Baratunde Thurston gives opening remarks at South by Southwest Interactive.
Baratunde Thurston gives opening remarks at South by Southwest Interactive. - 
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Today is the start of the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, TX. What was first known as an indie music gathering and then a music and film festival, starts out this year as very much an interactive, startup, new media hotspot.

"In terms of industry presence, meaning paid registrants, we are now bigger than South by Southwest music," says Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive.

And with the growing numbers comes growing clout, according to Forrest, who credits a budding tech “cool factor” for the conference’s success.

"Geeks are the new rock stars," he says. "When Mark Zuckerberg gets married it's covered in People. When Steve Jobs dies, it’s like John Lennon dying."

So how do you tell the tech rock stars from the indie music rock stars? Louis Black, one of the original founders of SXSW and editor of the Austin Chronicle, says when you meet a festival-goer, listen to how they talk about funding their creativity.

"Whereas the music and film people [talk] passively about fundraising, all the Interactive people [talk] about what money they have just gotten and what they are going to do with it," says Black.

To hear more about the South by Southwest Interactive, click on the audio player above.

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Follow David Brancaccio at @DavidBrancaccio