CrunchGear meetup

I went to a bar in midtown Friday night to attend the CrunchGear meetup, a networking event for readers of a gadget blog founded by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.

CrunchGear reviews high-tech gadgets and computer hardware. TechCrunch, its parent blog (and my blog's play on words), covers Web 2.0 companies, and Arrington, its founder, is well-connected in the industry (He scooped all the major news organizations last week on the Google and YouTube purchase).

The attendees at the meetup included several Web 2.0 public-relations and marketing consultants, a few CEOs of technology and Web 2.0 upstarts and, of course, the editors of CrunchGear. In fact, it turns out that CrunchGear editor in chief, John Biggs, is a BER 2 graduate!

The meetup was enlightening and informative. For example, attendee Drew Robertson, managing director of PhoneRanger, a company that developes handless VoIP devices, refered me to VoIP Discount -- an alternative to Skype -- which he said was far superior. VoIP devices, I told him, probably won't take off until city-wide Wi-Fi reaches higher penetrations. He demoed one of his handsfree VoIP devices, which he carries around in his pocket. Five years ago, it wasn't fashionable to carry around these things, but with the popularity of Bluetooth headsets for cell phones, its now a natural and trendy phenomenon, he said.

Meanwhile, Blake Robinson, managing editor of CrunchGear, told me that the blog is trying to write more features and publish stories with more journalistic prose. The problem with blogs, I told him, is that a lot of the writing is in a stream-of-consciousness style -- and lacks structure.

An interesting topic he brought up later concerned online plagiarism. There are lot of gadget blogs out there, and a lot of them freeload and just rip off one another. However, there is no way to police it, and the Web sites are making money from traffic. With everything fast-paced and lacking formal structure, I can see how it would be easy to plagiarize and copy stories online when compared with print competitors. In one news cycle about a product, you could have several tech blogs taking links and photos off of each other's blogs without attribution. How can you tell whether the source of the reporting is legitimate?

Another interesting conversation I had with one attendee, a marketing consultant for Web 2.0 companies, involved advertising revenue for Web sites. If a Web company wants to stay small, it can make a profit just off of Google ads, for example. The site, just with its content, might generate $150,000 a month in ads, which can pay for hardware, hosting services, a few tech people and writers. But the larger a company gets, the harder it becomes to maintain those profit margins. So sometimes, bigger isn't always better.

Overall, it was a terrific social event, and it made me realize that if I'm going to cover the tech industry, I'm going to need a lot more business cards.