The first time I went to the IAAPA Attractions Expo was 2000, just a few weeks after my first honeymoon. It was in Atlanta that year. I went the whole week, and it rained most of that time. Beyond the show, I did the CNN tour. I very quickly learned that four days is way too much time to spend at the show.
There have been 17 shows since then, including that one, and I've been to more than I haven't. I know I didn't go the year it was in Las Vegas, or the years it returned to Atlanta. Also not years I lived in Seattle or after returning to Cleveland. I'll go with 10 or 11. I've been to the last four straight because, living in Orlando, why not? I even took Simon to one, and Diana to her second.
A lot has changed since that first time in 2000. CoasterBuzz was still in its first year, and I was working for a media company at the time, even though I was working in software. I was still anxious to exercise my education and first love in those days, so I generated a lot of content. I had big interviews with CEO's of theme park companies and manufacturers and anyone who would talk to me. I was adamant about going beyond the photo porn and writing interesting stuff. There was something fascinating about the fact that you could reach so many people and build an audience in those days. With a little coding, you could make it awesome.
In 2007 and 2008, I spoke in the education part of the conference about social media. I don't think the term "social media" had been coined yet, but I knew I had been doing it with the industry's biggest fans at that point for nine years. I was surprised at how few people were interested, but enjoyed the experience.
After a four-year absence, I returned in 2013, because we lived in Orlando, and also because I somehow ended up working an industry job. This was an exceptionally weird situation for me, because I already by working at SeaWorld Entertainment knew more about what was going on throughout the industry. That was the year that I pretty much wouldn't run with anything on CoasterBuzz unless it was reported in mainstream media. Even since then, my connectivity is higher, so I can't really "go there" from a journalistic sense without risking relationships. And even though I don't imagine going to back to work in the biz (it doesn't pay very well, and it's a very small industry), I don't want to burn any bridges.
The bigger issue though is that making content and putting it on the Internet isn't as profitable as it used to be. It's not an issue of traffic, it's just that eyeballs aren't worth what they used to be. It's a disincentive. When put against the priorities of a solid day job and a family I adore, it's harder to commit time to a lot of content generation. It's not that I don't enjoy doing it now and then (I've enjoyed cutting the occasional mini-doc), it's the ROI.
The biggest incentive to visiting IAAPA for me though is the chance to catch up with friends. I do enjoy it for that, if only to talk about our kids and families and the little things about life that co-located friends get to talk about on a more frequent basis.