T.R.A.F.F.I.C. produced a lot of profitable times for those
fortunate enough to attend. That's the bottom line that has tied all of the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. shows together
through changing times, formats and venues. To be sure, the glamorous
locations and lavish parties provided great memories but meeting
the right people and building your business
is what this show has always been about at its core.
I sensed that at the very first T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
show and in hindsight the headline on our October 2004 review of the
debut conference, "Successful
Trade Show Heralds the Start of a New Era For the Domain Industry"
turned out to be a perfect summation of what T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s
arrival on the scene would mean for this business. A little over a
year later, the 2006
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon Valley show (at the same Santa
Clara Marriott where the 2009 conference would be staged) played a huge role in transforming the domain
business from a cottage industry into a billion dollar
crowd stretched wall to wall at the first T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon
Valley show in 2006.
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. helped ignite an explosion that
made mainstream business coverage of the industry commonplace
and led to a long boom that continued until the worst
economic downturn since the Great Depression took some of the
wind out of our (and everyone's else's) sails late last year (even
then, this sector held up far better than others and the domain
aftermarket is already rebounding).
Many new competitors have entered the
conference space since T.R.A.F.F.I.C. got the ball rolling (the
Valley show was the fourth major conference in a string of six that various
promoters are shoe-horning into the first six months of 2009). The
pie is getting cut many more ways now, so T.R.A.F.F.I.C., between
the surfeit of shows and the slowing economy, hasn't been
crowds like the 600 that turned up at T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
West in Las Vegas two years ago. The high water
mark over the past year was the 350 at T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
New York last fall, bookended by the approximately 200
each for T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
East in Orlando last May and the just concluded
conference in Silicon Valley.
However, while the quantity of attendees
has waned the quality of registrants remains unparalleled and
that allowed Silicon Valley to again deliver value well in excess of
the considerable cost to attend. Many who were there, including
Gilmour and Sahar
Sarid, have already publicly commented on that
first group I ran into in the hallway when I arrived at T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
Silicon Valley 2009
included (left to right): Larry Fischer, Sahar Sarid, Rob
Monster and Darren Cleveland.
Just a few minutes with a group like that can make the trip
worthwhile for any attendee.
Though smaller crowds are not good for
promoters who have to deal with sky high fixed costs, they are
advantageous to attendees as you have more opportunities to meet and
talk with exceptional people who can have a real impact on your
business. You miss making many of those connections when the shows
are twice as large.
Conferences go by in the blink of an eye and I
often come home regretting that I missed the chance to talk with
people I wanted to see simply because time ran out. I missed a few
this time too, but the manageable size of the crowd allowed me to
see the most people possible in the time available. As always, one
of the best places to do that was at the opening night cocktail
party that was held Monday evening (April 27).
got the cocktail hour off to a good start with a wine tasting
event at their booth.
to R): Bari Meyerson, Karen Bernstein and David
Castello check out the buffet.
(the two photos above and first one below are courtesy of Barbara
The first day of business got underway Tuesday
morning with a welcoming address from Schwartz and Neu, followed by
the conference's first panel discussion. One of the key things I've
noticed that is different about T.R.A.F.F.I.C. compared to other
conferences is their seminars are often the most lightly attended.
Why is that? It goes back to the unique crowd this show attracts.
They are the industry's biggest deal makers, so while the
informational sessions are going on, many of them are in private
meetings or hooking up with each other in the hall to talk business.
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. organizers decided it was time
to take a new approach to lure some of those people back inside to
see what was happening on stage. They did that with an entertaining
take off on The Tonight Show - decking out the dais
with an interview desk (manned by moderator Howard Neu), plus
sofas and chairs filled by guests Rick Schwartz, Divyank
Turakhia (Skenzo), Michael Gilmour (Whizzbangs Blog),
Joe Casale (Casale Media), journalist Paul Sloan (the
author of groundbreaking articles about domain business in Business
2.0 magazine) and Ron Jackson (DN Journal).
Tonight Show setting jazzed up the traditional seminar
Guests talked about dependence on Google and Yahoo!
and potential alternatives.
Neu gets the man on the street's view
of domain names and domainers.
There was even a slick video, pre-produced in Florida, that mimicked Jay Leno's "Jaywalking"
segment with Neu querying people on the street to see just how much
they knew about domains and what they thought about domainers. The
whole presentation was very clever and drew appreciative positive
reaction from the audience. This kind of thinking outside the box is
exactly what the individual stops on the show circuit need to break
the "been there, done that" ennui that was starting to set
in among attendees who had seen the same format too many times as
the number of conferences multiplied.
During the lunch break that followed,
NameMedia's Pete Lamson (Senior VP and General Manager of the
company's domain marketplaces; BuyDomains and the AfternicDLS) covered trends the company is seeing
in the domain aftermarket. He noted that with a small business
up boom underway, their median sales price has been
virtually unaffected by the recession in the general
economy. Lamson was joined by Brian Carr (NameMedia's
Senior VP for Direct Search) who showcased some of the
innovative things NameMedia is doing with their
SmartName.com platform that marries parking with content and ecommerce
In a half-hour session after lunch, SEO expert
John Andrews (UpperLeftPlacement.com) offered some insight into the mysteries of search
engine optimization with an entertaining presentation comparing SEO
to magic. John, who also writes a blog at JohnOn.com, has
become a popular speaker at industry events because, as a
domainer himself, he knows how to explain the intricacies of
SEO in language the audience can understand.
(NameMedia Sr. VP)
The day's final seminar was devoted to the
future of monetization - will PPC survive or could it be replaced by
alternatives like mini-sites or something new on the horizon? The
panelists included Michael Gilmour (ParkLogic.com), Donny
Simonton (Parked.com), Sahar Sarid (Recall Media Group),
the Castello Brothers, Michael and David (Castello Cities
Internet Network) and Divyank Turakhia (Skenzo).
& David Castello
|Both Gilmour and Simonton said they had little
doubt that PPC would survive and remain a key monetization
method and Turakhia went even further saying he didn't
understand why people would even ask the question. Simonton
drew laughs by adding, "if PPC dies only two people
in this entire room will still be here - the Castello
Brothers." The Castellos operate profitable
businesses on fully developed geodomain websites like PalmSprings.com
and Nashville.com, so they have no dependence on PPC
revenue. That is a dream many other domainers aspire to
In commenting on the recent wave of minisite services
being held out as a
|viable allternative to parking,
Turakhia said it is almost impossible to make more money
from minisites than you can make by simply parking the
domain. He noted that studies have shown that when content
is added to a page it reduces the click through rate. That
being the case you may need direct advertiser relationships
on a minisite to offset the PPC drop. Those kinds of
relationships are hard to come by for sites that have not
been fully developed and attracted a loyal audience. On that
point, David Castello added, "There is no
half way in development - you have to treat it like a
military campaign and go all out."
|The remainder of the day was devoted to
RickLatona.com's live domain auction, conducted by world champion
livestock auctioneer Matt Lowery and his crew. The auction
generated $375,000 in sales led by Shows.com
($102,000), SmartPhones.com ($95,000)
and RemoteControls.com ($32,000). An
extended online auction continued for another week and that
sale added $186,675 to the till bringing total
live/extended auction sales up to $560,000. French.com
provided the bulk of the revenue in the extended auction
after going for $150,000.
from the RickLatona.com live auction
Skenzo.com sponsored the Tuesday
night dinner that was
capped with keynote speaker Scott Klososky's address. Klososky,
an entrepreneur who sold his last company for $115
speaker Scott Klososky
|an expert in using new technology
and trends to boost business. He is very knowledgeable about
the domain business as well and he believes that owners of
high quality domains are perfectly positioned to take
advantage of the changes that are currently turning the
media and advertising worlds upside down.
The one major caution he had is that by virtue of
their failure to band together to protect their own
interests, domain owners are in danger of seeing their
assets diminished or even taken away by changes in
legislation or ICANN policy. His comments were the
best advertisement the Internet
Commerce Association could possibly get as they
are the only viable organization working to protect domain
owner's rights. Unfortunately, the ICA has received little
financial support from the industry at large and Klososky
indicated that could end up being a mistake that will cost
domain owners dearly down the road.
After Klososky's keynote, attendees were
ushered into a fleet of stretch limousines that took them to the
popular night club Wet in San Jose for Skenzo's
Official T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Party. The special casino night theme brought
Vegas to the Silicon Valley with gaming tables of every kind scattered
across the club floor.
of the many gaming tables at Skenzo's casino night party.
Neu, would you mind dropping me a note with the name of the cologne
After an evening of fun and games, an open bar
and endless trays of hors d'oeuvres, those with the most chips were
able to cash them in for special prizes.
Frakes (Minds+Machines) goes bonkers after finding out he won a
we know why Skenzo Co-Founder Divyank Turakhia (3rd
wanted to sponsor the Official T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Party at this
particular night club.
A surprisingly large number of attendees were
able to crawl out of bed before noon the next day, undoubtedly
because they didn't want to miss the 10am speed networking session
that employed T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s popular
musical chairs format. To ensure that everyone in the room connected
with the maximum number of people, every couple of minutes one group
of attendees moved over a seat to meet someone new, exchange
business cards and see if there was common ground upon which
they could help each other improve their businesses.
networking session Wednesday (April 29)
|In a special treat at 11am, the man who
designed the domain name system while still a graduate student at
the University of Southern California, Dr. Paul
Mockapetris, gave a
short talk and then fielded questions from the crowd. In one of many
interesting bits of information Dr.
|Mockapetris said the original plan
was to have country code extensions only. He added
the only reason government officials gave in on the request
for a .com global extension was their belief that
"nobody will use .com anyhow!"
Asked why he, as a grad student, was given responsibility
for designing the domain name system, he said "at the
time no one thought it was anything important." Dr.
Mockapetris said no one envisioned domains becoming the
valuable assets they are today. "The marketing people
wound up taking over for the scientists and that is when the
money came into the game."
Next up was the final seminar session, a
meeting of the chiefs featuring (left to right in the photo below) Monte Cahn
| (Moniker.com), Rick
Latona and Divyank Turakhia on one side of the podium
(separated by moderator Howard Neu) with Larry
Fischer (DirectNavigation.com), Ari Goldberger (ESQwire.com) and
Gregg McNair (Strata Services) on the other.
of the Chiefs" session Wednesday morning.
This session was originally set
up to be a shoot out on various topics between the opposing
sides but with the panelists all being good friends, or at least
respectful of what the others have accomplished, the affair wound up being
a bit too congenial for McNair's tastes. He drew chuckles when he referred to it
as "a gondola ride."
|If you want a straight answer from someone on
any topic, McNair is your man. A lot of people won't say
what's on their mind for fear of offending someone, but the
impossible-not-to-like McNair has the rare ability to not only say
what needs to be said, but to say it in a way that makes the cough
syrup he doles out taste good on the way down. The mischievous
but always amiable Aussie clearly has your best interests at
heart. With his long track record
of success in multiple businesses, his opinions are also highly
valued by everyone who knows him.
During the lunch break, I spoke about the
latest trends we are seeing in the domain aftermarket. As you
probably know, for the past six years we have been collecting data
from the leading sales venues in the industry and compiling it for
our weekly domain sales report.
I had all of the 1Q-2009 sales data in and analyzed it for this
talk. To my surprise it showed a 32% jump in reported sales
for the opening quarter of this year vs. the previous quarter. All
|statistics and quarterly comparisons I covered are available
in our latest
monthly newsletter that is sent to opt-in subscribers
as well as posted online.
After lunch it was time for the show's grand
finale and its second
live auction, this one presented by the originators of the live
domain auction format, Moniker.com. This
wound up being one of the best live auctions in a long time with $2.1
million in sales being rung up in just over 3 hours. The
blockbuster was the $1.4 million sale of Ad.com (purchased
by Skenzo's Divyank Turakhia) - a transaction that once completed
will be the fourth biggest sale reported so far in 2009.
CEO Monte Cahn and auctioneer Wayne Wheat run the
live auction April 29.
Schwartz (left) and Barbara Neu congratulate Divyank
after he won Ad.com for $1.4 million in Moniker's live
Another $460,000 in sales were rung up
in Moniker's extended online auction that continued for seven days
after the live event, bringing the total haul to nearly $2.6
million. The top sellers in the extended auction were Diego.com
($58,830), DVDShrink.com ($43,180) and Casco.com
the closing night dinner Beth McNair, Javier Zaffaroni
(who came all the way from
Uruguay for the show) & Chris Leggatt go for
chocolate covered strawberries & marshmallows.
After the auction EuroDNS.com sponsored a
pre-dinner cocktail party that was followed by the show's closing
dinner. Then Parked.com hosted a show "After Party" in the hotel's
Parcel 104 lounge. It was the perfect place to wind
down after a hectic week of doing deals, establishing new
connections and reinforcing existing relationships.
Parked.com crew welcomed attendees to their T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
Left to right are Michael Ward, Christian Higgans, Donny
Craig Rowe, David Chavarri, Sig Solares and Monte
those enjoying the Parked.com After Party are (L to R) Andy
Lisa Botzer (LZ Domains), Anupam Joshi (Skenzo), Tan
Mike Robertson (Fabulous.com) and Wendy Huang (Sedo.com)
The festivities actually continued well after the
"After Party". While one small group played poker in an
upstairs suite, a larger one gathered just across the hall in Gregg
McNair's suite where they continued socializing well into the wee
hours of the morning.
this photo I am pondering why I thought it would be a good idea to
try to recoup
my travel expenses by getting into a late night poker game with Michael
This is what you call a "half baked idea"! (Photo
courtesy of Barbara Neu).
Most were on their way home first thing
Thursday morning (April 30) but I stayed over an extra day to sit in on the
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. post-show advisory board meeting that is open
to all conference registrants. Show organizers listen to feedback on the
just concluded event and suggestions for future shows.
has two more events coming up this year. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. ccTLDS
in Amsterdam June 1-4 (that show will be staged by Rick
Latona in a special licensing arrangement similar to the one
that saw Fabulous.com put on T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Down Under
last November in Australia) and T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York
coming up October 26-29 in Brooklyn. A number of sites
and dates are being considered for 2010 but nothing has been
finalized for next year yet.
people from the two families who bring you T.R.A.F.F.I.C. (seated L
to R): Ray Neu, Alina Schwartz, Rick Schwartz, Howard
Neu and Barbara Neu, on a side trip to Rick's
restaurant in San Francisco, Allegro Romano, where the owner
came over to greet them.
Wherever and whenever T.R.A.F.F.I.C. falls on
the calendar it seems certain that it will continue to be what it
has been on its first 15 laps around the track - the industry's ultimate
place to do business.