Last night's final panel at the AlwaysOn conference in NYC, "Panel: Can Brands Get Away with 'Buzz Marketing' in the Blogosphere?", was the best session so far at this show. It was chock-full of emotion, idealism, and all the kinds of ideas you hope to see on stage at a conference.
The session was moderated by CKS Partners founder Bill Cleary and included super-bloggers Jeff Jarvis and David Weinberger.The debate quickly escalated from a discussion of whether buzz marketing was feasible to whether marketing through blogs even made sense. Online blog marketing firm PayPerPost was savaged by both Jarvis and Weinberger, with PayPerPost's CEO present in the room trying unsuccessfully to defend himself.
Weinberger unleashed an assault on the very idea of buzz marketing, saying that most examples of buzz marketing that advertisers try to emulate -- like big, user-created videos on YouTube -- are exceptions that come from the core user base of the Internet. They cannot, in most cases, be crafted in a board room.
Weinberger went on to argue that buzz is a result of being interesting. "If you have something intereting to say, you'll get buzz." The panelists agreed that buzz is something intangible and it's a byproduct of inspiration, not a direct result of a formula.
Both Jarvis and Weinberger stressed that blogging is a conversation. You cannot fake a conversation, nor can you try to control it. This very conversational nature of the blogosphere makes it almost immune to the kind of manipulation to which buzz marketers aspiree.
UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis gives his side of the debate over PayPerPost during last night's panel.