For Schwartz and Neu, the bad news was that attendance at this
show was down considerably from their February
show in Las Vegas, south of 300 by most estimates. The good
news is that many people who went to Orlando, including me, will tell you
that it was the most enjoyable conference they've ever
attended. In the short term customer satisfaction may not cover the
cost of taking over
the entire conference center (and guaranteeing a huge block of
expensive rooms) at Disney World's crown jewel - the Grand
Floridian Resort. However, those happy campers will
create word of mouth buzz, letting people know that someone is
hitting the refresh button on the conference scene. I
believe that is the prescription needed to cure the current trade show
A lot of people advised Schwartz and Neu not to
go to Orlando in late May. Domainers were used to attending
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East in the fall at an Atlantic Coast resort.
pointed out that Orlando is hot
in late May and Disney World is not a big attraction for the many young
single guys who are active in the domain business. They also noted
those who do have families and would be attracted to Disney, the
dates fell before their kids were out of school.
Jackson in front of Cinderella's
Castle May 23 during domainer's late
night out in the Magic Kingdom.
|So what made it such a great week despite all
of that? One thing I learned was that a lot of people (again
including me) had a misconception about how adult friendly Disney
World is for conventioneers today. I only live 75 minutes from the
park but my wife and I had not been there since our daughter entered
middle school over a decade ago. To us the thrill of Disney World
came from the wonder in our daughter Brittany's eyes as she explored the Magic
I didn't know about the night clubs and shopping that
have grown up on Disney's Pleasure Island. TrafficZ's traditional
show party at the Raglan Road Irish Pub (which we will talk
about more later) was a riot - one of the best ever. To top it off,
we got to experience it through our daughter's eyes again as she
made it to her first domain conference, having just gotten
home after finishing her junior year in college.
Several more college age kids were there with
their parents too and we all had a fabulous time together as
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. delivered in a big way on their promise of a family
friendly show. The nice thing is that the young single guys loved it too.
20-something founder of Skenzo, Divyank Turakhia, went Disney hook,
line and sinker, wearing mouse ears just about everywhere he went.
Because of that I am now in his debt. After being in a large group that wore various
Disney headgear at the farewell dinner Friday night, I was alarmed
to find I was the only one still wearing mine when a large group got
together to go into the Magic Kingdom for hotel guest only extended
hours from 11pm - 2am. Seeing my discomfort, Divyank promptly pulled
his mouse ears out of his pocket and placed them on his head. With a
great sense of relief I exclaimed "All right! Now there
are two idiots in the crowd!" I'm not sure that was the
right way to phrase it, but I now owe Div big time.
of the domain "mouseketeers" at Friday night's
farewell dinner. (L to R): My new hero
Divyank Turakhia, Caroline Grant, Ron
Jackson, Brittany Jackson, Rob Grant, Diana
Jackson, Gregg McNair and Elizabeth Grant
(Caroline and Elizabeth are Rob's daughters)
The next morning my daughter commented on what
a great night it had been noting "I have never been in a crowd where
people ranging in age from 20 to close to 70 had so much fun together." I know you are saying, "That's all well
and good but I thought there were supposed to be some business benefits
to going to conferences!" There were plenty of those too.
have to refer to Turakhia again (he was lit up like a 500-watt
halogen bulb all week). Near the end of the show he told me "I
thought this show might suck, but it has been a blast and I did some
great business deals too!"
the PPC expert who came all the
way from Australia expressed similar sentiments on his blog writing
"In terms of business T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Orlando was by far the
best conference that I've ever been to. Deals were coming left,
right and center. Not just small ones but BIG ones! My
opinion is that it was a well run event that had some very
interesting and thought provoking sessions."
That potent combination of brisk business and
loads of fun was the story of the week. But I'm getting ahead of
myself. Let's pick things up from the beginning and give you the
grand tour you've come to expect.
The event got underway with a Tuesday evening
cocktail party (May 20). We made the short drive from Tampa to
Orlando and reached the hotel shortly after check in time. We had
stayed at several other hotels at Disney World but had never been to
|Grand Floridian, which was a revelation. The facility is
stunning with classic Victorian architecture, multiple swimming
pools (one open around the clock and usually frequented at 4am by a
group of insomniac domainers), waterfalls, a private beach, marina,
24-hour restaurant, direct monorail service to the Disney
parks, etc. Just a wonderful venue that, at least to my tastes, was
the best I've been to at any show.
from the balcony of our room at Disney's Grand Floridian
The first story we heard upon arrival was how
"lead foot" Sahar Sarid had made the drive from South
Florida to the Disney gate in record time, only to get lost inside
the complex for an hour and a half while he futilely searched for
the Grand Floridian! You wouldn't think it would be hard to find,
but locating the narrow road that leads to the resort is a bit
tricky. Here's the secret. Ask which road to take when you go
through the gate! Worked like a charm for us :-)
Sarid (at far right above) finally found his way to the hotel
partner Jeff Bhavnanie (far left) and Alina Schwartz
helped cheer him up!
(Photo courtesy of Barbara Neu)
We had plenty of time to change and head down
to the cocktail party where many new faces were sprinkled
among the old friends. Show organizers said this was the first
domain conference for about a third of attendees. They picked a good
one. The fact that the crowd was smaller than usual was actually a
plus for registrants. It allows you to spend more time
networking with specific individuals you might never have a chance
to talk to in a crowd of 600.
to right): Ray Neu, Barbara Neu, Pat Carbonaro
and Greg Carbonaro
at the opening night cocktail party.
The cocktail party wrapped up at 8 on the
button so people could move into an adjacent room for Moniker.com's
auction appetizer, a no or low reserve sale limited to about 30
domains. That trial run for the main live auction event Friday
produced $62,750 in sales despite the short list (DayCare.org
was the top name, going for $16,500).
The first full day of business opened Wednesday
(May 21) with welcoming remarks from Schwartz and Neu. Schwartz
talked about how the malaise in the general economy would open up
some great opportunities to acquire premium assets at below market
prices in 2008 as some owners will be forced to sell names they
would not put on the market in better times.
Internet Commerce Association Legal Counsel
Phil Corwin and Executive Director Michael Collins also spoke during
the opening hour. Corwin gave an update on the success the ICA has
had in fending off the Snowe bill that threatens all domain owners.
While our side seems to have the upper hand in the opening battle,
there is still a war to be fought and won that will continue over
the next several years.
Collins asked domain owners to get involved
with the association as it will take all of us rowing the same
direction to fend off the increasing threats to our assets.
The decline in parking revenue has been the hot
topic in the industry over the past year so it was fitting that the
opening seminar at 11am addressed that
Legal Counsel Phil Corwin
| subject. The panel included Michael Gilmour,
Donny Simonton (Parked.com), Jonathan Boswell
(LeaseThis.com) and Jerry Nolte (Domainer's
Magazine). Gilmour is a numbers guy who has posted a lot
of terrific research and articles on his Whizzbang's
Blog. In fact both of the complete Powerpoint presentations
he delivered in Orlando have been posted on his blog.
I thought Simonton made one of the most
interesting observations of this session. He said that a number of
advertisers had told him they were now buying domains outright
instead of buying traffic from Google and Yahoo as it was more cost
effective in the long run. If that is occurring it would partially explain
both the fall off in advertiser bids and the fact that the
aftermarket has continued to outperform previous years despite the
big falloff in PPC revenue.
panel members (left to right): Jerry Nolte, Jonathan
Michael Gilmour and at the podium, Donny Simonton.
As Boswell pointed out, the nice thing
about domains is that there are many ways to profit from them beyond
PPC. "Domain owners have tons of options," Boswell said.
You can raise cash through CPA programs (that pay for each completed
sale rather than each click), selling domains, leasing, partnerships
and of course full-scale development.
|During the lunch break Domain Name Wire
founder Andrew Allemann delivered some previously unreleased
results from his site's annual survey of domainers. Schwartz and Neu
were happy to hear that 60% of DNW's readers picked
the top domain conference (more than double the percentage that went
to the runner up).
Survey respondents also picked Schwartz as the
most influential person in the industry (outpointing runner up Frank
Schilling 27% to 19%). You can see the complete survey results on
these and other questions here.
Andrew does an excellent job with his site and is a great guy as
well. I take a lot of pleasure in seeing the domain media corps
(that includes sites like his) that
has grown up around this business. It is a sure sign of a healthy,
growing industry. We are really blessed to have so many good writers
with interesting and insightful points of view covering this space.
After lunch, Rick Schwartz unveiled a
fascinating new product, Vertisi, that he has taken an
ownership interest in. In a nutshell the product allows you to
apply a special film on any glass surface and turn it into an
interactive display (with full web access). Schwartz predicted it
would be a billion dollar product and the possibilities for the
technology do indeed appear to be endless. We wrote about it from
Orlando in our Lowdown section May
22 so check that out for more details.
In the first afternoon informational session a
half dozen experts took seats on the dais to talk about the future
of parking. The participants included Ammar Kubba (TrafficZ),
Divyank Turakhia (Skenzo), Don Ham (HitFarm), Matt Bentley
Jeff Kupietsky (Oversee.net) and the afore-mentioned Micheal Gilmour.
Kubba said that parking is never going to go away (no matter what
Google and Yahoo do) but that it will evolve into a form that will
include other monetization methods beyond PPC, including the ability
for domain owners to sell their own direct advertising on their landing pages.
"That's how we are going to get revenue back up," Kubba
Ham agreed that parking will become a hybrid model and that
was the upshot of the whole discussion - all of the participants are
working on ways to incorporate multiple revenue sources into the
parking model. With PPC revenue down, the parking companies are catching some flack but it is worth remembering that they
make more money if you make more money, so they have a vested
interested in improving the current model and keeping their client
|The final seminar Wednesday focused on what is
happening with the Snowe
bill and how the industry needs to prepare for this and
other threats in the future. ICA Legal Counsel Phil Corwin, Nat
Cohen (Telepathy.com) and Andrew Allemann (Domain Name Wire) were
the panelists. Corwin said the Snowe bill is currently bottled up
(partly due to stiff opposition the ICA was able to help rally) but
that backers of the bill will keep fine tuning it and trotting it
out there in new iterations in an effort to make it easier to get
assets away from domain owners without paying for them. This is not
the time to fall asleep at the wheel, rather it is a time to arm and
prepare for the inevitable next skirmish in the battle.
That was it in terms of seminars on opening day
- just three of them - part of T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s plan to refresh the
show model and give people more of what they want and that in a word
is "networking". At 5pm the first of two speed networking
sessions was held (the second followed the next morning), this one
returning to a popular format introduced at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East two
Participants faced each other across tables throughout
the hall, with one row moving down a seat every 90 seconds so that
everyone got to meet, exchange cards and comments with over two dozen
people before the hour ended. You would be amazed how many valuable
contacts you can make in those 90-second bursts.
from the speed networking session Wednesday (May 21)
The networking continued at a TrafficZ cocktail
party that got the crowd warmed up for the evening's main event - a
bus trip to Pleasure Island and TrafficZ's Official T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
Party at the Raglan Road Irish Pub. I already commented on this
earlier in the article, so I will just reiterate that it was a great
party with Irish music, dancing, drinks and great conversation. This
is a point where the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words"
so here are some scenes from that memorable night out:
was wall to wall domainers inside the Raglan Road Irish Pub.
Michael Robertson learning the finer points of Irish folk dancing.
a break from the action inside (left to right): Michael Bahlitzanakis
Patrick Carleton (Associated Cities), Uri Kerbel (NetRocket),
Lonnie Borck (NetRocket),
Sean Stafford (DNZoom) and Dan Kimball (DNZoom).
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