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Simply Super: T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West 2008 Takes Care of Business at Domain Industry Summit in Las Vegas 
Page 2

By Ron Jackson 

Tuesday (Feb. 19) had been a full, busy and delightful day but it still wasn't over. After Jim McCann's keynote speech TrafficZ bussed registrants to their official T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Party at the indoor/outdoor Voodoo Lounge that sits atop the Rio Hotel, 50 stories above the Las Vegas Strip. It was an excellent venue with great food and comfortable seating indoors and a spectacular view of Las Vegas on the outdoor deck. The party ran until 2am but with an 8am ICA board meeting scheduled the next morning I decided to head back a little earlier knowing my head would thank me in the morning. Below are some photos from T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s biggest night out.

DomainSponsor's Joe Higgins (who is also my favorite drummer) 
with dapper party host Ammar Kubba (right), COO at TrafficZ.com.

Inside the Voodoo Lounge

Diana Jackson and Frank Schilling

50 stories up on the outdoor deck at the Voodoo Lounge

In deference to those who stayed out late partying, the Wednesday seminar schedule didn't start until 10am and that was still too early for most. Few were in the room when a panel that included Kevin Ham, Monte Cahn, Rick Schwartz, Howard Neu and myself took the stage to talk about T.R.A.F.F.I.C. keynote speakers, what has been learned from them and how important they are to the show's agenda. 

Dr. Kevin Ham delivering an unforgettable 
talk Feb. 20 at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West 2008 

It's too bad this early seminar was sparsely attended because Ham, who is both a medical doctor and a wildly successful domain investor, turned it into what was easily one of the highlights of this or any other show. 

When it was his turn to take the podium Ham proved how moving and inspirational a good speaker can be. Talking entirely off the cuff for nearly 50 minutes about what is really important in life; love, passion, parents, children, continual growth, leaving a legacy and the definition of success, Ham moved many in the room to tears (or close to them). No one else wanted to speak after him, not for fear of being upstaged (though we surely would have been) but simply because there was nothing left that needed to be said.

It is easy to get caught up in business an let making money become the top priority in your life. Whether you are wealthy or flat broke, Ham put things in their proper perspective as well as anyone I have ever heard speak on the subject. 

Next up was a seven-man panel  that explored how the industry is viewed by the outside world, how we can influence perceptions and combat abuse directed at domain investors. Those on stage included Bill Sweetman (Tucows.com), Phil Corwin, Mike O'Connor, Dan Warner, Dan Pulcrano (Boulevards News Media founder and the subject of our February Cover Story) and brothers Michael and David Castello of Castello Cities Internet Network (and also subjects of a previous Cover Story in December 2006). Pulcrano, who was and still is a successful print publisher as well as owner of the world's top geodomain portfolio, joked that he used to be in a respectable business (print) but came over to the "dark side". 

Left to right: Dan Pulcrano at podium, Howard Neu, David Castello and Michael Castello

Pulcrano said at first he did not want to be called a domainer but now he is proud of the term and feels that people in this business do not get the respect they deserve for thinking out of the box. "We are pioneers," he observed noting that the upheaval in the media business from print to online would result in the "one of the greatest transfers of wealth in generations." Pulcrano said at the same time, owners of great Internet "land" need to do something positive with it. "It's almost a public trust" he said. 

Everyone on this panel had something interesting to say. It is regrettable that given the scope of a complete conference overview like this we can only note a couple of comments from each individual session. I heard enough from this one to make me think this topic would make a very interesting article of its own. Exploring the industry's image, successes, shortcomings and responsibilities would make a good touchstone to further understanding of the business for those looking at it from the outside.

During the lunch break, .mobi's Pinky Brand gave one of his regular updates on the .mobi extension and I talked briefly about sales trends in the domain market. There is a lot of 

discussion about how a recession in the general economy would affect domains (and some conjecture that it already is). It's hard to imagine that severe dislocation would leave domains unscathed but so far our sales data shows the domain market holding up very well. When I ran the numbers for my market update at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. I found that the total dollar value of sales reported to us in 2007 was $121 million, a 70% jump over the $71 million reported in 2006 (keep in mind that reported sales are just a fraction of total sales - most go unreported). Not a bad increase considering the general economy started stagnating halfway through 2007. 

We were only 6 weeks into the New Year at the time of my talk, but in the early going 2008 sales were running 20% ahead of the same time frame in 2007. With the concerns over the economy that everyone has now,  I'll be keeping a close eye on those trends and will let you know if they change. 

Ron Jackson speaking about domain 
sales trends at Feb. 20 luncheon
(Photo courtesy of Marcia Lynn Walker)

In the final seminar of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West 2008 the question posed was Are PPC Companies Earning Too Much for the Service They Provide or Are They Entitled to a Bigger Slice of the Pie? That topic was tackled by panelists Gregg McNair, Rick Schwartz, Chris Hartnett and Divyank Turakhia

McNair (seen in the top photo at left) has been extremely successful even though he was a latecomer to this industry. Though many are dismayed to see PPC revenue falling McNair still said "There is nothing I have found that is an easier way to make money that domains" and he advised that you can do better be getting familiar with domain optimization tools and into marketplace systems. "You can sit, wait and complain for more money or you can do something about it yourself," McNair said, adding "I've found people to work with who are smarter than me."

Dr. Hartnett (pictured in the center photo at left) who was extremely successful in the telecommunications business. said, "The domain business is so exciting because there is so much opportunity out there - but it is going to change and you have to be ready for that. Our strength is if we all come  together.  It's a good time to build relationships. Creating a co-op might be a good idea to have a back door if needed." Hartnett also noted that PPC companies are limited in how they can respond to the call for transparency because Google and Yahoo are not giving them clearance to give their clients more information - "and we don't have a lot of leverage to change that" he said, adding "we can only push back if we are unified."

Turakhia (seen in the bottom photo in the left column), who runs well-known parking company Skenzo.com, said he thought domain owners were "being paid right". "Just like with any other customer, if you are not devoting the resources to help the customer then you are going to lose the customer," he said.

Certainly a lot of PPC companies see customer churn as domain owners move from one company to another in search of the elusive higher payout. The trend I have been seeing a lot of in the past year is a search for a different means of monetizing domains, whether it be affiliate relationships, selling off more names or going into full scale development - either solo or in partnership arrangements. As Dr. Hartnett noted during his talk, the only thing we can be sure of is that things are going to change.

After a short break it was time for another headline event, the SnapNames Live domain auction conducted by Moniker.com with veteran auctioneer Joel Langbaum calling the action. The auction results, over $4.3 million in sales, have been widely reported now. You can see the complete list of final bids here and our morning after report and commentary was posted here. Another $480,000 was tacked on during a silent online auction that ran for several days beyond the event. 

Since the auction total was less than some previous T.R.A.F.F.I.C. shows some thought the numbers might be a sign of a weakening economy - and they might be - but with $3.1 million worth of domains selling just three weeks earlier in the SnapNames Live auction at DOMAINfest Global, a lot of money was spent in a short time frame. The dollars are just being spread across more venues than ever before. 

As 2008 goes on, results from all venues live and otherwise, will be closely watched for signs of deterioration. We get more verified sales data than anyone else and so far in terms of reported dollars spent, the market is still growing year over year at a double digit rate. Things could always reverse course, but this far, domains continue to be weathering the malaise in the overall economy quite well. 

Moniker's SnapNames Live domain at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West Feb. 20

With another big live sale in the books it was time to close the show with a Farewell Dinner Gala featuring prize drawings, good food and great friends. No matter how many domain conferences are staged, the latter attraction will never go out of style. So for T.R.A.F.F.I.C. fans its on to Disney World in May. I think that will be a great time and I understand the Disney folks, who actively courted T.R.A.F.F.I.C., are working up some special treats. One of their cast members, Iona Domain, even made the trip to Las Vegas to start getting people psyched up for the trip to Orlando May 20-24.

Disney's Iona Domain gets my attention after flying in from Orlando to 
promote T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s upcoming show at Disney World May 20-24.
(Photo courtesy of Barbara Neu)

I hope you can bring the kids and join in the fun at Disney World this spring. Rick and Alina Schwartz and Howard, Barbara and Ray Neu will all make you feel right at home.

Above: Rick and Alina Schwartz
Right: Ray Neu & mom Barbara

*****

More Cool Pictures in the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West 2008 Photo Gallery


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