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Kithbridge’s NZ Bear and Blog World Expo’s Rick Calvert discuss how the campaigns are using new media, and preview Blog World Expo Las Vegas in November.

Thursday, October 4, 2007
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HH: Here to talk about this unique development are two of the new media mavens that I go to first for analysis. Rick Calvert is the founder and CEO of Blog World Expo, which is actually Blog World and New Media Expo, and Rick, welcome, good to have you here.

RC: Thanks, Hugh, thanks for having me.

HH: What’s the URL for Blog World Expo?

RC: www.blogworldexpo.com.

HH: And then Rob Neppell is the CEO of www.kithbridge.com.

RN: Correct.

HH: Good to have you here.

RN: A pleasure.

HH: And Kithbridge.com went hot today…

RN: Correct.

HH: …and I have to always disclose I have invested in both of these gentlemen’s businesses, although it’ll be about 55 million years until I return a dollar on either of them. But the reason I invested with them both is because they know this stuff more than I imagine. Rob, are you surprised that Romney bothered to call a radio show inside of the same news cycle in which this thing gets going?

RN: No, in fact, I’ll repeat my comment to you as I came into the studio today, was the criteria for success here, if the Romney campaign has its act together, is do they get him on the show today. And they win. They managed to stay within what I think is a non-existent news cycle now, and Romney basically said this himself. The news cycle doesn’t exist anymore. And it isn’t, you can’t wait a day, you can’t wait a week, it’s got to be a near instantaneous response to this sort of thing, to get something out and get your message in response.

HH: And as I began to piece this together, Rick Calvert, is that Rush got a letter from Fred Thompson blasting the Democrats, and he made some comment about Romney having not come to his aid and assistance, and that’s the last thing that Romney wants out there, is 20 million Rush-heads, Dittoheads thinking that he’s throwing their guy under the bus.

RC: Well, obviously, that’s his base, and he doesn’t want to alienate them at all. But just to go back to Rob’s comment, I think one of the benefits to this whole new media cycle is when you have to respond that quickly, it doesn’t give you time to formulate what’s the best way to respond. You get a real response, and that’s one of the great benefits that new media, I think, has brought to our political discourse. Politicians have to be real when they have to react immediately.

HH: Now did Romney sound to you? You were in the studio listening.

RC: He sounded like he meant what he said. He sounded like he believed in what he was saying, and that’s exactly what new media should bring out in people.

HH: Mr. Kithbridge.com, how did he sound to you?

RN: I think he hit it solidly. I mean, I think the benefit of the cycle is, as he pointed out, there is always going to be someone with a camera or a microphone capturing every little slip. But I think we’re coming to the end of the period where that’s going to matter all that much, because I think as long as you can get out there quickly and say guess what, I’m human, I said something that was slightly unclear, or I misspoke and I apologize, as long as you can do that, I don’t think people are going to freak out about it.

HH: And Romney hadn’t made a gaffe today. It’s Rudy’s gaffe day.

RN: Right, yeah.

HH: …saying you’re in Massachusetts when you’re in New Hampshire. But it’s a silly gaffe.

RN: Yeah, but who cares?

HH: Who cares? Well, Jonathan Martin cared enough to blog about it at Politico.com.

RN: Yeah, but it comes and it goes.

HH: Dealing with this new media environment is actually what the conference in Las Vegas on November 7, 8th, and 9th is about, is it not, Rick?

RC: Yeah, it’s about helping new media entrepreneurs, people like me, who started because they’re passionate about some particular topic, do it better. How do we build our readership, how do we, if you choose to do so, how do you monetize your content, which of course, radio and newspaper and magazines and television know how to do. We don’t know how to do that. We’re not professional broadcasters or publishers. We’re just passionate people who now have a medium we can use to get our message out. It used to be that you yelled at the television. Now, you can start a blog and start talking about it.

HH: You’ve got the Las Vegas Convention Center booked, which means it’s a big deal on November 7th, 8th and 9th, and that means you’ve got Microsoft, Google…who are the sponsors of this thing?

RC: Actually, Google we don’t have as a sponsor. We’ve got somebody from Google speaking.

HH: Right, okay.

RC: But we do have Yahoo and Microsoft, Federated Media, Pajamas Media, B5 Media, Townhall.com is a sponsor…

HH: Yes, we are.

RC: …and they’ve got a large stand there, and many, many others. Kithbridge is a sponsor as well, Blog Talk Radio, which is a great new product. Ed Morrissey works for them now.

HH: And the objective for a first year trade show is usually about 500 people. You’ll be into the thousands by the time this happens. What’s your capacity?

RC: Well, we can take as many people, and the building can hold 100,000 people…

HH: We’re not going to have 100,000 people…

RC: No, so we’re hoping to get 2,000 people there. That’s our goal.

HH: What’s it cost to come?

RC: It’s $75 dollars is the basic pass. It gets you in the door, you get to see the keynotes, you get to pick three of the sessions of your choice. $175 bucks gives you a full pass to everything, you get to come to the party at the Hard Rock Hotel November 8th, we’ll have live entertainment there. It’ll be a lot of fun.

HH: Okay, www.blogworldexpo.com. If you’re at all in new media, and that includes people who are doing new media for old media, like newspaper reporters, journalists, businesspeople who are trying to figure out how to do online advertising, all that kind of stuff.

RC: We’ve got people from TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, coming, Fast Company Magazines is a big sponsor of the show.

HH: And we have a business track, a left wing track, a right wing track, a God blog track, a mil-blogger track.

RC: Yeah, the mil-blog track, for me, is one of my personal favorites. They’re just amazing individuals. Michael Yon will be doing a live video feed from Iraq.

HH: Oh, that’s excellent. Now what’s Kithbridge.com, Mr. Rob?

RN: Well, you know, to connect for your listeners, some may think my voice sounds vaguely familiar. This is NZ Bear, and this is the first time I’m publicly coming out, so to speak, with my real identity. What Kithbridge is all about is taking the technologies and the lessons I’ve learned over the past five years in working on the Truth Laid Bear, my blog tracking site, and applying those to businesses, organizations, non-profits and campaigns, that need to connect with blogs and new media. So rather than having folks sitting online all day and try and find out via manual searches what’s being said about your company or your candidate or your product, I can help you establish a system using our technologies to automatically monitor that for you, and work with you to develop a strategy that actually makes sense for exactly what you’re trying to achieve online.

HH: Most of American business still isn’t clued in about this.

RN: Nope.

HH: I mean, they know about it after they get torched.

RN: Correct.

HH: But if you’re Toyota out there right now, they probably are doing manual searches to see if anyone said anything about Toyota today, as opposed to running an automated spyder to find out what’s been said about them anywhere on Facebook, or anywhere else in the world.

RN: Exactly, and what Kithbridge is about, and the URL again is www.kithbridge.com, is taking the manual effort out of your new media strategy. What you want to be doing is focusing your people’s time on building the relationships, on getting the messages crafted, and getting those messages out to not just the blogs in general, but actually pinpointing the very bloggers who are actually going to be interested in and receptive to your message. If you are, as you say, Toyota, you don’t want to send an e-mail to every blogger in the world. What you want to do is send e-mails to the people who are A) blogging about cars, and B) blogging about Toyotas.

HH: Now have you been following the political blogs for these candidates?

RN: Sure, we’re starting to do that.

HH: And who’s doing it well?

RN: Who’s doing it well? You know, I think all of them are off to a good start. It remains to be seen exactly if anyone’s going to pull ahead of the pack. So far, I think it’s near parity on the GOP side between the big three. But it remains to be seen. We’ll see who pulls it out.

HH: And Rick, have you got decent response from both left and right coming to Blog World Expo?

RC: We do. We’d like to be more prominent lefty bloggers there, because we want it to be a balance. This is not a political event in any way. But the story is, I think, is that every candidate from both sides of the aisle actually has a new media consultant, who’s out there specifically to dialogue with bloggers and engage them.

HH: www.blogworldexpo.com, and www.kithbridge.com. They’re both up and running. Go check it out, come join us in Vegas. We’ll all be there on November 7th, 8th and 9th.

End of interview.

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