Are trade shows dead? My answer might surprise you

Harry McCracken, who used to be the lead editor over at PC World, notes that CES is getting smaller. 22% smaller this year.

I will predict it will be even smaller next year. Why? Because I know many of the marketers at the world’s largest tech companies and they say they are going to downsize their booths next year.

But, I’m also hearing enough people say that they are getting good value out of their investments here so they will increase in size or stay the same.

So, I was wrong to say that CES is going to die. It’s pretty clear that won’t happen.

On the other hand? MacWorld is in the midst of a death spiral. No one I know expects that show to be around in two years. They should have rebranded it iPhone World. That might have saved it. Now? I don’t know if it is savable. IDG is welcome to call me and tell me why it’ll be a strong show, but with Apple and other key vendors pulling out that sure looks dead.

Walking around Broadcom’s booth at CES also taught me a lesson. That the CES show is going back to its roots: interactions between tech companies and the buyers. That’s something that can only efficiently happen in a tradeshow: getting all those people to visit your company’s headquarters just won’t happen.

So, tradeshows won’t disappear. But they will definitely be smaller for a while. By the way the taxi drivers I talked to in Vegas said every trade show this year had smaller audiences than the previous years. Vegas is getting slammed by the downturn (the airport on Sunday was empty, I haven’t seen that in Vegas since the 1980s).

Enjoy this video from Broadcom’s booth
, they show me the chip that will be in the next cell phones coming next year.

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Smartphone competition: It’s too late for Nokia and Microsoft, but not too late for Palm in USA

Everyone is still talking cell phones. Just visit TechMeme today and you’ll see lots of news from HTC, I’ve already seen some claims that it has a “Palm killer.” Hint: it’s not about the device, it’s about the software you put onto it. Haven’t we learned that yet? Remember when I told you two years ago that the iPhone is a better device than what Nokia had? Remember how many people argued with me? They were wrong. Just like they are wrong to say that Palm doesn’t have a shot here. Heck, when I saw Walt Mossberg last week, the Wall Street Journal’s top tech writer, he said Palm has a shot.

But, sorry, Nokia, Palm caught the last train out of town. They made it to the station 30 seconds before the doors closed.

You didn’t make it and there are no more trains for the USA market.

Why do I say that?

Because in the USA there are only these major carriers:


AT&T? Gone. Apple has them sewn up. Verizon? RIM has them sewn up. I met with RIM’s director of marketing at CES and he was smiling. That should give you a hint. Sprint? Palm has them in the Palm of their hands now. T-Mobile? Google’s Android is their key smart phone.

So, what does this mean? All the US carriers now have their SmartPhone choices. All the trains have left the station.

Who is out in this game? Microsoft and Nokia.

So, what do Microsoft and Nokia have to do to get back in the game?

Do something so unbelieveable that it causes everyone in the world to want one.

Hint: I have friends who’ve seen the new Microsoft OS. I’ve seen the new Nokia OS, just a month ago. They don’t have it. The game is afoot and Nokia and Microsoft are left at the station.

Am I wrong? Argue with me.

Please note that I’m only talking about the US market. Nokia and Microsoft will do just fine in other markets because their offerings are better for those markets (lower cost, or have stylus’s which are demanded in China, for instance, or have all-you-can-eat music subscription services which are demanded by Europeans). But in USA? Sorry Nokia and Microsoft, it’s going to be a tough year.

Oh, and Laptop Magazine has some good videos of the Palm Pre in action. I can’t wait to get one of these devices and compare it to my Nokias and my iPhone.

During tough economic times be careful with skimping on photographys

I’m talking to companies who use photography in marketing and other materials here:

When I worked at PodTech we made a mistake: we used a photograph from a photographer who was shooting at one of our parties without his permission on a sign. It’s an easy mistake to make. You’re surfing around at Flickr, see a cool photo, and want to use it on a brochure, on a sign, on a blog, or something. It’s very easy for normal people to get confused by the licensing. Just because it has a Creative Commons logo on it does NOT mean you can use it in commercial contexts.

I’m sure that lots of you are under even more pressure now to do marketing without paying much for it. Be careful, because if you use the wrong photo off of Flickr you’ll get hit with a bill for thousands of dollars, like we were, and you might face some really nasty PR on blogs like we did.

So, what should you do instead of surfing Flickr or SmugMug? Use a stock photography agency.

“But, Scoble, aren’t those really expensive?”

Not anymore. Shutterstock’s online stock photo agency, for instance, will sell you five images for $50. What’s the advantage of using those images instead of trying to use images off of Flickr, even ones that are public domain? (All my images, for instance, are totally in the public domain — you are welcome to use them for free and without attribution. My gift to you from Fast Company magazine). There’s two advantages:

1. Every image there was checked for quality by a human being. They look at 100,000 images a week and have more than five million images in their library.
2. Every image has “all you can eat” licensing so you can use that image on your blog, on your business cards, on your marketing materials, on your signs, everywhere.

They also pay all the photographers. Some of the photographers on the site are making $10s of thousands per month, although I just was talking with Shutterstock’s president, Adam Riggs, and he told me that if you are a good photographer, with a portfolio of about 500 images, you’ll probably make around $50 to $100 a month. That isn’t a whole lot, but can help pay for equipment and other stuff and as you improve and get better images that companies need you’ll increase your pay. One difference about Shutterstock is that it is a lot easier to get images accepted into their system than on other, older, stock agency sites who usually only deal with professionals with big names.

Most people who submit to microstock sites submit to more than one. For example, Lee Torrens reports his November 2008 earnings at $615.26 per month which is his combined income from submitting to several microstock agencies.

Anyway, is it worth using images from Flickr to save $50? I don’t think so. Don’t make the same mistake we made at Podtech.