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Extreme Makeover - A New Leader, New Venue and New Format Made the 2010 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas Conference a Pivotal Event 
Page 2

By Ron Jackson

The final day at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas 2010 had not been scheduled to start until 12 Noon Saturday, Jan. 23 - but the live domain auction that had been interrupted Friday was re-slotted for 10am Saturday so things got off to an earlier start.  

The live auction that was suspended Friday was completed Saturday morning (Jan. 23).

Once it was finally completed, the auction produced a total of just over $456,000 in sales with a South African ccTLD, Fly.co.za, emerging as the top individual sale at $65,000. Other notable sales included GoFish.com ($50,000), DietFood.com ($49,000), CatFood.com ($41,000), MotorcycleHelmets.com ($35,000) and MenSuits.com ($30,000)

An accompanying extended online auction continued for one week after the show and wound up generating another $379,200 in sales, bringing the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas 2010 auction total to over $835,000. The biggest sale of the event came in the extended auction where LongIsland.com went for $370,000

The auction was done, but there were still three more events on the closing day schedule, beginning with a noon panel discussion on how to best optimize your domain portfolio in a PPC environment.

Domain Optimization panelists: Seated (left to right) Donny Simonton (Parked.com), 
Dan Warner (DomainAdvertising.com), Richard Lau (DomainManager.com) 
and standing at the podium, Jon Waterman (Domain Gateway.com).  

The panelists discussed the importance of selecting the right keywords for your PPC landing pages and the relative pros and cons of 2-click, 1-click and even zero-click landing pages. The latter involves sending people who land on your domain directly to a relevant advertiser rather than presenting them with a page on links (Waterman's DomainGateway.com utilizes this model which has also worked for companies like Sendori.com).

Next up was a session devoted to Playing the Drop Market. The featured panelists (left to right in the photo below) were Rob Monster (Epik.com), Steve Brown (NameJet.com) and Kellie Peterson (Name.com).

Monster said that the emergence of automated and semi-automated development platforms (such as his Epik.com) has made picking up expiring domains more interesting that ever. He said that even non-traffic domains that have good keywords can produce revenue when content is added though such platforms. Monster said he views each drop catch as the raw land for a future business.

T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas 2010 closed with one its new main events - Test Track (an event modeled after the hit ABC-TV series Shark Tank)  that gave operators of seven online businesses who are seeking investment capital a chance to pitch their proposals to a panel of investors.

The Test Track Investors Panel (left to right): Jon Waterman
Gregg McNair
, Tony Morgan and Rick Latona.

John Deneen (BuyersGuide.com)
 impressed the panel of investors 
during T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Test Track.

While none of the business owners wound up securing an investment on the spot, the panel agreed that BuyersGuide.com owner John Deneen made the best presentation. Deneen was also seeking the most money - $2 million in exchange for 40% of his company. Waterman was impressed enough to ask for a post-conference meeting with Deneen to learn more about his company and see if there is a way for him to make an investment that will work for both sides.  

The panel also heard pitches from Matt Field (TenYards.com), Louise Timmons (AlgebraAid.com - site is currently undeveloped), Jiaqiang Chen (China Geo Network), Lee Raney and Tom McCracken (Level Ten Interactive), Michael Markovitch (Domain Price Index) and R.J. Berg (StreetGames.com). 

During the session Latona announced that he had aleady invested $500,000 in Berg's company which stages fantasy stock market tournaments. The panelists liked the StreetGames.com site but some were concerned that the concept could run into legal issues in some states that could create unforeseen problems.

Test Track, an idea that Howard Neu came up with and introduced at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York conference last fall, has been a welcome addition to the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. schedule. With the increased interest in domain development it is very instructive to see what others are doing with their sites and how good investors think those ideas are or in what ways they think they can be improved. 

In addition to the scheduled sessions like Test Track, T.R.A.F.F.I.C. attendees also often have an opportunity to learn about important new industry developments in private one on one meetings. I had one with an executive team from NameMedia who showed me a presentation detailing some exciting changes they have made in the company's SmartName.com monetization program. The system can now automatically generate slick looking websites that utilize a variety of monetization methods - not just PPC. I was impressed enough that I am going to try some of my own names on the platform and I intend to write more about it in the near future.

NameMedia team members (L to R) Bob Mountain, Ted Olson, David Hauser and Jason 
Miner
impressed a lot of people with a demonstration of a new system at SmartName.com.

Another thing I liked about T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Las Vegas was seeing so many new faces in the crowd. It is great to see young people joining the business and coming up with innovative ideas of their own. One of them was Morgan Linton of Los Angeles who spent most of the week recording video interviews for a new internet TV site he plans to roll out soon at Domainvestors.tv.

Morgan Linton (left) interviewing Rick Silver - one of dozens of interviews 
Linton has produced for his upcoming domain TV site.  

As always there was a lot to like about this conference and though the show ended with Test Track Saturday evening those positive vibes continued throughout the weekend. I stayed over in Las Vegas  for a couple of extra days before flying on to Los Angeles Monday for the DOMAINfest Global conference that ran in Santa Monica Jan. 26-28 (we expect to publish our review of that show by Monday night, Feb. 8) and that gave me a chance to spend time with some industry leaders that I didn't get a chance to talk with as much as I would have liked during the busy conference week.

Las Vegas may be known for its shows and casinos but some of the city's best attractions are completely free. Saturday night the Neu family, Howard, Barbara and Ray, introduced me to the spectacular fountain show that erupts in front of the Bellagio every 15 minutes. I don't know how I missed this before - it is a true must do - in fact it is featured on Ray's VegasMustDo.com website.

Above: Barbara and Howard Neu sitting in the Paris Las Vegas hotel's open air cafe 
with the Bellagio Hotel fountains starting their show across the street behind them. 

Below: The perfectly synchronized Bellagio fountains erupt and sway in time to the 
music of classic songs with the jets of water often soaring higher than the Bellagio itself.

On Sunday night Michael and Judi Berkens invited Howard, Barbara, Ray and I to help them celebrate Judi's birthday at the Switch Restaurant in Steve Wynn's new Encore Hotel. Sharing that special occasion with Michael and Judi was a special treat as they are two of the nicest people in the business. Michael, as most of you know, writes one of the industry's best blogs at TheDomains.com. He won the 2009 Domainer of the Year Award in October and was also profiled in DN Journal's July 2009 Cover Story

Judi's actual birthday was a few days later but she explained to me that she celebrates her birthday the entire month of January! This energetic woman knows how to enjoy life and you cannot spend any time around her without having her enthusiasm rub off on you. No wonder Michael always seems to have a smile on his face.

 

Judi and Michael Berkens celebrating Judi's birthday during a Sunday
night dinner at the Wynn Encore Hotel's Switch Restaurant 

Monday morning (Jan. 25) it was time to pack up and move on to the next stop on the show circuit. Yes, there are a lot of conferences on the annual industry calendar, but over the years I've found that the time spent at these events networking, meeting new people and learning about the latest industry innovations is the most rewarding and productive time I spend all year

Whatever industry sector you operate in, I don't believe there is a a better way to jump start your business than to get out there and meet the other players in your industry face to face. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. has provided that opportunity for over five years now and time after time the pioneering conference continues to pay solid dividends to its attendees. 

*****

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