Seattle Interactive Conference, now in its second year, focuses on emergent technology trends and how they relate to Seattle and the industry in general. Brian Rauschenbach, the conference curator, discusses the upcoming conference, how it relates to Capitol Hill Block Party, and how he hopes to eventually develop it into a multi-component event similar to Austin's South By Southwest, which currently brings that city upwards of $160 million a year—basically something the city of Seattle could really use right now.
What's one of the biggest developments in technology this year?
Big Data—people are getting better with working attribution models involving Big Data.
Can you give an example of what Big Data is?
Let's say, on the gamer side, it's taking data that [game developers] have collected, say, from a previous title that's a sequel in a series—a company can say 'Okay, last time, x was the lifespan of this game," and they don't have to throw away a bunch of marketing dollars. They're saying 'Okay, this game will last about 35 days, and then it's going to fall flat on its face.' So all their marketing can be more directional. They can say 'Let's just put all our resources into the next month, because we know it's going to fall off right after that.' Basically, Big Data has been around, but there haven't been a lot of tools for it. Marketers and developers are getting more sophisticated in how they look at the data and then apply it to a use-case for their business.
SIC worked with Capitol Hill Block Party this year. Do you see that relationship growing, and where do you see Seattle in terms of developing something with more of a South By Southwest feel and magnitude—tech components, music components, film components, etcetera?
We're sharing an office with Jason [Lajeunesse, now sole proprietor of Capitol Hill Block Party] here at our SIC offices, so we want to use Block Party to get a taste of something that's pre-existing and make it a little more interactive and less of a booze fest and more something like 'Hey, these are the things that are happening.' Music is big here, so we'd like to use it as a segway into our conference. And I think this year we're introducing a lot more music pieces, and we are going to be looking for partnerships when we do finish telling the story of 'Let's put the music and interactive components together, and figure out who are partners are going to be,'—that we don't know yet.
Are you in talks with anyone you care to speak of?
We've had discussions with some people, and it might end up being more of a collaborative effort, where we have Seattle Theater Group help us, and AEG participate, and a lot of venue owners. It wouldn't be one particular business. We don't need to own all of it for it to work. Like, for instance, we don't really have deep touch points in film, so we might as well partner up with Northwest Film Forum or SIFF, or say, some of the theaters in town.
So do you think that would revolve around Capitol Hill Block Party, then?
Yeah, but I think the challenge there is with the dates. The same way the Block Party has to stay away from Bumbershoot and the other festivals, we have to stay away from other tech conferences, so we're always trying to stay a month away from Adweek in New York, and we also have maybe four other conferences that we consider to have competitive programming, and so we haven't been able to line everything up yet. Maybe next year we'll actually put the two together.
The other challenge for us is with the Convention Center. Because we're not yet bringing enough people into town to fill up hotel rooms, we actually get lower priority on reserving dates. So this year our conference is set for [October] 29th and 30th, a day away from Halloween, which for them is probably a lower-priority scheduling time, so it's easier for us to get those dates. Like, right now I can't say 'I need these dates next year,' because they've got, say, two holds ahead of us. So we're trying to earn a little bit more trust with the Convention Center folks. They really like our conference, but we need to get a little higher on their priority list. PAX brings in, you know, 30,000 from out of town, and because they have such close dealings with the city, they could name their date for next year right now and the Center will just give them those dates.
Anything you want to touch on that we haven't discussed so far?
I think that this year we have a lot more digital music panels. The companies that we approached last year that gave us a gentle decline actually came to us this year. Also, we didn't have any Google participation last year, and now we have them. And there's a big, big need locally for tech, and so a lot of companies are really interested because they think that we'll bring a lot of people that they might want to recruit. So, in turn, we reached out to all the universities and offered a program for students to volunteer and attend the tech conference one day for free, and/or giving them a big discount, because we want to make sure that if there's a big need locally for these jobs to be filled, we're getting them just out of school, because right now that pool of people that are available for these jobs isn't even around here. That's why there's so much outsourcing.
What do you see as the biggest Seattle technology for the next year?
Seattle has one of the strongest, if not the strongest, startup community, and that usually is a big feeder into the app market, so I think we're probably going to see a lot of stuff happen in development around some sort of tool set or platform, and then just generally apps themselves.
Seattle Interactive Conference runs Oct 29-30 at the Washington State Convention Center in Downtown Seattle.