Did Apple Just Kill The Trade Show?

Dec 16th, 2008 | By | Category: Featured Story, General

Today, Apple announced that 2009 would be the last year it participated in MacWorld. It also announced that Steve Job’s wouldn’t be attending for the keynote – effectively killing off the company’s participation immediately. 

Here’s the text of Apple’s announcement:

Apple today announced that this year is the last year the company will exhibit at Macworld Expo. Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, will deliver the opening keynote for this year’s Macworld Conference & Expo, and it will be Apple’s last keynote at the show. The keynote address will be held at Moscone West on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. Macworld will be held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center January 5-9, 2009.

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Apple has been steadily scaling back on trade shows in recent years, including NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo and Apple Expo in Paris.

For many Apple fans, MacWorld isn’t just a trade show, but a sort of Mecca. Apple ending its participation is likely to mean the end of MacWorld.

Earlier this year, we asked, in a world of new media, if trade shows still matter:

Trade shows are encumbered with a lot of old-media baggage. And, as Sara Lacy’s SXSW interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out, people are no longer willing to sit through a presentation that is not compelling.

Trade shows also face competition from unconference-style events, like PodCamp and WordCamp. These events are cheap to put on and are usually closely aligned with what people are interested in, because they are organized by attendees.

Tech tradeshows need a radical overhaul in order to maintain their value.

I’ll be sorry to see MacWorld go – but the trade show is an expense that Apple, a company widely respected for its management and marketing, doesn’t think is justified.

In this economy, Apple’s move doesn’t bode well for the future of trade shows.

Update: Robert Scoble has weighed in the topic, and his views our similar:

What should we expect over the next year? A lot of bad news for big trade shows.

What’s killing them? The Internet. You can launch a product live now from a living room. Thanks to Stickam, Ustream, Qik, Kyte, YouTube, Flixwagon, Viddler, Vimeo, SmugMug, etc and blogs.

Just give the people on Facebook something to pass along and talk about and your product is out there, big time.

What’s interesting about Scoble’s angle on this is that Apple makes no attempt to cater to bloggers.

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No Responses to “Did Apple Just Kill The Trade Show?”

  1. Geekazine says:

    Apple might have wounded MacWorld, but they can far from ruin a Tradeshow. Apple is being selfish right now in saying they don’t need to be there. MacWorld might suffer since the close ties to Apple, but in a broad spectrum, I would say no.

    Tradeshows are where the little guy can really shine. Sometimes they have some stuff that’s really out there, but then there are companies that have good products that rely on the Tradeshow to push their product. 2 come to mind from CES last year – MagicJack and Bug Labs. I know of at least 2 companies that will also catapult from CES 2009.

    Tradeshows have come and gone. Comdex, of course, is the biggest tradeshow name. Usually the show will fade when the creator/organizer decides it’s time or he/she cannot afford it anymore.

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