Has South by Southwest Interactive (SWSXi) Gotten Too Big?

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"Has the South by Southwest Interactive festival turned into a Mardi Gras?" asks a story in today's USA Today. With attendance up more than 30 percent over last year's record-breaking 14,000-strong crowd, SXSWi closes today after more than 1,000 presentations from 1,600-plus speakers. Is it worth further breaking up the experience (interactive is already one of three South by Southwest parts; the other two are music and movies) so that participants can enjoy a more cohesive program?

A kaleidoscope of images -- festive folks adorned in colorful beads, and impromptu parades -- were as ubiquitous as geeks, gadgets and gabbing at panels. Blame it on a coinciding spring break and crowds bursting at the seams here in Austin.

"The one thing the Internet did not have until now is a cultural event," says Dave Morin, CEO of Path, a personal network that limits your connections to 50 friends. (It recently spurned a $100 million buyout offer from Google, according to TechCrunch). "That's South by Southwest."

"This was always a creative mecca, but now it has become an icon," says Morin, a former Facebook executive.

The enormity of SXSWi, which closes today, was not lost on those who braved long lines and packed panels. Attendance was up more than 30%, show organizers say, from last year's record 14,000, prompting some to wonder if the festival had outgrown the cozy confines of downtown Austin. Some even suggest breaking up the show into smaller parts to handle the overflow crowds.

Until then, companies large, small and in-between tried everything in their marketing arsenal to stand out.

Read the full story at USA Today.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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