OPA Intelligence Reports

Posted in News on 03/26/2012 By Mark Glaser & Desiree Everts

Has SXSW peaked?

Ever since Twitter and Foursquare saw phenomenal growth at South by Southwest (SXSW), it’s been known as the perfect venue for launching breakout technologies. But while that’s been good for startups, it’s also meant the festival has become more crowded and corporate, which goes against its roots as a laid-back live music gathering. This year’s festival saw a big increase in conference goers, which meant more corporate branding and long lines, according to several reports. “I wasn’t that enamored of this year’s SXSW—too many crowds, too corporate, too few quality sessions,” wrote PBS MediaShift’s Amanda Hirsch. CNN’s Omar Gallaga agreed, noting that as the confab has grown bigger and more commercial, it’s become ripe with contradictions. “It’s trying very hard to be both sprawling and intimate, continually plugged-in but also right there in person,” he explained. “It’s a cutting-edge gathering that hates pretension. It’s a mash of bodies with their heads in the cloud, all looking to be dazzled by some new digital jewel.”

This year, “ambient apps” were all the buzz at SXSW Interactive. Highlight, a social-mobile geolocation app for the iPhone, and Glomper, an iPhone and Android app that helps people find events and nightlife, both garnered some interest. But with both apps, the buzz seemed to be about the media looking for the next big story, said PC Magazine’s Jill Duffy. “Highlight and Glomper seemed more like passing fancies, interesting for the moment, but quickly forgotten once the context of a social festival was taken out of the picture,” she explained. The New York Times’ Jenna Wortham agreed: “To the dismay of those who traveled to Austin with high hopes of seeing the next big thing before everyone else, there wasn’t a single standout service that had attendees in a tizzy,” she complained. But despite the crowds and the lack of breakout technologies, it was still worth it for many attendees. “I know it’s too big and it was wet and cold. And sure it was overrun by stupid startups pitching me-too apps and corporate brands, but it was also a celebration about what makes the web awesome, if you knew where to find it,” wrote GigaOm’s Stacey Higginbotham.