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Mobile World Congress: Worth it for a day?


Back in January I was pretty irritated with the GSMA, the organisers of Mobile World Congress.

A little while ago, I applied for press credentials like every other blogger out there. And I was declined.

The pain on the ego.

Oh the pain!

The GSMA changed the qualifying status for press credentials this year. The GSMA’s PR firm, Liberty Communications, checked me out big time after I applied this year. They looked at my various profiles. They popped up on my LinkedIn ‘who’s looking at your profile’ list. They scrutinised me and eventually decided that journalism (or blogging) wasn’t my primary career. Here’s the precise text they used in their ‘thanks but no thanks’ email:

Due to the professional activity that your are currently practicing, at Nationwide Building Society we regret to inform you that we will not be able to accredit you as press or analyst for the event. 

I wrote back pointing out I was a contractor. I pointed out that — technically — I would have finished my contract (as I now have!) with Nationwide by the time MWC rolled around and therefore I’d be back to Mobile Industry Review as a primary activity. (Until the next contract.)

They were definitely not impressed, it seems, by the page on this site that points out that I offer consultancy services.

I’m not, in their eyes, a proper journalist.

I never was.

Their fundamental message was: “You can pay like everyone else.”

Heh. I applaud the capitalist attitude!

For a while, years ago, Mobile Industry Review was briefly a primary revenue generating activity for me. Not any more. I pay to make it happen — not just with my time. I actually fork out real cash, much to the mild frustration of wife.

For me, the value exchange with MWC was pretty clear. I paid for the flights and hotel and they gave me a press badge that meant I didn’t need to pay for entrance. It also made me feel a wee bit sophisticated. In years gone by I was able to take a whole team with me — free of charge in terms of entrance fees (but flipping expensive when it came to me having to pay for it all myself).

In return for not charging me for a ticket, I would also be given a badge that ‘certified’ me to film and interview folk on-site without the burly security people getting annoyed. And I’d also put up with the millions of press releases sent by those PRs who’d been given access to the GSMA’s press list. There were often some real nuggets.

It went further, though — at least in my view. I paid attention. I actually strolled the halls and when folk flagged me down, desperate for some kind of coverage, I’d listen patiently and often end up writing their company up. I felt obliged to do so. I would also comment on the event itself, the atmosphere and so on. I’d also make it my duty to visit the big players and mill about the various exhibition halls.

Revoking the press credentials of bit players like me — I’m no Engadget — is, on the face of it, a smart move. It forces us lot (and, there are a lot of people like me, with readers/followers) to pay for a ticket. That should help boost revenue, theoretically anyway.

I ended up with a free pass from one of the big exhibitors. That doesn’t entitle me to watch the various keynotes but really, there’s only so many times you can hear the same mobile operator folk say more or less the same thing (Zuckerberg et al, excepted).

I was momentarily panicked that with just an exhibitor badge, I wouldn’t be able to record a 361 Degrees Podcast episode on the show floor with Rafe Blandford. Thankfully the GSMA’s own Claire Cranton (Director of Media Relations) who helpfully confirmed that it wouldn’t be a problem as long as Rafe and I stuck to walking about the aisles. Nay bother then.

I heard of quite a few bloggers-cum-journalists who were rather cheesed off at being denied press credentials.

I had to shrug my shoulders when it came to my own situation though.

Yes my ego was bruised a little. It’s quite nice to wear a badge that says PRESS on it.

But I had to remember last year’s flying visit.

I did write, tweet and video from MWC last year as a member of the media.

But I was only there for a day.

That’s right: Last year I decided only to visit for one day.

I flew into Barcelona on a morning flight and then flew out in the evening. Here’s the post I wrote about the experience: How to do Mobile World Congress in one day for £156 (plus entry).

In previous years, I would go Saturday to Saturday. I just couldn’t afford to miss the whole week. I routinely spent the Friday recovering or writing up all the stuff I couldn’t get live during the show days. Or, I spent it editing video. Boy did I have a lot of video to edit. Those were the days. I think it was 2012 or 2013 when I actually hosted a panel debate for the GSMA at MWC. That was a lot of work!

Last year’s one-day visit prompted me to do the same again this year. I resolved to book my same-day flight as early as possible. In the back of my mind I thought, “If I need to, I’ll go for longer.” That’s always an option.

I looked again this week just to see how much it would cost for me to go for the whole week — now that I’ve finished working with Nationwide, I don’t have to be in Swindon every day, so I could actually be there every day. £1,500. Quite a lot. I’d probably have done it if I’d been assigned a press pass. I’m rather embarrassed to admit that this would probably have made it worth it for me! Which is quite silly, really.

Given my one-day visit strategy, I felt I couldn’t very well get irate at not qualifying for press credentials.

I am, however, fundamentally bothered (from an industry evaluation standpoint) by the fact that I don’t feel I’m missing much by just going for a day.

My underlying aim is to go and have a look at the devices. A bit of hands on with some handsets and other similar devices and a stroll up and down one or two halls and that’s me done. I’ve booked three interviews. Principally because I knew the PRs who pitched me and they got me at the right time and in the right mood.

So it’ll be a packed day for me. But just a day.

MWC is therefore no longer critical for me.

And that, I find very stimulating. Why not?

What am I missing by just going for the day?

What would I be missing by not going at all?

And that, dear reader, is the key point of my post.

I think we’re rapidly approaching BAU for mobile. How long until we’re post-mobile?

Are we already, as a planet, post mobile?

Have we ‘done’ mobile? Is it properly here now and part of the scenery?

What does mobile even mean, any more?

At what point will Mobile World Congress have to rebrand?

Questions, questions.

2015 will no doubt be another record breaking event. There are a lot more people being drawn into the world of mobile than previous years. If you work in ‘digital banking’ then you should probably be there. If you work in ‘digital imaging’, you should probably be there. Same if you work in ‘digital commerce’. Or frankly, digital-anything.

At what point do diminishing returns set in? At what point does a generic ‘mobile’ show become just too big and unwieldy?

Probably never. Well, not for a long time. Just look at CES! That’s going great guns.

But is it worth going to MWC for the whole week nowadays? Yes if you’re coming from America or the Far East.

But should more of us Europeans just be popping over for a day in future? What do you think?

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