Wednesday 16 January 2019

Niall Byrne: The future happens at SXSW

40,000 people are expected to arrive in downtown Austin for South by Southwest
40,000 people are expected to arrive in downtown Austin for South by Southwest

Niall Byrne

South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, kicked off 25 years ago as a music festival and conference with 700 participants and 150 bands. A quarter of a century later and SXSW now encompasses music, film, interactive and gaming, with around 40,000 people expected to arrive in downtown Austin over the course of 10 days. The future happens here.

SXSW Interactive is the one to watch. Last year, the number of attendees at Interactive exceeded SXSW Music, and that trend is likely to continue.

Web technologies are seen as a key part of innovation in all industries. As the founder of Wordpress, Matt Mullenweg, said in his panel last week, "scripting is the new literacy".

Location-based apps, crowdsourcing and the relationship between brands, advertisers and consumers in a social media context were the most dominant themes at the first few days of SXSWi this year. At the time of writing, 80pc of panels attended have used the phrase "real-time" at least once (probably a tie in with "Charlie Sheen"). These are social network times.

There were discussions centred around the recent rise in social media in a political crisis (covering Egypt, Iran and an insightful reimagining of how Twitter and Facebook would have impacted upon 9/11 had they have been in use). Discussions about publishing, platforms and how to get paid, whether as a hobby blogger or as a large news organisation, were also prevalent.

Many panels talked about how curation of content on the web will be key in the near future. How do we find what's truly relevant to us? Flipboard, a personalised social magazine for iPad, suggests a way forward. It was namedropped regularly with many speakers pointing out how it was a great example of new-media and a future publishing platform. Now, they just need to figure out how to get paid from it...

More from SXSW next week.

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