Mindshare’s Jared James caught up with Digiday’s Kerry Flynn at SXSWi, to talk about the weird and wonderful at the festival.
Q: SXSW has something for everyone. What keeps you coming back each year?
A: There’s a lot of discussion around tech, TV, entertainment, music, film and every year there is something new to focus on. It’s one of the only festivals where you can create your own schedule and have a completely different experience to everyone else. For me, I love the politics track, as I’m personally interested in that. This year, it’s really ‘loud’ as there are 2020 candidates here. Elizabeth Warren talked about how she wants to break up the tech giants, for example. There is also a whole stream of content where US Mayors come together to discuss what they can do, and it particularly focuses on innovation and tech in townships. I mean, I don’t cover politics, I’m here to talk about media, but it’s fascinating to me that this event covers so many interesting topics.
Q: What are your top tips for attending SXSWi?
A: It’s such an inspirational event, because you can go to sessions that are completely out of your day-to-day. So, I would say, definitely see things that you wouldn’t normally go to. The beauty of this conference is that you have access to topics that you may not normally have access to! I went to see Buzzfeed founder, Jonah Peretti’s keynote, and that’s something for work that I cover, but I try and make the time to see various other things, too.
My other tip would be not to try and see everything because it can be overwhelming! You want to do everything but then it’s difficult to focus on where you’re currently at, so don’t think that you’re always missing out on something! I always create a list before I come here of everything that I want to see, but knowing that it’s not always possible but it’s good to be aspirational! Being organized is the key.
Q: How do you think SXSWi has evolved over the years?
A: There is a growing presence of more brands, and a focus on the consumer-centric world. For example, the editor of our sister publication, Glossy, is here for the first time because there is a whole area on fashion and beauty that has never existed before.
I’m also curious about Amazon’s presence this year. They are a media giant and have so many moving parts and divisions. They are really showcasing every part in a unique and interesting way. One of their biggest activations here is an event space to promote their upcoming show Good Omens. It’s not coming out until end of May, so that’s interesting as it’s not really any time soon, but they decided to make a splash about it here because there are so many interesting consumers here. Amazon wants to make a play at HBO and Netflix, who have both has presence here before. But what is even more fascinating is that it isn’t Amazon’s only presence here. They have a separate space for Audible, their podcast and audio-book service. And it doesn’t stop there! They had a party inside a Whole Foods earlier in the week! What an amazing way to showcase all of its offerings! But as you walk around Austin, you don’t feel that they’ve taken over SXSW; they are very strategic and target the right audience for their various different platforms.
Q: Following on from that, we’re seeing many new shows premier and launch here during the Interactive part of the event, versus the Film track. What trend are you seeing in this area at SXSW?
A: HBO usually always attend SXSW, and this year, obviously, all eyes are on Game of Thrones! And Netflix have a new movie coming out called The Highway Man. They are definitely tapping into these moments to create a big buzz. But what I find is unique is that these shows aren’t being promoted only during the Film part of the event, it’s during Interactive. Jordan Peele’s much-anticipated movie, Us, was premiered at SXSW Film, but the cast took part in a session at Twitter House during Interactive, which makes so much sense because Twitter is the platform for discussion and having conversations about movies. It also highlights the wide range of people who are in attendance, too. So, I’m definitely seeing merging of each of the streams and tracks at SXSW more and more, which can only be a good thing!