Knowing the city (which
is the hometown for most of the men and women on the show's
production team) and the capabilities of the people who were putting
Mardi Gras, I knew that if any new conference had a
chance to get a toehold at this late stage of the game, it would be
this one. Over three days from February 19-21 in the Big Easy
the DMG team came through with flying colors.
Domainer Mardi Gras began just three weeks
after the DOMAINfest
Global conference completed a very successful run in Hollywood,
California and that undoubtedly put a damper on the overall
number of registrants (I would estimate attendance in the 150-200
range). However with more than 700,000 visitors in town for
Mardi Gras (according to the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention
and Visitors Bureau), show goers wound up being engulfed in the
biggest crowd most of them have ever been a part of.
Gras revelers competing for beads and other "throws"
as parade floats go by.
to right): Sid Parfait, Ammar Kubba (TrafficZ), Diana
Jackson, Jamal Haque
(TrafficZ) & Peter Hayward (Tinbu) on their way back from
a parade on St. Charles Avenue.
With the unparalleled party atmosphere of Mardi
Gras as a backdrop, those who made the trip are already buzzing
about this being one of the most memorable events they have ever
attended. Yes, more of them showed up for the social events than for
the seminars but, as I have said before, it is those events
that often deliver the most value for your conference dollar.
That is where friendships and business relationships are made or
solidified. Taking in the sights and sounds of the colorful French
Quarter with fellow domainers while the 306-year-old Mardi Gras
celebration is going on around you creates a shared experience that
builds bonds that can last a lifetime.
One of these days someone is going to stage a
conference with no speakers or seminars - just networking and
social events. If the organizers don't do it on purpose, judging
from New Orleans, the attendees will eventually craft that kind of
program on their own!
|Though we filed daily posts from the show in
our Lowdown section,
those highlights just skimmed the surface of what went on during the
conference. In this comprehensive review article, we'll take a
closer look at the event through the many photos and details I
didn't have a chance to share with you in those daily briefings.
of the Mississippi River
from the Westin Canal Place hotel
Though I had been there several times before
(and loved every visit) I had not been back to New Orleans since Hurricane
Katrina devastated the city in August 2005. In the wake of that
disaster many said the city would never recover. They were wrong.
The city is already bouncing back in a big way and if you visit
today you will find the popular downtown and French Quarter sections
to be as vibrant as ever. Since it was founded in 1718 New
Orleans has seen several disasters but its resilient people always
pick themselves up, rebuild and go about writing new pages in their
city's rich history.
My wife, Diana, and I arrived at the show's AAA
four-diamond hotel, the Westin Canal Place, just before the
event got underway with a welcoming cocktail hour at 5pm (Feb.
|Westin is ideally
situated in the southwestern corner of the French Quarter
where it offers majestic views of the mighty Mississippi
River. All of the conference's off-site social events were also
within easy walking distance.
At 6, attendees boarded shuttle buses or walked
the short distance to the warehouse district where the opening
night's big event, a New Orleans Crawfish Boil, was held in a
three-story townhouse on Camp Street, just a block away from
the Mardi Gras parades on St. Charles Avenue.
I had never had crawfish before and that was
certainly an "experience". It was the first time I had
eaten something that required you to twist its head off
before putting it in your mouth! Definitely not for the squeamish
and though the meat you eventually extract from the tail is quite
tasty, it wasn't long before I retreated to a table with fried
Sevan Derderian (far left) bites down on a freshly boiled
crawfish while Steven
Newman (center) and Eric Pravda (right) work their way
through platters of their own.
|Other domainers had no such qualms and consumed
enormous quantities of the crimson crustaceans - in the course of
the evening hundreds of pounds of crawfish (from Crawfish.com
of course) were consumed. Once people had finally had their fill,
they wandered over to St. Charles Avenue in small groups to watch
the parades and compete for the beads and other trinkets thrown from
the passing floats.
The domainers were well prepared for the
festivities after getting a fascinating briefing from the world's
foremost authority on Mardi Gras, Arthur Hardy, during the crawfish
boil. Hardy, a local radio and TV personality, authored a Mardi Gras
guide that has sold more than 2 million copies. You can order
a copy yourself from, where else, ArthurHardy.com!
the photos above, Chris Williams & Miranda Bishop
(at left) are
spellbound listening to Mardi Gras historian Arthur Hardy
James, Managing Editor
Modern Domainer Magazine
speaker Tim Burns
After the crawfish boil and parades, many kept
the party going into the wee hours with their own tour of French
Quarter watering holes. Knowing that would happen, DMG organizers
waited until 9:45am Friday morning (Feb. 20) to kick off the first
full day of business at the conference.
Things got underway with a
welcoming address from Modern Domainer Magazine Managing
Editor Ezra James who gave the audience some interesting
background about New Orleans and Mardi Gras as well as a list of dos
and donts. For example, don't get photographed on Bourbon Street
doing things you don't want the rest of the world to see! As Ezra
eloquently put it, "What happens in New Orleans stays on
YouTube for a very long time!"
At 11am, Louisiana State Representative
and author Tim Burns delivered the keynote address. The
personable Burns talked about current economic and political forces
and how they may impact entrepreneurs (including domain owners) in
the months and years ahead. Burns knows his subject matter -
politics and business - well
after writing three books, including Entrepreneurship.com.
There were some humorous moments at the
luncheon that followed. Andrew Allemann of DomainNameWire.com
and I each spoke while attendees were enjoying a sumptuous buffet.
Ezra James inadvertently introduced Andrew as being from a competing
site (DomainNameNews.com). Quick on his feet as always,
Andrew thanked Ezra by telling him how much he appreciated Domainer's Magazine's
invitation to come and talk (Domainer's Magazine competes with Ezra's Modern
When it was my turn, Ezra said, "Ron
Jackson needs no introduction" and that was all that
he said. When I reached the podium I
|thanked him for the compliment
but mentioned that he didn't have to take the phrase so
literally! Everyone got a laugh out of the banter and little things
like that remind me of why I like this business so much. No room for
stuffiness or pretense here, just great times with good people in an
opportunity-rich business that we are all blessed to be in.
The theme of this conference was Risk
Management for the Modern Domainer with the aim of educating
attendees about risk management tools that help in managing,
protecting and growing domain investments. Three afternoon seminars
addressed various aspects of risk management, starting with a session
on legal issues that featured Dr. John Berryhill and
Parked.com's General Counsel Sam Youakim.
Sam Youakim (left) and John Berryhill (right)
covered legal matters.
The subject of whether or not a carefully
written contract is needed in domain transactions came up and both
attorneys pointed out that such a document is not necessary for a
contract to exist. A simple email exchange can constitute a
contract. Youakim said the important thing is just to get something
in writing from each side spelling out the basics like price and how
the transfer will be made. He also advised being careful about how
you respond to offers - saying something as innocuous as
"Cool!" if someone emails an offer for a domain could be
construed as acceptance of the offer, resulting in a potentially
enforceable contract being in place.
The next session was a one man show featuring Deloitte
& Touche tax expert Matthew Berman talking about
domain name tax issues and risks. Matthew covered the tax
implications of different kinds of organizational structures for both
U.S. and foreign based companies, the pluses and minuses of
different methods of expensing and amortizing domains and many other
topics that were especially relevant now that we are in tax season
The final session of the day was devoted to Offshoring.
Jodi Chamberlain of Offshoring.com
was joined by Andrew Allemann and Sam Youakim who both returned to
the stage for this discussion.
Jodi's presentation included an
analysis of the cost benefits of going offshore but she also
emphasized the need to have people who are experienced in the field
overseeing the process for you to insure that you get what
| you pay
for. Sam covered the legal considerations involved in operating
offshore and Andrew made a case for Americans to keep their business
based at home, noting that the U.S. offers a relatively stable
environment compared to most overseas options.
Chamberlain (Offshoring.com) and Andrew Allemann
With Friday's business out of the way everyone
headed for Bourbon Street where Parked.com had rented a private
balcony (and adjoining room filled with great Cajun food and
drink) so attendees would have a birds eye view of the Mardi Gras spectacle
unfolding beneath them. Parked also provided box upon box of
colorful beads for their guests to throw to the crowd below. This
occasionally led to interesting "bartering" between
those on the balcony and some of the less inhibited revelers on the street
(if you catch my drift).
View from the Parked.com balcony. Below: Revelers on the
street clamor for beads.
The balcony party ran from 5pm Friday until
3am Saturday morning! DMG organizers mercifully scheduled
nothing before noon Saturday except an exquisite brunch that
Parked.com sponsored at the world
famous Court of Two Sisters restaurant. With a jazz trio
playing in the background, those able to climb out of bed were
treated to the best delicacies New Orleans has to offer.
Saturday brunch at The Court of the Two Sisters. Below:
Parked.com CEO Sig
Solares (left) appears to be showing DomainSponsor's Jim
Grace his jazz guitar technique.
Parked.com compatriots Michael Ward (left) and Monte
Below: The outdoor courtyard at The Court of Two Sisters.
Royal Street in the heart of the French Quarter, the Court of
the Two Sisters has been delighting diners for the past 176 years after
opening in 1832. If you love historical places, you've gotta love
The closing day of business Saturday (Feb. 21)
opened at noon with a panel discussion on Diversification.
Those on the dais included (left
to right in the photo below) Antony Van Couvering of Mind +
Machines, Rick Latona (RickLatona.com),
search engine expert Phil Maher of RH Donnelly and Associated
Cities Executive Director Patrick Carleton.
A great thing about the domain business is that there are multiple
ways to make money and the more revenue streams you can tap into
by diversifying your holdings,
the better off you are going to be. For example, when PPC is down,
as it is now, you can make up the difference (and more) with sales
to small business end users who are flocking to the web. The
severe recession in the general economy is putting a
premium on operating in the most efficient, cost effective way
possible and on that count the web can't be beat.
|Van Couvering's company is assisting New
York City with their plans to go after the .nyc extension
when ICANN starts accepting new gTLD applications
(the application process will not begin before December of
this year). He sees opportunity in that initiative but the
cost will limit the playing field. The application fee for a
new TLD is expected to be $185,000 but Van Couvering
says those who want to operate a new gTLD registry should
budget a half million dollars or more.
Latona takes an opposite tack, saying he prefers to
invest in areas that already have a well established market.
Latona said his diversification strategy involved a major
move into ccTLDs. Carleton covered the merits of
geodomains which are proven, highly sought after assets.
Maher provided tips on SEO issues and pointed out the value
in buying domains to develop or redirect to existing sites
to boost their traffic.
The final seminar of the conference was devoted to Domain
Name Investments in
|2009 and beyond. The panelists
(seen left to right
in the photo below) were NeuStar Senior
Director Ivor Sequeira, DirectNIC.com Director
of Registrar Services Michael Brunson, Parked
Technology Services President Donny Simonton, ICANN
Chief Registrar Liaison Tim Cole and Sedo's
Vice President of Product Management Sam Nunez.
Neustar, operates the .US registry and he thinks America's
often overlooked country code extension represents an
excellent investment opportunity. Sequeira acknowledged
complaints from current .US holders that the registry had
done little to promote he extension and said that was about
to change as they are planning to launch a new
promotional campaign. Sequeira also said many
registrars have not given the extension the kind of
visibility it deserves but he predicted that you will soon
see much more activity surrounding the .US brand.
Brunson said that when you consider
where to make domain investments in 2009 it is imperative
that you specialize in something you know. At the
same time, with money expected to be tighter in the year
ahead, he advised cutting your losses on investments
made in categories you are not familiar with.
After that final seminar the decks were cleared
for Aftermarket.com's live domain auction. The company
brought in Ruston, Louisiana based auctioneer Dusty Taylor
and spotter Ryan Denton to run the sale. Unlike other auction
houses, Aftermarket.com has pursued a policy of offering a shorter,
more carefully chosen catalog for their live auctions. As they have
done in the past, they enlisted DomainConsultant.com to help
with the name selection process. The result was a tight list of just
over 50 domains that produced a healthy 67% sales conversion
rate and $439,000 in total sales. Voodoo.com accounted
for the lion's share of that total after going for $300,000. Suntanning.com
added $22,500 and TextLinks.com kicked in $22,000. You
can see all of the sales
from Aftermarket.com's Domainer Mardi Gras live auction.
I had to leave New Orleans as the auction was
winding down to fly to central Ohio for a family celebration
of my mother's 90th birthday. As a result I missed the conference's
closing ceremony that followed the auction (and a second night on
Parked.com's Bourbon Street balcony). However I experienced enough
of DMG's warm hospitality and the many unique charms of a
revitalized New Orleans to know that I want to come back again next
There is an old saying that you only get one
chance to make a good first impression. The Domainer
Mardi Gras team made the most of that chance, laying a great
foundation to build on in the years ahead. The long months of hard
work put in by conference staffers Ezra James, Michael
Ward, Seth Coman, Bruce Cervini, Rob Breaux,
Michael Evans, Gregory Theriot, Christina
Hillenburg and Vivian Solares transformed their guests
into a band of "evangelists" that will be spreading good
words about this event for a long time to come.