Thank you to the 56 publishers who took our survey about Block by Block: Community News Summit 2011.
Satisfaction was quite high. All but three of the 55 people who responded to the question about satisfaction with the overall experience said they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied.
In all, about 135 people attended the summit this year – just a little higher than last year (about 125). The big difference was that so many more attendees this year are independent online community publishers compared to a bigger number of interested bystanders last year.
Among the general sessions, nine in 10 participants found the Thursday opening introduction session and dinner presentation and the Friday revenue panel helpful or very helpful.
– Introductions – 61% very helpful, 32% somewhat helpful, 7% not too helpful
– Revenue – 54% very helpful, 37% somewhat helpful, 9% not too helpful
– 5 Stages of Grief – 51% very helpful, 40% somewhat helpful, 8% not too helpful
Among the breakouts, the most helpful were:
Do deals add up? – 100% very helpful! (2 people responded)
Legal issues – 88% very helpful (8 responses)
Financing your expansion – 78% (9 responses)
Metrics – 75% (12 responses)
Revenue for nonprofits – 75% (8 responses).
Other sessions with “very helpful” ratings of more than 50 percent: How to sell advertising, Pros and cons of ad networks, Social media, and Mobile.
What were the strengths of the program?
Two big themes emerged in the comments:
1. A chance to connect with other publishers. As one respondent said: “It was invaluable to hear examples of what other similar organizations have tried, both in terms of what has worked and what has not.”
2. Tight focus on highly local sites and practical steps for publishers. “I have actionable tools and strategies that I can start working on right now!” one publisher reported.
Where did dissatisfaction arise?
The one person who was “dissatisfied” overall said there was not enough discussion of journalism. I think journalism is important, to be sure. But Block by Block tries to focus on unique capacity and sustainability issues of highly local publishers. Plus, other conferences and programs such as ONA and SPJ have more of a journalism focus.
Another more common point of dissatisfaction was that people wanted to attend more than one break out in a given time period. We need to work on that for next year.
Some people also did not like the informal nature of some of the break outs – I did ask the leaders to convene informal discussions – not formal presentations – so everyone could share perspectives.
What did people want more of?
Generally, people want more discussion of tech – especially around advertising; more on hiring and managing a sales team; marketing; revenue and sustainability in general.
What does this say about next year?
– We may want to have more break out sessions – and make them more structured and practical with specific takeaways.
– We need to make it clearer that BxB isn’t a journalism conference (unless we hear otherwise from a significant number of publishers).
– We can explore making the conference longer and/or offering different tracks – beginner and advanced, for example. (I like mixing beginners and advanced together while recognizing that the beginners may get a lot more out of that than the advanced publishers do.) It may also be time to bring in more outside experts on the revenue and tech fronts rather than relying so exclusively on publishers sharing their experiences.
What do you think? Please let me know in the comments or by email.
We hope to firm out our 2012 dates very soon.