Why Twitter Didn’t Conquer Comic-Con

By  |  Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Action Comics #1Contrary to current received wisdom, Twitter doesn’t change everything. At least it appears not to have changed the venerable San Diego pop culture extravaganza known as Comic-Con very much. Variety’s Marc Graser is reporting that the Hollwood moguls who thought the con would be all a-Twitter with discussion of the blockbusters previewed to audiences of thousands were disappointed by the volume of movie-related tweetage that actually happened. Unlike South by Southwest Interactive, Comic-Con remained a largely real-world event.

I’ve been attending the convention off and on for more than twenty years, including this year’s edition, and I’m not surprised that it didn’t turn out to be that much of a tweetfest. Here’s why:

Comic-Con isn’t necessarily rife with technogeeks. Movie and comics geeks, yes. But in three days of con, I was the only person I spotted using a laptop in any of the panels and previews. Actually, I saw only about three or four computers, period. It’s true that the overlap between fantasy fans and Web addicts is large, but perhaps even Web-savvy congoers weren’t in technonerd mode last week.

Comic-Con itself isn’t that tech-savvy an event. Thanks to sponsorship by iGoogle, it did offer free Wi-Fi this year, but that fact wasn’t widely promoted. (Last year, Wi-Fi was pricey, and in years past the rates were designed to gouge exhibitors.) As far as I know, the con doesn’t do things like offer an iPhone application or send out the sessions as an RSS or iCal feed. It’s just not an event that puts the Internet front and center.

Comic-Con is incredibly jam-packed with stuff to do. There are dozens of things going on at any given moment, and the pace is far faster than the laid-back SxSW atmosphere. If you attend every preview, panel, and party you find enticing, there’s no time left to tweet.

Comic-Con doesn’t involve breaks. The previews and panels run back-to-back, and if you’re going to one of the most crowded events–which includes all the major movie previews–you’re lucky if you get in at all. You can’t tweet while you’re rushing down a hallway from one end of the convention center to another.

Actually, standing in one place at Comic-Con long enough to tweet is hard, period. The show floor, in particular, is one of the most bustling places I’ve ever been–if you stop moving, you’re likely to be flattened by a squadron of Stormtroopers.

Tweeting at the movie previews is tricky. They’re held in darkened halls, and the illumination of your phone might tick off nearby fellow attendees. The previews are also accompanied by repeated stern warnings about the prohibition of phototaking and audio recording; I’m paranoid, but I tend to keep my phone in my pocket for fear of being mistaken for a pirate and getting dragged off by San Diego Convention Center security goons.

Comic-Con is a sensory experience. South by Southwest Interactive is mostly conversational. Comic-Con involves movies and comics and people dressed as Batgirl and Boris Badenov, plus the opportunity to meet folks such as Ray Bradbury and Stan Freberg–neither of who, I’m guessing, spend much time on Twitter. It’s possible to tweet about it (I did some of that myself) but less satisfying than being there.

Will Twitter have more of an impact at Comic-Con next year? Maybe so–I’m guessing that we still haven’t seen the service peak as a cultural phenomenon. But the convention, at its best, is a pretty wonderful event even sans Twitter. Hollywood may be disappointed, but the low-volume tweeting may simply have been evidence that those 120,000 congoers were having a really, really good time.


Read more: , ,

8 Comments For This Post

  1. Deb Says:

    It sounds like the Comic/movie geek’s version of CES — but instead of awesome new tech-toys, it’s all about the rockin’ new content. After 15 years of CES, I never thought I’d want to go to another trade show, but I’d totally go to this one!

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    It’s crowded and crazy, but fun–go!


  3. Jose Alvear Says:

    Very good points, Harry. I was in San Diego too and didn’t really feel overwhelmed by the amount of Comic-Con tweets. In fact, when I searched Twitter trends for “Comic-Con” or #sdcc I got lots of spam and other uninteresting tweets.

    You made some very good points, however. I’m sure lots of people had their iPhone ready, but because Comic-Con is such a social event, there’s not much opportunity for Tweets.

    Also, you should probably have downloaded the official Comic-Con app for the iPhone. It seemed to be helpful in figuring out where sessions were held and the con schedule.


  4. joe c Says:

    “As far as I know, the con doesn’t do things like offer an iPhone application or send out the sessions as an RSS or iCal feed. It’s just not an event that puts the Internet front and center.”

    How could you have had no idea they did have an iPhone app? They Tweeted about it, emailed people on the mailing list about it, and even had it announced right there on their home page during all of Comic Con. You had a laptop and didn’t look at the page even once? And it would have taken you seconds to verify the existence of the app on the App Store.

    And the Wi-Fi in the dealers room was terrible enough to be nonexistent: anyone I bought merch from that tried using it to send my credit card transaction through couldn’t get it to work and had to send someone to the back of the room to use a wired setup to do so.

    Sorry, but this doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that you were the right person to handle this story accurately.

  5. Lee Says:

    Actually, WiFi was free last year too, and much faster. Whatever crap iGoogle was spoon-feeding us this year was lame. Last year’s movie sponsored internet access was way faster, which may have contributed to why there was less of a computer presence this year than there was last year.

    Waiting for things to load is stupid, and having the best signal near room 29 only was just lame. Big fail, iGoogle.

  6. Lee Says:

    Also, there was an iPhone application this year, my friend used it extensively during Comic Con. It was announced on the Comic Con website, and via its official Twitter.

  7. Lee Says:

    I beg to differ with this. Twitter actually kept me in contact with fellow professionals and friends while at Con, and it kept those that follow me in the know since they weren’t at Comic Con. Sure, I may not have updated as frequently, but I did update whenever I could. Even through previews and panels, and my friends and professional contacts updated throughout as well. Warren Ellis, Tony Lee, James Moran, Brent Spiner…they all kept Twittering throughout Con.

  8. Lee Says:

    Check the #SDCC has on Twitter. YOu’d be surprised.