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Matthew Knell's posts

Mar 13th 2013

Who won SXSW Interactive in 2013? (Spoiler alert: No one... and that's a good thing)

So, let's review.

Fast Company declared Google Glass the "winner" of SXSW Interactive 2013. Sort of. AllThingsD declared that parties- not products or panels- stole the show, adding, they were "where there real work is done". The Wall Street Journal also suggested that the focus is on re-embracing the physical.

And, of course, there was Grumpy Cat.

So, who won overall? In my opinion, none of them.

The reality is that SXSW, this year, as every year, is really what visitors make out of it. Veterans of SXSW (this year was my third), learn quickly, and painfully that there is no possible way to consume and interact with everything available - or even a majority of it. This is partly because there are so many options and partly because the panel / discussion / dinner / party you really wanted to go to was full 30 minutes before starting.

So rather than trying to pick a winner, I'll focus on a series of themes that stood out during my days in Texas:


(The MakerBot: Replicator 2 and products made with Autodesk iPad app. / Photo: MakerBot)

(Photo: Matthew Knell)

  • Brands as incubators - the Nike+ FuelBand has inspired a whole new way of thinking for marketers - offering products and solutions that extend your brand through making your consumer's lives easier. In this regard, Target's retail accelerator, in partnership with Fast Company's Co. Labs, is challenging developers to build innovative mobile apps to improve the retail experience for a $75,000 prize. Target will offer API access to their retail data, and will work with finalists to make sure their solutions fit the target brand. These sorts of partnerships will become more common as brands, looking to be more nimble step outside their own walls for fresh inspiration, and developers look for more interesting data sets to play with and problems to solve.

(The Samsung TecTile Wall /Photo: Matthew Knell)

  • Touchless tech... the next big thing? - Using Near Field Communication (NFC), Samsung allowed you to pay for a pedicab ride, or get a free cupcake or ice cream just by waving your NFC-enabled phone at tags (Samsung calls them TecTiles) all over the city of Austin. Samsung had no shame in flaunting one of its biggest product advantages over Apple devices, and put it to good use in trying to meet Maslow's hierarchy of needs for conference goers.
(#sxswRTM Panel: L to R: Bonin Bough, Mondelez International; Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia; Steve Doan, Oreo; David Berkowitz, 360i; Albert Chou, Expion; David Teicher, Associate Editor, Ad Age / Photo: @stevehall)

  • Real-time marketing is challenging - The challenge to replicate the Oreo Super Bowl moment has driven marketers to rethink how they create social content. A spirited exchange on a Expion sponsored panel, called "The Power of Microcontent and Marketing in the Moment" featuring some of digital's biggest thinkers, showed the ink isn't even dry on the right ways to do "real-time marketing." Its success and failure depends on having the right brand and team to make it happen.
(Grumpy cat greets her fans! / Photo: Matthew Knell)

  • IRL matters - The appearance of Grumpy Cat at Mashable House illustrated what makes SXSW best, the limited opportunity for people to crossover from Internet to real-life, to meet each other, put faces to Twitter avatars, and above all, cheer for a cat who stole the Internet's heart.


Adding one more entry into the chorus of voices sharing their perspective on SXSW has allowed me to better absorb what matters to me through the noise. While many have declared the festival "over" or "a thing of the past", I still find the experience unique enough to where I'd recommend trying to go yourself if you've never been. The real winner in this sweepstakes is you.

Mar 4th 2013

What to Watch For at SXSW Interactive 2013

For me, this year seems to be a transitional year for SXSW® Interactive Festival. Last year, I visited and saw that SXSW 2012 had reached a sort of stasis (the four days of rain really didn't help). Still, through the noise, there were a couple of really good SXSW brand activations that turned out to be enhancive to the overall experience.

Rising costs in conference-related expenses, travel, availability of accommodations (I had to book my downtown hotel last October) and its tendency to overwhelm, have caused a lot of people to skip this year in favor of SXSW's new V2V conference, which makes its debut later this year.

But much like every conference, the value of benefit in SXSW is what you make of it and I look at this year as an opportunity for new folks to make an impact – both on stage and off. (First timers – check out a great guide here.)

I'll be heading to the festival for the third time this year, and I'm looking forward to seeing what stands out, both in terms of key speakers and products, but also in brand activations. I will be livetweeting panels from my personal Twitter account and also @aoladvertising for up-to-the-minute highlights, so stay tuned for the latest starting Friday morning. AOL and our brands will also be offering up some great events and speakers to make your SXSW experience that much more fulfilling, and I've included those here as well.

Here's a look at what I recommend (interactive badge required unless otherwise noted.)


Pick a date: March 8th | March 9th | March 10th | March 11th

Friday, March 8th


Saturday, March 9th


Sunday, March 10th

  • 10:00am at Icenhauer's (83 Rainey Street, map) ALTO Brunch - Start your day off right with a stop at our Bloody Mary bar where you can checkout AOL's latest email product, Alto. (No badge required; RSVP here)
  • 11:00am at Cheers Shot Bar (416 East 6th Street, map) – Visit the Starterhouse Hosted by Mapquest - Stop by for product demos, live music, networking and good grub and more, open until 7pm. (No badge required; RSVP here)
  • 11:00am at the Hilton Austin - Airbnb's Brian Chesky Talks with Fortune - Airbnb's CEO Brian Chesky talks with Fortune Magazine Jessi Hempel about the past, present and future of his brand
  • 11:00am at Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin – TechCrunch's John Biggs joins folks from Givit, WeVideo and Magisto, as they talk about The Social Video Race
  • 11:00am at the Hyatt Regency Austin- Is Women's Media Too Girly? Jezebel's founder Anna Holmes, Deborah Schoeneman, Margaret Johnson and Rebecca Fernandez talk how media (websites, TV, books) created by women is often accused of being too girly
  • 11:00am at Courtyard by Marriott – HuffPost's Lisa Belkin and PBS's Sara DeWitt discuss How to Keep Working Parents In & Innovating
  • 3:30pm at the Hyatt Regency Austin - Toddlers & Technology - Huffington Post Executive Lifestyle Editor Lori Leibovich anchors a panel discussing the link between today's toddlers and the technology they have access to
  • 3:30pm at the AT&T Conference Center - The Community Manager: Enter the C-Suite - HuffPost Live Community Manager Tim McDonald joins other leading community managers in this workshop designed to help you learn about Community Management today)
  • 5:00pm at the Omni Downtown – NASA UX designers share what UX design in space is like with @NASA: The User Experience of a Space Station
  • 5:00pm at Long Center - Style Goes Viral: The Future of Fashion explores the future of fashion and social media and features Anne Fulenwider, Editor in Chief of Marie Claire, Nina Garcia, Creative Director at Marie Claire and Randi Zuckerberg
  • 5:00PM at the Sheraton Austin – Join leaders from Simply Measured and Klout as they discuss Social Media Was Fun. Has Measurement Killed It?

Monday, March 11th


I'm excited to help bring SXSW to you – so stay tuned! And if you're heading down and would like to meet up, just send me a tweet at @matthewknell.

Feb 14th 2013

AOL Hosts Social Media Week Panels in NYC!

Each year for the last three, AOL has been proud to be a part of Social Media Week taking place in New York City. This year, we are excited to work with with creative agencies DDB and Tribal DDB to host an exclusive series of panels and workshops at our New York headquarters for Social Media Week. Covering everything from gaming to music, customer service to social upheavals and everything in between, there is something for everybody to engage in.

The best part? It's open to everyone! Therefore, we not only invite you but encourage you to sign up, speak up and share our great program with clients, colleagues and friends of social media. It's all free.

Here is the panel and workshop schedule for Social Media Week at AOL's HQ:

Wednesday, February 20th:

Thursday, February 21st:

Friday, February 22nd:

Now in its 5th year, Social Media Week is dedicated to exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. Their mission is to help people and organizations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information.

To RSVP to our panels during Social Media Week, click here and RSVP to the ones you would like to attend. We look forward to seeing you there!

Sep 19th 2012

AOL Joins Other Web Leaders in Nation's First Internet Association

AOL is one of 14 Internet giants joining forces to form the Internet Association, the first U.S. trade association for the Internet economy. The organization's member companies include Amazon.com, AOL, eBay, Expedia.com, Facebook, Google, IAC, LinkedIn, Monster Worldwide, Rackspace, Salesforce.com, TripAdvisor, Yahoo! and Zynga.

The association, which will serve as a unified voice in Washington for these diverse companies, also announced its policy platform: protecting Internet freedom, fostering innovation and economic growth and empowering users.

Tekedra Mawakana, who heads AOL's Public Policy team, serves as Chairman of the Internet Association. Over the past year, she helped lead the formation of the organization.

Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman said, "A free and open Internet is vital to our nation's economic growth. These companies are all fierce competitors in the marketplace," but "they understand the future of the Internet is at stake" and they must work together to protect it. He pointed out that the Internet is fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy and credited it with "unparalleled job creation" and innovation.

Aug 21st 2012

AOL Gets Ready for SXSW

Voting is already under way for presentations and panels to be featured on the agenda at SXSW next spring in Austin, and AOLers have a great showing of proposals. Through the SXSW PanelPicker, the community can browse all the ideas, leave comments, and vote for what they think are the best fit for SXSWedu, SXSW Interactive, SXSW Film and SXSW Music conference activities. The SXSW staff and advisory board also weigh on the content for the agenda to ensure lesser known voices have as much of a chance as being selected to speak at SXSW as individuals with large online followings.

Check out the AOLer-proposed sessions below:


See any you'd be interested? Click on a panel title to vote between now and August 31st. Then, look back at our take on the best brand activations from last year's SXSW here.

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