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What It’s Really Like To Attend Alt Summit

by on Mar 6, 2017

If you’ve been following along our #behindthescenes blog posts, you’ve probably heard me talk about Alt Summit (Altitude Design Summit). So, what is Alt Summit anyway? Is it enough to say it’s a conference for bloggers? A lot of the people reading this might not really know what a blogger does, or why they would need a conference to talk about it.

I mean, if you imagine a doctor’s conference, you can kind of guess would be going on: presentations about knee replacement devices and digital records and malpractice suits. And most people intuitively know what a sales conference is about: networking, showing off new products, etc.

Palm trees and a pool near a hotel.
The Saguaro Hotel

But what do bloggers need to confer about? Here’s the thing: a lot of bloggers actually operate what could be called a small business. They’re not making millions; but they are making enough money to support – or partially support – a family. And then there are a ton of people who want to be making a living blogging, but just aren’t sure how.

Restaurant with lots of chairs and tables and hanging light lamps.


Wooden ladder shelves with plants.

So that means there are lots of questions to be answered about how to take that next step. How to go from blogging as something where you just open up your laptop and type in what’s going on in your life, to blogging as a daily, structured, money-making enterprise.

For example, very basic questions like:


  • What’s the best way to host my blog? What platform should I use to run it (and why)?
  • How do I register a domain name? How do I pick a domain name?
  • Should I use my real name in my byline, or a pseudonym?
  • Is it legal to re-post photos I find on other websites? What if I give attribution?
  • What is Google AdSense? Should I use it?

To more advanced things, like:


  • How often should I publish? How do I come up with an editorial plan/strategy?
  • How do I use analytics to figure out what’s happening on my blog? What are people looking at? Where are they coming from?
  • How much should I charge for sponsored content? What’s the right way to approach a brand with a sponsored content proposal?
  • How do I hire writers for my blog? How much should I pay them?

To really advanced things, like:


  • How do I implement header bidding on my site? Will the increased latency damage my UX?
  • I’m using Skimlinks to auto-affiliate links on the mobile and desktop versions of my site. How do I affiliate links in my AMP and Facebook Instance versions?
  • Speaking of AMP and Facebook Instant: what about those? Are they sustainable distribution channels for my content, or one of the biggest mistakes a publisher can make?
  • I want to grow my business; what are my best financing options? Should I look for an investor, take out debt, cash out my retirement plan, or just bootstrap it?

As you can see, I kind of like writing down all the questions that keep me up at night. Makes me feel a little saner.

But the point is, those are just a few of the topics a ‘professional’ (or semi-professional) blogger needs to think about. There are lots more! Notice I barely talked about the actual content side of things, like ‘How should I photograph my latest melting-ice-cream-cone-selfie for Instagram’.

The Alt Summit organizers have done a great job of understanding that the people attending their conference are all at different points on the blogger continuum. A session about the basic questions of blogging isn’t going to be that useful to me (since I picked out and bought our domain name more than ten years ago)But a session that I really enjoy, about the future of content distribution, might be over the head of someone who’s just starting out.

Alt Summit has a multi-track schedule, with simultaneous sessions going on at each time slot, so you can pick and choose a course through the day that suits you best. Here’s a quick recap of what Alicia and I did on Wednesday, the first day we were there:

9am – I went to a talk by Jaime Derringer, Kelly Bealle, and Alexandra Evjen about repurposing your old content. Alicia went to see Jihan Zencirli and Darcy Miller talk about unusual ways to kindle your creativity.

10:45 – I presented with Jordan Ferney about monetization for new bloggers. We tried to be really transparent and practical (i.e. here’s what you should charge for X). If I hadn’t been presenting, I would’ve loved to have caught the session about live video going on right next door.

1:30pm – After a glorious outdoor lunch, I hit up Tori Tait and Nannette Wong‘s presentation about accellerating your social media growth. Tori’s a Pinterest genius, and Nannette knows Instagram like no-one else, so these insights were extremely valuable to me.

Meanwhile, Alicia went to Live Pitch session with Alaska Airlines, where bloggers got to pitch the brand – in real time – on a sponsored content collaboration.

3:30 – I hear Jyl Johnson Pattee and Jenny Komenda break down, step-by-step, in amazing detail, their process for pitching brands and PR agencies. Incredible detail and emphasis on practical tips. This wasn’t just a page from their playbook; it was the whole playbook.

At the same time, Alicia was over in the Sago Room dancing along with Alison Faulkner and Susan Peterson and getting inspired.

And that was just the first day! Thursday was filled with more sessions, food, conversations with sponsors, and best of all, meeting other bloggers in the hallways, around the coffee booth and outside by the pool.

Although the Alt Summit sessions were great (as I hope I conveyed above), like most conferences, the best thing about Alt is the networking. I met bloggers from all over the world; I met bloggers who I’d previously known only online (guess what? meeting people in person is way better); and I talked to sponsors, new and old.

Del Marcos Motel, surrounded by lush grass and palm trees.

On top of all that, the conference was in Palm Springs this year (for the first time), and Palm Springs, if you’ve never been there (I hadn’t), is just incredible. It’s beautiful and colorful and laid back and small, easy to get around, and friendly. I want to go to there (again).

If you’re into Mid-Century design and architecture (or just … great architecture), Palm Springs is a fire hose of it. We did an architecture tour on Friday with Robert Imber that blew me away and reminded me that great architecture is really just great art. Which means Palm Springs is like a living museum, a mass art installation that you can walk through and even live in.Old car parked in the driveway of a white house.

So, what’s not to like? Well, one knock on Alt Summit is that it’s almost entirely attended by women. I mean, I like women, OK? Nobody likes women more than I do, believe me (sorry, too much Trump in my news feed lately). But I know there are a lot of men who blog, and there are tons of great blogs that focus on men’s lifestyle topics, fashion, DIY, woodworking, sports, etc. I don’t know why more men don’t go; I get that, in some ways, Alt is meant to be for women. I just think it’s a shame that we miss out on the perspective of all the men in the industry who have a lot to say (and learn) about how blogging works.

What else? Umm… it’s pretty expensive. At $500 per ticket, plus airfare, plus hotel & food, it’s not an expense many people will be able to take lightly. That’s isn’t to say it’s not worth it; you just have to make sure you make it worth it. That means planning your day a little bit, being proactive about meeting with new people, scheduling time to talk to sponsors, etc. It’d also be nice if there was some kind of scholarship or discount program to help new bloggers or young people get in the mix.

Group of people attending a summit together working on a laptop set on top of a long white table.
My presentation on Monetizing Facts for New Bloggers

Overall, this year’s Alt Summit trip was absolutely worth it for us. And it didn’t hurt that it overlapped with our anniversary and was in a warm, beautiful place! We’ll definitely be going back next year. 

Man and woman taking selfie on a bike ride
The Ace Hotel (where we stayed) offered free bikes for us to borrow! So I took Alicia out on the town for a 9th anniversary cruise …


Just getting started in blogging? What are the questions you’d most like to have answered? Let me know in the comments!




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  1. They might want to look into changing the summit’s name. My first thought when I read the title was it was a political post.

  2. @sam – reasonable point, although the conference is actually called ‘Altitude Summit’; everyone just shortens that to ‘Alt’. Still, I don’t see it being much of a problem for them.

  3. Hi
    Great round up of what sounds like an incredible event.
    Wondering roughly how many people attend the event as I cant seem to find this detail anywhere?

  4. @leonie I’m not sure exactly how many. I think it’s several hundred.