What is a Blogfest?

But first, a more basic question: “What is a blog?”

I get this question on a regular basis, when people ask what I do and I tell them that I write a blog, among other, less glamorous activities, like dragging little kids with me to the grocery store, or other, more glamorous activities, like everything else.

So what is a blog? I’m still trying to figure this out, move beyond the debates about which platform to use when publishing your blog — blogger vs. wordpress vs. typepad vs. boredom — and into the question of what a blog is, substantively speaking. A blog is something between a newspaper column and a diary. Something between editorialized thoughts made public and the private ramblings of a teenage girl. Made public. As blogs totter on the tightrope between two opposites: public and private, the one aspect of their existence that is increasingly indisputable is this: blogs are powerful. Anytime your message can be distributed without mediation — for free! — you are accomplishing more in a moment than millions and millions of people who came before you accomplished in many thousands of years of human history. Not to overstate it or anything.

In short, blogs are a Very Big Deal in the development of mass communication, and anyone who dismisses them as nothing more than the self-indulgent rambling of individuals with too much time on their hands might be right in terms of describing blogs but most certainly wrong in dismissing blogs. So, with all of this in mind, knowing that resistance is futile when it comes to social media, to technology, to the onslaught of information as disseminated by blogs, I signed up for three days of an all-bloggers, all-the-time event, called Blogfest 2011. Blog conferences have been popping up all over the country like wild fungi and I confess to being curious about what in the world goes on at these things.

This particular Festival of Blogs was organized by a woman named Beth Greene, a VP of Marketing at Kravet Inc., a third generation family-owned, to-the-trade-only fabric manufacturer based in New York, which also includes the companies Lee Jofa and Brunschwig & Fils. Kravet, Inc. not only sponsored the event, Beth Greene somehow convinced top people, to put it Donald Trump-ishly (Top people! The best! The best!), across the design industry — interior designers, showroom & design center executives, shelter magazine editors — to join Kravet in catering to a busload of bloggers. It was almost funny, except it wasn’t. It was a very serious turn of events, to have industry types such as the publishers of House Beautiful and Architectural Digest, not to mention a whole passel of editors, speaking to a roomful of people — many of us possessing nothing more than a wordpress account and a WiFi connection — about the intersection of print and online publishing in the world of design. Some of the magazine editors and interior designers who spoke with us and allowed us to mingle freely with them looked a little confused about the new order of things (you could practically hear the cogs turning as they chose their words…very…carefully about the legitimacy of blogs. Nothing worse for business than to insult a roomful of people who finesse thousands of followers on twitter and facebook on a second-by-second basis) but they were all gracious, conceding that blogs and social media are here to stay. The reluctant marriage between old industries, whether they be business of print, the manufacture of fabric — or political tyranny, for that matter — and new social media is young and a little shaky, but we’re yoked together now. Together 4evah.

The new reality is that everyone is a direct consumer of goods, everyone is a direct critic of product, everyone is a direct producer of content. The internet is not going away, and all those future babies born with Facebook accounts programmed into their DNA and twitter handles listed on their birth certificates will eventually grow up. And when they do, they will need to buy their fabric from somewhere. It might as well be Kravet, Inc. Because that company produces beautiful, high quality work. I should know. I learned all about it at Blogfest2011.

The editors of Town & Country, Veranda and House Beautiful all lined up, with Beth Greene at the podium.

The truly amazing Margaret Russell, Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Digest. A little intimidating, even from a distance. We were in a super-special insiders-only auditorium in the Conde Nast building, the Pentagon of Print.

Kravet, Inc.'s Beth K. Greene, matchmaker between social media users & design industry tastemakers. I think one of us is more in love than the other.

Magazine Talk: Margaret Russell’s Architectural Digest

I say Margaret Russell’s Architectural Digest because, really, is there any other reason to pick up the latest issue except to see what changes have been made? To see if Ms. Margaret, in her tiny precision, can get the dinosaur that is AD to sit up, roll, and finally, beg for readers? (and, by extension, advertisers?)

Well, if anyone can get the job done, it’s Ms. Margaret. Something changed for me right away when I opened the issue: I was actually compelled to read it from start to finish. The magazine still carries the same slightly musty, clubby and claustrophobic tone but at least now it’s a club you might aspire to join. And if Architectural Digest insists on featuring a celebrity on the cover, it makes far more sense to give Ralph Lauren – a man with more than a bit of design credibility – the honor as opposed to, say Gerard Butler (who?), photographed in his Tuscan-topia love nest for the cover of a recent, pre-Margaret Russell AD. Or Jennifer Aniston (who?) – although her house was kind of interesting, if I remember correctly. Really, all I completely remember about that issue is thinking: why is Jennifer Aniston on the cover of Architectural Digest? Indeed.

Onto the issue itself, which, by now, actually qualifies as last month’s issue, as the new March issue is now on newsstands. But I can’t be expected to keep up with the hurly-burly of the print magazine business these days, so I’m just going to stick with what I consider to be the current issue, as it says February on the cover, and I can only manage to fully exist in the current month. Sad but true. Continue reading