CES 2009, Day 2: Scoble and Vaynerchuk Speak!

by Matthew Norman

Yesterday we attended a Q&A session with Robert Scoble (of Scobleizer, etc.) and Gary Vaynerchuk (of winelibrary) on "making money with blogs during difficult financial times" or something like that. It was a lot more A than Q, as the audience was full of people who seemed to think they were supposed to have been onstage, but for a mixup with the seating chart.

The blogger equivalent of Elvis meeting Nixon

The advice on offer was, for the most part, basic, non-specific and common-sensical, and we'll admit to having been partially seduced by its optimistic siren song: Find your passion, develop a plan for making money off it, then labor tirelessly to execute it. Easy! Yes, almost... _too_ easy. Here are a few tips that went unspoken during G n' R's pep talk...


Scoble and Vaynerchuk share an obvious gift for effective online social networking and real-life flesh-pressing. Case in point: After the session, we went up and introduced ourselves to Gary, and told him how much fun it'd been to see our goofy wine labels make their appearances on his video podcast. He greeted us with an unforced enthusiasm (fist bumps!) that left us with a good feeling. He likes us! He really likes us! And this is the feeling he gives pretty much everybody he meets. It's probably sincere, but it's also a nearly essential business skill, and we're skeptical that it can be learned in hotel conference-room seminars.

This thing scrolled rapidly the entire time, to the irritation of everyone but Robert Scoble

You should have seen the Woot creative team, for example, utterly failing to work the room at last night's "It Won't Stay In Vegas" blogger party. All of us are natural wallflowers, much more comfortable cuddle-piling on a Lovesac brand beanbag than meeting new people. We launched the occasional monkey into the crowd of cool kids, but it didn't break the ice. (Spilled some, though.)

The Lovesac is a little old place where we can get together


It's all well and good if your passion is something people want to spend money on -- like wine, or tech news, or crystal meth. But if the thing for which you live and breathe is lived and breathed for by no one else, you're kind of screwed. We should know -- our business plan for moviesaboutgiantalligators.woot has yet to entice a single investor.


A central theme of the session was that hard times present opportunities for capable players to break into the marketplace. A lean economy reveals your rivals' weaknesses, and forces a lot of phonies out of business, as they're outcompeted for increasingly scarce resources. If you're a talented entrepreneur, maybe you can exploit these openings and emerge as a new powerhouse in the next period of prosperity. It's encouraging to hear people say so, and it's probably even true, but it doesn't do you any good if you're a non-smart entrepreneur -- which, judging from the quality of some of the Q&A questions we heard...

Well, let's just say Scoble and Vaynerchuk will probably not be battling any of yesterday's seminar attendees for blog market share anytime soon.

For more secrets of blogging success, look anywhere but our CES 2009 page.

photos by Dave Rutledge