Organizers of the nextMEDIA festival held last month in Prince Edward Island say the event was a success and they look forward to further marketing the conference and expanding it in response to participant demand. Executives have announced a new venue for the event in response to the single largest criticism - the hotel facilities - while lauding the innovative work done by interactive firms Fourth Wall Media Inc. and Impact Mobile. Further, they say non-broadcast-related facets such as gaming and wireless streams will be bolstered as organizers at the Banff Television Festival pursue new sponsorship agreements. Executive producer Berni Wood tells Canadian NEW MEDIA that one likely participant in next year’s event will be the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). She says that group’s involvement, like other large potential participants, was precluded by the late date at which Banff officials began preparing this year’s festival. The Banff organization only announced that it was taking over the festival from the Atlantic Digital Media Festival in February (CNM, Feb. 7/03). "It’s a matter of timing," Wood says. "These guys have their budget spent early in the year. We were facing that." Participation by groups such as the CWTA and other non-content entities will likely be crucial to the success of the conference in future years. Previous years’ events have been criticized by new media players for their focus on broadcast-related content and lack of depth in conference streams. But this year’s conference, for instance, featured a keynote address and interactive session with Timo Soinenen, president of the online avatar world Habbo Hotel. Non-entertainment-related sessions featured topics such as e-health, peer-to-peer instruction, e-learning and blogging. While broadcast-related companies were an important part of this year’s delegate base, including new media producers whose bread and butter is creating interactive content for various television shows, games development companies, new media-only players, education companies and others were reasonably well represented. Wood says she sees this year’s variety of delegates as encouraging. "I would like to see more wireless companies and I would like to see more gaming companies. But, you know, for the first year? I think we did pretty good…I think it’s a matter of all these people trying to figure out how they fit together." One of the best-received facets of the 2003 nextMEDIA conference was new interactivity introduced at a late stage by partners Fourth Wall Media and Impact Mobile. The conference venue at the Rodd Royalty Inn and Suites was wired with several large plasma screens that streamed conference information, and users were also encouraged to register their numbers with organizers to receive short message service (SMS) information. The conference used a SMS short code lent by Global Television to let keynote audiences send text messages to the moderators - though spotty wireless service was a common complaint, especially among users of Rogers AT&T Wireless devices. Attendees were also heavy users of a temporary Wi-Fi wireless Internet hotspot set up at the venue. Fourth Wall president Mike Gingris says conferences might see SMS sponsorship messages sent to delegates, advertisements streamed on the plasma screens, and even sponsor branding on the access cards distributed to attendees. Details will have to wait until a full analysis is undertaken. Gary Schwartz, president of Impact Mobile, which provided SMS services, is also generally pleased. His company was the only one of a new breed of wireless content aggregators to attend nextMEDIA. With its emphasis on content creation, Schwartz sees the festival as an in to a potential market for SMS not currently tapped. "Where I think the opportunity is, is on the content creation side. That’s why I think there was (no other aggregators) at the nextMEDIA event - because it hasn’t matured to a point where (aggregators) can say ‘we’re not just talking about a vote on top of a canned production.’ If it’s a vote on top of a canned production, you don’t need those guys at nextMEDIA. You go straight to broadcasters."