I’m here at the DLD conference in Munich, Germany, which has become one of the high-end meetups for the European business crowd — and I’m prowling for stories, which I’ll share if I get them.
DLD stands for “Digital, Life, Design.” The conference focuses on those themes and how they’re shaping our world today. It’s organized by giant European publisher Burda.
Here’s my observation so far: US attendees tend to be more obsessed about the financial crisis than the Europeans. For the Europeans, the DLD is more of a business meetup, and if they mention the financial crisis, its more of an undertone about how the mess is causing a bit of identity crisis, though in a good way: People are coming together as Europeans instead of Italians, Germans, Brits, etc., to figure out how to compete — which is important considering that breaking parochial boundaries will only serve to help European entrepreneurs.
The debate about the financial crisis was enlightening. European panelists said one weakness the continent has (in combating the downturn) is its aging demographic. On the other hand, the need to invest extensively in e-health could give Europe an advantage because of its more centralized health care systems.
The number of attendees is way down — to around 800 from 1,600 last year — but organizers say they cut the number of attendees on purpose after complaints about the conference being crowded in the past. Indeed, return attendees tell me the conversations are better. Overall, I’m impressed by the high quality.
The politics panel stirred controversy. It focused on the Obama campaign and the move of the US government to be more open and transparent. Jack Hidary, a clean-energy proponent, was on the panel, and discussed how he formed a Facebook group and started blogging to organize people. At one point they were running an internet political campaign with over 10,000 members. Randi Zuckerberg (Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister) gave details on the success of the Obama campaign: The campaign, she said, did a great job targeting voters and donors based on the parameters such as college, birthrates and studies.
The audience started to ask a variety of questions about who should rightfully own political data from internet campaigns: public companies like Facebook, political parties, individual politicians, the users themselves or the government. Audience members, for example, wondered how the data may be abused. In Europe, this is a sensitive topic. Analogies to the abuse of mass media in Nazi Germany were made (don’t forget, Hitler was voted into power in an election). Others were wondering if individual politicians would become more powerful if they (and not their parties) were able to collect such data. Viviane Redding, the EU commissioner for information society and media, sitting in the audience, expressed concern about companies owning such data. The US panelists were particularly surprised by the hoopla. The signifiance of the political targeting issue became clear in a conversation after the panel when someone privately speculated about a scenario where News Corp would buy Facebook — bringing Fox, the WSJ, MySpace and Facebook all under one roof.
Meanwhile, there’s some info on the panel about new media models here.