When Blogstock first launched in 2014, it attracted just over 200 travel, lifestyle, parent & fashion bloggers to Aldenham Country Park at Elstree on the outskirts of London, for a mixture of camping, workshops, presentations, networking, music, entertainment and fun.
Last weekend it returned to its campground, slightly larger and, after the tickets were sold out several weeks ago, with around 300 participants. It was also noticeable this year that the number of industry sponsors with a presence at the festival had increased, with regulars like Expedia & Hertz joined by the likes of APH (Airport Parking & Hotels), Florida Keys & Key West, Travel Alberta, Tourism Ireland, Room Auction.com, Kuoni, and Affilinet.
The organisation had a more laid back feel to it this year, and lessons (especially on the suitability of single skin festival tents!) have been learned from the previous year.
Michael Ball, heads up the Traverse Events team who organise Blogstock. Last year he says, was an enormously steep learning curve. A festival like this requires a great amount of attention to safety, security and licensing issues.
"But now we have done it once, and we have a 'track record', we know what we are doing," he says. "So we are more relaxed about it, and the local council are more relaxed about us.
There has also been a step change in the range of 'entertainment'. Once again sponsors were at hand with bouncy castles and racetracks for the young... and not so young, but also this year there were live musicians, where last year it was just Matt Preston (blogger and now a member of the Traverse organising team) in DJ mode (he's very good) and the presentations included live animal encounters (snakes, birds of prey, meerkats, armadillo & a tarantula!) and celebrity speakers (Bill Oddie).
The key element of Blogstock is still the presentations and workshops, designed for new bloggers, established pro-bloggers and those inbetween.
For example, if blogging is not yet earning you the income level and lifestyle you dreamed of, then there were a couple of talks that could have helped inspire you. Sarah & Terry Lee's How to harness your value and earn a living from your blog was a practical guide to becoming a steely-eyed business professional, while still being creative. Meanwhile in the 'Blog to Boss' tent, Alexandra Jimenez and Ximena de la Serna ran back to back presentations, respectively, on Carving your space in the blogosphere; The one secret that will turn your blog into a business; How I make a full time income blogging; and Be a Youtuber and how to get 40,000 subscribers.
If you already know how to run a successful blog or vlog, the Tipi was the venue for you, with Raj Dhokia explaining, in Creative accounting, what bloggers need to know about keeping their financial accounts on track & meeting the taxman's requirements, and a number of talks looking at other ways to create extra revenue streams, namely: Elizabeth Sellers on How to use your expertise to create an e-course; Brenna Holeman on Turning your blog into a book; and Amanda Mouttaki on Six steps to launch a conventional business from your blog.
Amanda and her husband have created a successful food tours business in Marrakesh, based on her food blog MarocMama. Some among her audience might have been inspired to do something similar and earn some extra cash at Blogstock because one area where the festival falls short is catering. The food stalls at Blogstock are excellent, but inadequate. There was only one source of coffee all weekend (free, with large queues, at the Affilinet stand) and 30-40 minute queues for breakfast from only one (Sunday) or two (Saturday) outlets.
Over the last few years it has been possible to detect trends in the way the blogging and social media community interact and work with industry, PRs and marketers, based on themes expressed at social media conferences and trade events (eg. Traverse, TBEX, STS, WTM, ITB). So often new ideas about the way we work are discussed and then, six to eighteen months later they are spotted out 'in the field'.
In the final panel session, moderator Kevin May, refered to that process on display at Blogstock.
"A year ago we were all talking about the need for bloggers to become more professional, and this year you can see that is exactly what has happened".
There's another trend, but one the organisers can do nothing about. Last year, campers at Blogstock endured some record rainfall during the night. Thankfully the days were sunny and warm. This year we had rain, no sun (until the Sunday morning when everyone was leaving), and it was extremely cold. September, it turns out, is the new 'January'.
The weather Gods owe us. Next year we demand an 'Indian summer'! And we expect to see it!
Now that a few days have passed there are a number of blog post reviews and videos from Blogstock, and these are a few worth highlighting.
If you have created or come across others, then please list them in the comments below.
*If you know better, tell me.
Photos: Blogstock/Macca Sherifi