If you’re a regular reader of travel/points blogs like this one, you probably heard a lot about a conference called BACON that happened this past weekend in Las Vegas. What was BACON? figured I’d give my take on what exactly it is and how I felt about it.
First of all, BACON is short for “Boarding Area Conference” and this is the second one that Boarding Area (BA) has had. Last year’s was in Colorado and I was invited despite not being a BA member, but elected not to go. That was a decision I came to regret in the following months and do until this day. I missed a tremendous opportunity.
This year, I’m actually a member of the BA family. I joined Prior2Boarding very recently (you probably noticed a new domain name) and I’m still getting fully integrated (my email subscribers haven’t been moved over yet but I promise it will be done soon!), but I’m considered a member now. That meant that I earned an invitation to this year’s BACON, which took place in Las Vegas this past weekend.
It’s a gathering of all BA bloggers, staff, and their +1s for a convention where we can meet each other and learn from various panels of speakers that were arranged for us. There was a lot of airline and hotel SWAG for us also, and I hope to give away some of it soon (I have lots of giveaways planned, FYI). There were also a handful of non-BA members invited to the conference, similar to how I was invited last year.
We had seminars on quite a few topics. These included a media panel with writers from USA Today and The Associated Press, a Google Analytics workshop with a Product Marketing Manager at Google, a session on legal issues facing bloggers (I missed this one unfortunately), a panel on affiliate programs including representatives from Barclaycard, a session on how to improve our writing, and a session on how to use Jetpack and their plugins.
So as you can see, it wasn’t all fun and games. The focus of the conference was learning and figuring out not only how to drive more views to your blog, but how to write better content and evaluate the traffic you do get. Contrary to what you might have heard from others, this wasn’t just a big “hey you’re awesome” conference where everyone receives pats on the back and encouragement to do whatever they need to sell themselves. There was a heavy focus on quality and true improvement.
There were also social events on Friday and Saturday night and we all got to ride on the new High Roller Las Vegas, the giant Ferris wheel installed aside the strip. It provided amazing views of the city.
My favorite part of this conference by far was Randy Petersen. I’d met him before but only briefly, but I finally got a chance to introduce myself and chat with him for a few minutes this weekend. I also got to hear him speak on a variety of topics. If I had to pick a word to describe him, I would easily choose “inspirational.”
The passion this man has is remarkable. He’s commonly referred to as the “godfather of frequent flyer miles” because he’s been in this business longer than anyone. For those that don’t know, he’s the founder at FlyerTalk, BoardingArea, Milepoint, Freddie Awards, InsideFlyer, Launchpoint, and RoomExpert. He’s been interviewed and quoted literally hundreds (possibly thousands) of times in various news outlets.
But despite all this, the guy really cares about people. He’s a very generous guy. It’s no secret that BA takes a portion of advertising revenue from the ads displayed on BA blogs, but this weekend I got to see where much of that money goes. It goes into a really great staff, the conference itself, and investment in technology upgrades behind the scenes that helps our lives as bloggers a lot easier.
Beyond that, he’s genuinely interested in helping us improve as bloggers. He provides financial support to register trademarks, LLCs (to a limited degree at least), buy domain names, and even pays for drinks at some reader meet-ups. On top of that, he made a point to say that everyone that’s part of the Boarding Area family must give back. BA makes donations and does quite a few other things behind the scenes that would make the humanitarian in anyone smile.
I had my own preconceptions about Boarding Area and BACON before I joined or had a chance to participate, but this weekend has left me with a much, much better impression of literally everything. And most importantly, I’m very glad to know that Randy Petersen is so passionate about BA and takes a interest in developing bloggers like myself. I’ve been writing for over two years but can see that there’s so much I need to learn.
So…don’t believe any of the negative stuff you heard because it was probably taken out of context. I’m generally known as someone that’s very critical of things and have voiced my criticism of blogs in the past, including those at BA. I can happily say that nothing done by BA this weekend had any negative or nefarious purpose. Yes BA wants blogs to get more traffic, but the focus was on developing quality content to accomplish that…not to pump out posts or anything else.
Interesting Information I Asked About
I’ve had many, many, many, many experiences with affiliate companies in the past, so I asked the credit card affiliate people whether being rejected or declined by affiliate companies in the past would affect me in the future. The answer from the Barclay representatives was that no, not necessarily. They said it was all based on how my website was performing at the time in terms of views, but of course they didn’t give specifics on how many are needed.
I also asked Randy Petersen whether or not any blog has been involuntary removed from Boarding Area in the past. He answered quickly with a “Yes” and said he could remember two of them. There are certain things BA does not tolerate, the biggest of which is plagiarism. Blogs can also be placed on both voluntary and involuntary “sabbatical” if they’re not posting on a regular basis. That was wonderful for me to hear.