events that have been staged this year were all produced by Rick
Latona under a partnership agreement with Schwartz and Neu).
However, the conversation quickly morphed into one covering much
broader ground once we started talking about recent
changes in the industry and how the current business environment
will be addressed at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Miami.
Rick Schwartz has always been known for speaking his mind (and
frequently ruffling feathers in the process) but compared to past
commentary, his demeanor this time around is like comparing John
L. Sullivan (the last bare knuckles boxing champion) to Mr.
Rogers. The gloves (if they ever were on) are most definitely
off now, as you will see in the second half of this article (if you
want to fast forward to where the the fireworks start click
here and read Rick's responses through the balance of
the article). In the exclusive interview below you will see what he
and Howard had to say about the upcoming show, their conference
competition and the crossroads domain owners currently find
Journal: When you open the doors for
T.R.A.F.F.I.C Miami 2010 on October 17, it will have been a
year since the two of you staged your last conference in
New York City last fall. It is
|the first time you have had any significant
time away from the show business since you started it all six
years ago in Delray Beach, Florida.
Before we dive into what will be happening on South Beach,
tell us why you stepped away and what you’ve been doing in
that year off the circuit?
Howard Neu: Well, it
has certainly given me a lot of time to spend with Barbara
and sip pina coladas on my pool deck. Of course, I still
DO practice law and have been pretty successful in
representing clients before NAF and WIPO.
But I can’t wait to get “back in the saddle” at
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. South Beach and interact with the smartest
businessmen in the domain business. Rick and I are really
excited about going to Miami Beach for the first
time. The art-deco ambience is beautiful and the hotel is
Neu & wife Barbara
Schwartz, Rick Latona and Howard Neu
announcing T.R.A.F.F.I.C. parternship in 2009
Schwartz: Truth be told if we were running a
business we would have sold out in 2007 or just
walked away and got off at the top. But there was a problem.
The work that we started was far from complete. Spreading
the word of domain names was still something we had not
achieved. Folks get burned out. Whether it is from shows or
from our high profile M.O., sometimes you can have too
much of a good thing and a break is good.
Rick Latona came to us with his idea
and we thought that would be a good way to take a
break, bridge a gap during a tough
year, reach out to new folks and keep T.R.A.F.F.I.C.’s
position cutting edge by going worldwide. Since that day, DomainSponsor
and Sedo have both followed our leads. Now they will
have to deal with the pitfalls that we have already been
through. Financially, it is not a profit center. So
unless you have something to sell, like the companies named
above, it will cost a lot of money to put on.
Howard and I take a huge risk with each and every
show. When we decide to no longer take that risk, then the
industry is at the mercy of infomercial tradeshows as
opposed to a domainer-operated show. You may not see the
difference now, but you will see it when nobody steps up to say
what I am about to say in this interview. But I feel
that my mission is bigger than the current landscape. In
five years the entire audience will change. The domain
investors will remain constant. But what will change
will be our partners, our revenue streams, our earning
power, and lastly, our place in the world eco system.
Domains, something few knew about 15 years ago, will become THE
“It” and “Hip” thing; the greatest ego stroke in the
history of mankind besides the actual power that can be
This industry is always changing and the conference business
is no exception. Just a few days ago, Rick Latona announced
cancellation of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Hong Kong in November - the
last of the five shows he planned to do under your 2010 partnership
arrangement. In making that announcement he commented on how much
the conference landscape has changed in just the past year. What is
your take on those changes and how are you dealing with the more
challenging environment in preparing for South Beach?
Since Rick and I got together with Rick Latona to take
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. international, it seems that everybody and
his brother is having a conference almost every day
of the year. At the time that I am writing this
answer, there is a conference in Spain going on, to
be followed by one in Tuscany, one in Prague
and a Carnival Cruise, all before T.R.A.F.F.I.C. South
Beach in 3 weeks. Yet, before we announced doing 6 shows
this year, there was nothing on the boards scheduled by
anyone else. That tells us that as T.R.A.F.F.I.C. leads, as
it has ever since our first show in October 2004, everyone
else follows and copies our formula. But no one has been
able to duplicate it because T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is
the only conference that has nothing to sell except the
furthering of domain business and giving every attendee an
opportunity to increase their income.
Once again T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is the standard that everyone
emulates and copies. Just tick off the list. That is because
we follow the future, we follow destiny and opportunity no
matter where it leads. Nobody else has that freedom and when
the next big thing breaks, it will be presented at
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. first. It always has!
Additionally, there was a reason we
named it “T.R.A.F.F.I.C.” to begin with. Gas is what
fuels a car, traffic is what fuels the Internet. We
figured if we ever hurdled the gap we have been facing, then
we would be able to attract folks
conference calendar has gotten
very crowded over the past year.
|wanting to buy traffic; learn
about traffic; get bargains on traffic. To me, traffic is
the #1 commodity of the future. Targeted traffic. WE
as a group all know that. But the 6 billion others on the
planet do not and when they do, I see a different
opportunity. I see retailers coming to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. I
see T.R.A.F.F.I.C. as the “Alternative to Google and
Yahoo”, going direct to domainers as opposed to
the current system.
Many of us have private traffic or lease deal
with end users. That will become more common, not less. We are in a
position to tap into that when that time happens and Howard and I
spend much of our time trying to figure out how to bring those two
Domaining is a cottage industry. Folks
in the industry need to know what that means. We have an opportunity
to break out of that status. I think it is already happening.
But it is quiet and invisible. There are several hundred
professional and full time domainers. That’s it. Some
part-timers will eventually make the transition. Most won’t.
|The next domainers will be the mega
corporations. They are starting to figure it out, small
mom and pop operations as well. What happens the day they
figure out that maybe they are paying too much for the
traffic they buy and the quality they get? When the focus
turns away from
||millions of visitors, to one customer at a
time. That will be the point that our world changes.
When the question becomes “why is it that the $5.00
click that they pay is the same click that you just
got 5 cents from?” When these two groups meet, the
domainer will be happy to sell that customer direct
for $5.00. Even though the domainer can only provide 300
clicks a month. That still comes to $1,500. They are
presently giving others like Google and Yahoo that $1,500 or
$15,000 and will end up with only 10% of the results because
they will be distracted with the NOISE of the others that
they paid those same $5.00 for.
Renegades, entrepreneurs and trailblazers versus the
corporate suits: no wonder there is so much tension
in this industry. It is a natural rivalry. They both need
each other, but one side always takes most of the pie.
One last question on the 2010 partnership with Rick Latona that took
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. to new markets in Canada, Italy and Ireland.
What were the pluses and minuses of the arrangement in your view?
Also, not to jump the gun with T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Miami dead ahead, but
now that Mr. Latona is bowing out of the game what kind of plans do
the two of you have for T.R.A.F.F.I.C. beyond the upcoming show? (Editor's
Note: After this interview, Schwartz and Neu announced a T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
ICANN Retreat Conference will be held in San Francisco March
11-12, 2011, right before an ICANN International meeting begins
there March 13).
Rick Latona is a sharp businessman, and we were fortunate that he
was willing to bring the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. brand around the world.
Under adverse conditions of the changing global economy and the ever
increasing number of domain conferences which could not be foreseen,
he has done an admirable job of which we are proud. He put
together a terrific staff, had great speakers, fun parties and,
though attendance was not what we would have hoped, put on quality
conferences. We are not giving up on the international scene, but
believe that 2011 requires a certain amount of consolidation and
return to just U.S. shows.
Howard and I just care about doing it first class and doing
it right no matter what. That isn’t the smartest business decision
because we never know if we will make money or take money out of our
pocket. I just believe that if you do each step right the end result
will be right.
Latona welcoming attendees to
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Vancouver - June 2010
Rick Latona took a more business-like
approach. He had budgets and looked to keep expenses
low. This resulted in a no frills T.R.A.F.F.I.C. People have
come to expect more from a T.R.A.F.F.I.C. show. That
was not a bad thing. It just illustrated the difference
between the two methods of operation and first class won
because now folks appreciate how Howard and I approach
But don’t underestimate the
contribution Rick and his crew made to domaining. It takes a
lot of people pushing the envelope. THAT is the power and
secret of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and Howard and I facilitate it. We
steer it in the direction that we believe to be good for
domainers, and not necessarily sponsors that may have
narrow views of the future. If T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is
important to the industry and the future, then folks will
come and support it. If they don’t, they will just
remember what it was and what it did. I am ready to accept
the decision either way because I can just as easily start
focusing on my own business. My work is not done, but I am
certainly not a lone voice any longer.
All right, now let’s talk about what looks to be an event that is
going to be something special – T.R.A.F.F.I.C.’s return to South
Florida, just a few miles down the coast from where is all started
in 2004. I’m hearing a lot of buzz about the people coming, the
South Beach venue and the historical significance of
T.R.A.F.F.I.C.’s 6th anniversary show. Does it feel like
the the stars are lining up for you on this one?
Schwartz: The show has already started on our Facebook
page. As I write this, nearly 90 folks have
publicly said they will be at T.R.A.F.F.I.C.. I am stunned by how
many are plugged in via Facebook. And there are many more who are
coming that have not said so publicly. Of course our speakers will
give a hint. The buzz, the electricity and the list of who is coming
is the best since 2004.
There are some similar reasons for this. There
was a lot of frustration and anger in 2004. There is a lot of that
as we end 2010. Domainers are not happy with the trends. They
feel like they are getting the shaft while our so-called
“partners” are rolling in the $$$ we are making for them.
That is the foundation of part of the anger.
They are also mad at Google and Yahoo
for buying what I call PIGEON SHIT! They could put an end to
garbitrage and Trademark infringing traffic RIGHT NOW if
they wanted to. But I believe they are doing the same thing
to their customers that Impression Based Advertising did. So
I think when they clean this up, then REAL traffic will have
REAL value. However, as long as their standards remain this
low, they encourage all levels of abuse and don’t do a
damn thing for the end user, retailers or anyone else down
the food chain.
I have been hearing for years
that they would clean this up. That’s just a pipedream and
they know it and should start to address this in a
meaningful way. There is a group of domainers who are going
to jump start this discussion. This “Dirty Business”
starts at the very top. Hard to save the planet and at the
same time abuse your own clients. Definitely nothing to be
Domainers are looked down upon as scum
because the two giants have thrown the legitimate guys under
the bus in lieu of targeted traffic. The end user pays $5.00
for a click, but
|we get 5 cents and we
are supposed to believe that is an 80% cut? I think
every domainer knows this is garbage and that it has
to change. I believe that T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is going to start a
conversation that Yahoo and Google cannot ignore. I have
listened to their empty lip service for six years and now it
is time for show and tell. What other show would do that??
Everything about T.R.A.F.F.I.C. South Beach will be fresh and new.
We have always been a leader and not a follower and will be putting
in new things that have never been seen before in the domain
industry. Our keynote speaker is an alumnus of Disney World
and Rick and I have heard him before and can assure everyone that
his message is profound and lasting. We have a new form of speed
networking and attendees will be able to pick the type of
persons that they wish to meet on a one on one basis. We have rented
all of the pool-side cabanas at the hotel starting Friday,
October 15th through Tuesday the 19th, and they will be for the
exclusive use of registered T.R.A.F.F.I.C. attendees.
.CO is putting together the best party
South Beach has seen and there may even be a few celebrities added
to the mix. We have hired Model Studio models to
service the folks in the cabanas and act as security and badge
checkers for the conference sessions. We are adding, as a bonus, Rob
Monster’s Swap Fest which was so successful at the EPIK
Developers Conference. The panel for T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Test
Track sponsored by .CO will be the best we have had and Rick
Latona is going to have some great domains, including .CO domains in
wonders how much money
companies have lost by trying to get
away with paying domain owners 5 cents
for a click that led to a $50,000 sale.
You have always tried to keep your programming topical and I
have read some of the comments on your blogs about how you
are going to accomplish that in a time when the business is
being roiled, yet again, by dramatic change. Tell us what
you see as the key issues facing the industry today and how
you are going to address them with respects to the speakers
and topics on the agenda
at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Miami?
We are going to be getting some straight talk and we are
going to call it like it is, and when it is on the table,
everyone will be forced to discuss it. Domainers need to
take some pointers from the Tea Party and start to
flex some muscles because some other family is getting OUR
In the early days I would rather piss
the traffic into the ocean than give it to somebody where a $50,000
sale earned me 5 cents. Shove it! Is my attitude.
I didn’t want the 5 cents and therefore they never saw
that $50,000 sale. It cost me a nickel. How much did it cost
Whenever domain people meet it’s all about the networking.
That is done in events that are part of the program, in the hallways
in between and during seminars and in the always entertaining social
events. What will be going on in South Beach (which will give you an
especially attractive setting to work with) to facilitate networking
in all of those areas?
The Atlantic Ocean is a great networking partner. The
networking starts the minute you arrive. From our exclusive Poolside
Cabanas to two different speed networking events we have never had
such a focus on this single part of T.R.A.F.F.I.C..
By the way, those who think that they will come
to Miami Beach, not register for T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and do
business outside the show, will be sorely disappointed. Most
companies play within the rules and when companies come to leach off
those who pay to play, the industry needs to know which companies
and sponsors would stoop that low. They don’t support the
industry, but make hundreds of millions or more from it. Howard and
I agreed to get on stage and share this information
with all who come to the show. We think domainers have a right to
know. That is one of the reasons that we are considering the
possibilities of a domainer-only event in 2011. I think what
transpires at this show will help determine our direction. I think
domainers would be shocked at the size and names of the companies
that have to stoop to this level. SHOCKED!!
The Loews Miami Beach Hotel is not only world-class, but also
warm and friendly. There are great places to network all over
the hotel and our two networking sessions will be amazing.
People have a wide variety of conferences to choose from
these days – events of all sizes spread across countries
around the globe. No one can do them all anymore so when
people try to zero on where there will get the most bang for
their buck, what kind of elevator pitch would you
give them for T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Miami?
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. started it all. We have set the tone
and agenda that all others have copied each and every step
of the way. I always thought the shows would work
together in a way that would further the entire industry; do
things differently. But that has not always been the case,
and it has forced a needless enmity in a young and growing
industry. And while I will eat a lot of crow for saying it, the
future will prove me right and the future will prove a
path that that will no longer take advantage of domainers.
It’s easy to go to a free show when it is your own reduced
earnings that pay for the free tickets!
In 2011, the book on Domain Auctions
wrote the first book which was adopted by all others in the
business. Next year we will be doing much more than just
hosting the auctions. We will begin to organize and direct
What that means for Domainers is no more wasted
time on pigeon shit domains with high reserves. Domains that are
intended to sell to other domainers need to be priced accordingly.
You will see more great names, and they will only have high reserves
if the OWNER brings in at least 3 end users! Everyone needs to have
some skin in the game. There are no more free rides and we each need
to do our share. You want end users?? Well THIS is the way to make
that finally happen. We won’t allow, “Showboat bidding” or
“Off the wall bids”. We are going to clean up how the
auctions are done. And if a domain does not sell, we will at least
establish a value by starting low and letting the market find the
top. And I'm willing to bet that others will follow our lead. They
will have no choice. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. will once again set the
Our guiding light will be to auction off great
domains at great prices. Nothing more and nothing less. No more
boring auctions! I would rather have an event with 20 domains
that are truly up for grabs than 200 and look silly and put everyone
to sleep. For the Miami Beach show, Rick Latona already knows where
we are going and I think he is up to the challenge! I believe that
you will see a lean and mean auction where 75% or more of
everything will sell. I think the industry is about to witness a
Neu: I don’t believe that we will be seeing
nearly as many domain conferences in 2011 as we had this
year. We would hope that those that ARE scheduled will
be successful, each in their own way. We believe that 2011
is the year that conferences will start working together for
the benefit of domainers and possibly even consolidate their
shows. We stand ready to work
any conference that is willing to with work with us to make
it easier for everyone to obtain the benefits that are
derived from attending a domain conference. But Rick and I
are committed to keeping up the quality of our shows and
maintaining T.R.A.F.F.I.C. as the Gold Standard of Domain
Gentlemen, thank you for you time. Is there anything you
would like to add before we say goodbye until we meet again
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. will continue to go where no other corporate
entity would dare go. When we have a decision to make, we don’t
ask bean counters and a board and our legal department and some
committee. It does not take weeks. It does not get shoved under the
rug. We go to sales and marketing and make the best decision we can.
Not one based on budgets and politics and other extraneous garbage
that prevents you from making the best decision possible that helps
everyone involved in domaining.
Then, of course, if you had to do all that and
then make sure it matched your business plan, that would just add
another layer of confusion. It’s just another way to skew the
decision, delay a decision or just not even make it at all.
The industry needs innovators. We have
had a lot of innovation until recently. I am CERTAIN, that anyone
reading this understands the last couple of years have not been good
for domainers. In many cases, it has been much better for our
partners. The crime is that they have all done so well with OUR
gold; with OUR oil; with OUR traffic. But it is their refinery;
their rules; their rates. We have been passive way too long.
Look, I see things that nobody else
does. Do I speak up? I usually do. But this becomes
sensitive and I fear retribution. But don’t anyone
dare think this is a clean industry of top-shelf folks.
While I am the #1 advocate for domains, I am not that happy
with many of the values that this industry has adopted and
would rather someone else take the lead. Let someone else be
the face of the industry. I am content with just focusing on
And therein lies my biggest struggle.
The work in accelerating domain names into the mainstream
consciousness of everyone is far from over. So we may
be doing just one show in 2011, and possibly a small meeting
of only domainers that will help set the course for the next
five years. This could be the most important five years for
the industry because of the demand for good and memorable
Let’s just put T.R.A.F.F.I.C. South Beach
this way. Consider the “Graduating Class of 2004”.
It’s all grown up and many of us are being pulled away in
different directions as destiny swoops in. So this just may be the last
best chance to see all of our old buds before the next stage.
And you can bet, we are entering the next stage.
The evolution of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and the
evolution of the industry have been synonymous. The future will look
nothing like the past and as business people we all need to get up
to speed quickly. You can sell an asset for $40 or $40
million. But you need to know the difference between dealing
with minnows and whales. Those who don’t perfect this technique
will give away millions. T.R.A.F.F.I.C.’s admission is a
small price to pay to insure your future and stay on the cutting
edge by networking and breaking bread with the biggest and the best.
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. can make a whale out of you! We have worked hard all
year so that we can focus on this bash!