South By Southwest Interactive And Film Kicks Off In Austin

The annual gathering of the arts and technology industries is getting underway in Austin, Texas, where sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s are forecast for the weekend.

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South By Southwest, commonly referring to as SXSW, was founded in 1987 by four local entrepreneurs and has emerged as one of the dominant conferences and festival in the world. In 1994, the film and interactive portions of the event were added in a shrewd move that has helped broaden the event’s appeal.

SXSW Interactive has become a major event for the technology world. Twitter launched at SXSW in 2007, followed by the buzz from Foursquare and location-focused startups in 2009.

Most people are calling 2011 the year of the group messaging start-ups. The New York Times has reported on the topic with profiles on companies like GroupMe and Yobongo.

Users have begun adopting social messaging as a way to create groups within the larger social graph of Facebook and Twitter. Facebook recently acquired the social messaging start-up Beluga, and TechCrunch has even suggested that the company is interested in turning their social network into a smartphone.

While many group messaging companies will use SXSW as a launch pad, social commerce and group buying should also factor heavily into the discussion. The next step for nascent group messaging start-ups will be attracting advertisers and local businesses who can target groups with deals or coupons for products and services.

In film news, the director Rodman Flender will premiere his documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, which was filmed during O’Brien’s “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour” that followed his leave from NBC. O’Brien is expected to be in attendance at the premiere.

SXSW has also launched a free festival sampler, available on iTunes. The compilation brings together new artists like Glasser, Toro Y Moi and Small Black, as well as established acts like Hayes Carll and Lucinda Williams who will perform at this year’s music festival, which launches on Wednesday, March 16.

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