At this year's SXSWi, the web and tech portion of the famous South By Southwest festival, there are some 17,000 people in attendance. Only six years ago, in 2004, there were under 40 reporters and 3,000 attendees in Austin for it. You do the math.
But arriving to swarms of iPhone-wielding, Foursquare-crazed, Twittericized types, I see it's not just the sales of festival passes that matter here. Midway through the half-week or so of tech conferences and parties, interactive seems to me where the buzz is this year. (Say this around Austin right now and there's bound to be a Google Buzz joke, which is an indication of what's going on around here.)
As the music industry becomes more interactive, and the interactive industry becomes more accessible, the two are blurring together. Only SXSWi is the place to find out about the newest trends on the Internet, and lately that's where the interest, and money, has been flowing.
If SXSW has in fact turned the corner, and the storied live music town is becoming more known for its tech conference, it's because of sites like Mashable, which covers every ebb and flow of social media. Mashable's audience are not developers or Internet dweebs, per se, but the sizable chunk of the population that latched onto social media. These are not casual users of Facebook and Twitter, but the people who made social media the force it is today.
On Sunday, the online social media magazine threw its MashBash. Within the humongous lineup, I thought to myself as I skipped by, was the new face of SXSW.
Inside, the biggest celebrities were the developers of Foursquare. I know this because I saw them get ushered in past the line. Outside, I could barely see faces - all were buried into a iPhone. What a scene.
More from the conference to come.[rssbreak]