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Photo Illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

This week was to be the annual TED conference, with thousands of business leaders, celebrities, artists and scientists gathered in Vancouver to share ideas. Instead, Wednesday became the first step in the organizers’ effort to take their entire event online.

Why it matters: While many conferences have moved online, the shift is particularly tricky for luxury events, where much of the value is around in-person networking and socializing.

Driving the news: In many ways, Wednesday’s half-day “prequel” was not unlike a typical TED session. There were a series of talks and performances by musicians, along with short interstitial videos and time in between for hobnobbing in a chat room.

  • The talks themselves were picked to be relevant in the coronavirus era, with speakers like epidemiologist Larry Brilliant and Crisis Text Line CEO Nancy Lublin (who recently appeared on Axios on HBO) talking COVID-19 response.

Between the lines: The challenge for TED, and others that do high-end events, is creating an experience that people will pay thousands of dollars for without the in-person schmoozing, gourmet food, unique expeditions and other perks. 

My thought bubble: I was somewhat skeptical — but the talks were good, and I found myself using the breaks to check in with people I regularly see at TED.

  • Yes, but: Useful doesn't mean I'd pay big money for the experience. And my sense of community was largely based on the real-world connections I'd already made attending the event the last several years in person.

What's next: Wednesday's event was a preview of this year's fully virtual TED conference, which will stretch over eight weeks beginning in May.

Go deeper

Resurrecting Martin Luther King's office

King points to Selma, Alabama on a map at his Southern Christian Leadership Conference office in Atlanta in January 1965. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Contributor

Efforts to save the office where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., planned some of the most important moments of the civil rights movement are hitting roadblocks amid a political stalemate.

Why it matters: The U.S. Park Service needs to OK agreements so a developer restoring the historic Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Atlanta — which once housed King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference — can tap into private funding and begin work.

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.