For many, Saturday is a weekly landmark meant for rest and quiet. But for that masses present at SXSW -- a multi-day series of conferences and festivals around interactive, film, and music industries -- that wasn't the case.
We're back for our day two recap of the lessons learned and most interesting things we saw at SXSW today. We'll be here through the end of next week to bring you these highlights each day -- and to see all of our event coverage, check out our SXSW 2019 hub here.
What Today's Approach to Quality Journalism Can Teach All of Us About Content
This afternoon, a panel of news industry experts -- Meredith Kopit Levien of the New York Times, Andrew Morse of CNN, and Ben Smith of BuzzFeed News -- dove into topics like newsletters, online video, and social media platforms in a conversation moderated by Sara Fischer of Axios.
These items, essentially, are each a different content format with which each news outlet has experimented -- in a landscape where a growing number of consumers seek information almost purely online. It's that phenomenon, perhaps, that's behind the New York Times goal discussed today to reach 10 million digital subscribers over the next six years.
But the overarching theme among all of this digitally-driven content distribution -- and consumption -- is the gradual growth of these companies into more than the core sector with which they may have originally been associated.
"CNN isn’t a TV company anymore," remarked Morse. "We’re a worldwide broadcast company, just like New York Times isn’t a newspaper, and BuzzFeed isn’t a website."
"What's Next for News" panelists at SXSW 2019 | Amanda Zantal-Wiener for News & Trends by HubSpot
In other words, the evolving tools available to those who cover and distribute information -- including journalists and news outlets -- have in turn allowed them to evolve into multimedia organizations.
But that access to a growing number of resources isn't without its challenges -- with some of the panelists noting the lack of what Fischer calls "a unified metric" that can measure engagement across multiple platforms, like various social media channels.
That shouldn't be cause for discouragement among those who wish to emulate the experimentation with different content distribution being conducted by the organizations represented today -- even those who may not have the same level of resources.
"The first dollar always goes to the journalist," says Kopit Levien. Our interpretation: When it comes to the best use of resources, priority is given to the humans that create the quality work being distributed, and the tools they need to successfully execute this work.
Brand Activation Buzz (With Puppies)
Most visitors to SXSW know that at its core is brand activation: an event or experience that lets consumers engage directly with a brand in a live, in-person setting.
One of the many brand activations found at SXSW this year is the Bumble Hive: the conversion of a downtown Austin coffee shop into an event and experience HQ curated by online dating app Bumble. But the brand activation goes far beyond that core description.
For some time, Bumble has sought to expand beyond the average swipe-right-swipe-left dating app, first differentiating itself with a golden rule: If a man and a woman match, the woman must initiate the conversation first.
Branded decor at the SXSW 2019 Bumble Hive | Amanda Zantal-Wiener for News & Trends by HubSpot
Since its launch, Bumble has expanded its app capabilities and brand messaging to grow from a dating app to a women's empowerment sidekick -- from the launch of its Bumble BFF service for women who to meet new friends through the app, to this week's Hive sessions on female entrepreneurship and mentoring.
Today, Bumble also added a mission focus to its brand activation, by partnering with the Austin Animal Center to pet, play with, and -- best yet -- give a loving home to puppies up for adoption.
Puppies available for adoption through the Austin Animal Center at the SXSW 2019 Bumble Hive | Amanda Zantal-Wiener for News & Trends by HubSpot
A Town Hall Conversation Where Tech Definitely Came Up
This morning, the SXSW "Conversations About America’s Future" series of town-hall-like discussions with policymakers kicked off, with a conversation between tech journalism veteran Kara Swisher and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. (In February, Klobuchar announced that she has entered the 2020 U.S. presidential race.)
With Swisher -- who writes about the tech industry for the New York Times and also founded online tech publication Recode -- conducting the interview, it was anticipated by many that the role of and sentiment around the tech industry among lawmakers would be discussed.
Kara Swisher in conversation with Senator Amy Klobuchar at SXSW 2019 | Amanda Zantal-Wiener for News & Trends by HubSpot
The past year has seen much activity in this space, ranging from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's high-profile congressional hearings last spring, to the recent formation of an FTC task force to monitor the tech industry. Even more recently, Senator and fellow presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who also spoke at SXSW today, penned an op-ed this week on breaking up some of the biggest tech companies -- including, Warren used as examples, "Amazon, Facebook, and Google."
As for Klobuchar: the senator remarked that she envisions a future where the industry can still experience and develop the same innovation as the so-called Tech Giants, without a single company owning every piece of the market.
"You want to have enough pushback," Klobuchar remarked, "so that you're not stifling innovation, and that innovation is still there."
Can AI and Artists Work Together?
Finally, in an afternoon session titled "AI For Storytellers: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," the Sundance Institute's Jess Fuselier and Corto's Yves Bergquist delivered a presentation on the growing role played by artificial intelligence (AI) in creative fields.
Speaking to a fear experienced by some that AI will replace creative talent, Fuselier and Bergquist highlighted research that indicates a more likely future where AI will actually support professionals in this field.
That projection aligns with a 2019 AI outlook presented in January, when research analysts from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) pointed to a future where AI -- again -- doesn't replace creativity, but as Senior Research Analysts Sayon Deb said, serves as "an augmentation and enhancement of what humans can do, giving humans higher-level more subjective and creative roles."
In one future scenario, then, AI replaces the tasks that might hinder artists, for instance, from executing more subjective and creative tasks.
"AI For Storytellers: The Good The Bad and The Ugly" presenters at SXSW 2019 | Amanda Zantal-Wiener for News & Trends by HubSpot
But in the future visualized today by Fuselier and Bergquist, AI and "artistic integrity" come together as a "hybrid," Fuselier says -- in a way that could lead to a better understanding of the more subtle and profound aspects of things like a film viewer's sentiment, and how it factors into the development of a plot line.
The way AI often surfaces in film viewing today, for instance, focuses more on an approach of, "You seem to be watching a lot of movies with Julia Roberts. Here are some more movies with Julia Roberts,” as Bergquist described it.
Where AI would be a greater benefit to artists and creative talent, he explains, is its (potential) ability "to granularly answer, 'Why did I like this movie?'" -- which, he points out, many consumers and viewers can rarely answer themselves.
"You can’t quite put your finger on it," Bergquist says. But some day, AI might be able to -- and can help artists determine the creative formula that will be most successful with their audiences.
A flowchart illustrating a film viewer's approach to decision-making | Amanda Zantal-Wiener for News & Trends by HubSpot
That's a wrap on day two. Check back tomorrow for our recap of day three's events, sights, sounds -- and maybe, even more puppies.