogan and Anna Faris on the plane ride back.