As Gnomedex organizer (with Ponzi Indharasophang) Chris Pirillo notes, there are times when a conference is priced low enough for media to afford the full fee, and organizers don't need to give them a free or reduced pass.
But anyone who doesn't have built-in buzz from bloggers (see gnomedex on Technorati), or some other method of motivating their target market to action, will still want to comp enough media to keep their conference in the news (most conference coverage is promotion for your next conference).
Pirillo has depended on media coverage in the past, and likely will in the future. But he also has the reputation and network to get the word out on the conference. He and Ponzi run a well-oiled promotion machine for their projects, so someone considering raising barriers to free media access would do well to think about the profile the Seattle tech mini-magnate has created for his global microbrand (to borrow a phrase from Hugh MacLeod). Pirillo and Ponzi have put in a huge effort at building an audience, establishing relationships in the technology field, positioning him as the ultimate early adopter with a positive attitude, and making sure something cool happens at the 400-person Gnomedex conference every year.
There are no simple shortcuts to that kind of reputation.
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