Day one of CES was filled with plenty of fun and a number of surprises, but none bigger than a revelation during registration: bloggers are now their own class of media. Instead of getting my usual orange badge with "Media" printed on the top, I was instead presented with a dull-gray "Blogger" badge. I also received a Blogger bag, blogger lunch coupons, and access to the Blogger Lounge. The Blogger Lounge turned out to be the Media Room-lite, with only a couple of PCs for Internet access and no sign of press kits. I wasn't brave enough to see what a blogger lunch entails, but there's always tomorrow. I'm not here to complain, though. In fact, the separation of bloggers from other media at trade shows is long overdue.
Trade show organizers have been combating the issue of unqualified attendees at industry-only events for years. E3 was the most notorious show of them all, having been inundated by tens of thousands of retail employees and just about anyone with a Blogspot account, making it incredibly frustrating for actual industry members to carry out business. In an effort to solve the problem, the Entertainment Software Association made an extreme change and turned E3 into an invitation-only event. The show once again felt like an industry event, although that introduced a number of new issues.
The glitz, glamor, and overall purpose of E3 changed. As a result, media support declined, game publisher interest dissipated, and the Entertainment Software Association eventually announced a reversal to the pre-2007 format. Still, publishers now seem more interested in private events held under controlled conditions, with attendee lists that they set. Did the restricted E3 format force them to change their MO, or did publishers suddenly realize that a booming convention center isn't the best environment to show new product? I'll go with a little of both.
Now the Consumer Electronics Association is trying its best to tighten up access to CES. While the show hasn't become invitation-only, registration for attendees (and particularly media) has become a bit more restrictive. Bloggers are now a separate class, and all other types of badges require proof of industry affiliation. Though it's not exactly difficult to print up bogus business cards, the extra hoops appear to be cutting down on the number of visitors who are merely prowling the show floor for swag.
It's slightly annoying to be separated from the rest of my online media cohorts, and it would be great to have access to the library of press kits, but I really can't take issue with the situation. After all, I still got into the show for free, complete with another awesome bag and four days worth of free food. Blogger or media—it doesn't matter. The CEA still knows how to take care of the press better than just about any other trade show organizer I've come across. Booth exhibitors still perk up at the sight of a canvas badge holder (which is exclusive to media and bloggers) regardless of the color, and as such, my treatment on the floor doesn't seem to have changed all that much.
Kudos to CEA for coming up with a solution that segregates bloggers from media without making us feel like second-class citizens. When the show's over, I'll simply add the Blogger badge to the drawer of Media badges and start planning for next year. Who knows what kind of badge I'll have by then?