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Leveraging 'The Power of Less' at Web 2.0 Expo

Trade shows often tout how big their event is or how comprehensive: "See all the major widget players under one roof!"

But event producers TechWeb and O'Reilly are zigging to that zag in marketing their Web 2.0 Expo with a theme that reflects the drop from last year's numbers -- and, they say, a common focus on economizing.

That theme is "the power of less" -- a mantra the show's organizers state in lowercase across a giant billboard on Highway 101, just south of San Francisco's Moscone Center, where Web 2.0 Expo opens today.

Jennifer Pahlka, general manager & co-chair of Web 2.0 Expo, says the concept is appropriate for these hard economic times.

"People are thinking of how to do more with less and others how to get by at all," Pahlka told InternetNews.com. "We're hoping to reframe the question, so people can actually take advantage of less."

She admitted the Web 2.0 Expo is dealing with its own issues around "less." Paid attendees are down 25 percent from last year, she said, while there are more registrations for the free parts of the event.

She said overall attendance is projected to be about the same as last year, but with less paid revenue coming in. "It's still a very strong show," she added. "In the past, people were hopping from one show to another and now they've chosen one or two to attend and we're right there."

If that all sounds like making lemons out of lemonade, well, that might not be too far from the truth. But to Pahlka, "power of less" has actually been a driving force behind a number of Web success stories.

"Think about the Web 1.0 days, when we had portals with so much stuff on the page," she said. "Now it's all about simpler design, with less on the page making it easier to see what's doing on the site."

Case in point, Pahlka noted the fast-growing popularity of the Twitter micro-blogging service that limits users to 140 characters per message. "And it's not just from the design perspective. Twitter realized from a business perspective the fastest way to grow was to do one thing really well," she said. "And then make it easy for the ecosystem to provide all these other features.

"You see the same thing with iPhone," she continued. "Not only that Apple opened up the platform for developers with the App Store, but it's showing you can do more with less. You can use that mobile device for a lot of things you used to rely on your PC for."

One of Pahlka's favorite examples of the power of less is online T-shirt site Threadless. She'll be interviewing the company's founders on stage Friday.

"They have a T-shirt design company that does no T-shirt design. You can't get more 'less' than that," she said.

Web 2 Expo runs through Friday and features keynotes by executives from eBay, Google, Microsoft, Palm and others.

Update clarifies show's producers.