Show means there's gold in them thar pixels

The Baltimore Sun

After Rick Calvert started a political blog two years ago, he was startled when other Web logs, including some well-known ones, began linking to his within just a few weeks. He was even more stunned when he called to interview the journalist Fred Barnes about his biography of President Bush and Barnes was available, eager to chat. Then other publishers began sending Calvert their books for him to review.

Calvert marveled at the ease of blogging and the authority it bestowed. To think he got into to it mostly to do something smarter with his spare time than play video games.

"I said I need to go to a trade show to figure all this out, but there wasn't one," Calvert said. Since he organizes trade shows for a living, he started one.

BlogWorld & the New Media Expo, billed as the world's first industry- wide blogging trade show, will be held this week in Las Vegas and expects to draw roughly more than 1,200 bloggers, vloggers and podcasters.

If the world had always been this way, after Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, a trade show would have undoubtedly followed in 1495 titled "Profits in discovering new worlds."

But hundreds of folks visiting Vegas to discuss "monetization strategies" and blog site "stickiness" may be another sign that a dubious little pastime is maturing into a mouth- watering business opportunity.

The BlogWorld folks toss out statistics from various sources to show that blogging isn't just for the geekorati anymore: More than 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog. About 1.7 million American adults list making money as one of the reasons they blog. More than 120,000 new blogs are created every day, with more than 1.4 million new blog posts daily. Blog readers average 23 hours online each week.

According to the convention people, the BlogWorld attendees report more than 40 million combined readers, listeners and viewers and more than $14 million in total revenue.

Like rings on an oak, the convention floor map of the 90 exhibitors reveals something of the industry's youth. The booths are largely filled by obscure outfits with cute names, like the dot-com shows of a decade ago. They represent the "major blogging communities," organizers say: business, technology, politics, sports, lifestyle and pop culture, milbloggers (military bloggers), mommy bloggers and godbloggers.

Blogger & Podcaster Magazine also has a booth, since any fledgling industry needs a trade journal, too.

"I can guarantee that several exhibitors on our floor will be out of business five years from now and some will be huge," Calvert said.

"Any emerging industry goes through this exact same thing."

It's not merely the advance of technology that has propelled blogging, although there's no doubt that the ease and frequency of Internet use in 2007 is an advantage that the premature dot-coms didn't have.

The sense that anyone can become a self-publisher today and, with daily effort, build an audience by next month is the driving allure.

And a growing perception that people are making a buck off it will make it fly faster.

"You couldn't just build a Web site before. You had to hire someone to do that. But anybody can blog. It costs nothing to start one," Calvert said. "Everyone in our show tells me the same thing. You get hooked on the technology and the feedback.

"Why did this important person send me 10,000 [readers] and why did Fred Barnes talk to me? We're just at the beginning of this thing."

Andrew Ratner, a former technology reporter, is Today editor of The Sun.

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