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DOMAINFest Global 2012 Review: Industry Changes Prompt a Promising New Direction for Oversee's Big Event 

By Ron Jackson 

The 6th annual DOMAINfest Global conference rewarded an estimated 600 guests with a week of unique networking and educational opportunities in a show held under picture perfect sunny Southern California skies at the oceanfront Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica Jan. 31 - Feb. 2, 2012.

We published daily photos and highlights from DOMAINfest Global in our Lowdown section while the event was underway (Pre-Show & Day 1, Day 2 
and Closing Day 3) but with almost non-stop activity from sunrise to well past midnight each day, those posts had to be filed on the run. With the advantage of several days back at our home base in Florida to sift through our hundreds of photos and notes, we can now share a lot of additional details, personal opinions and pictures with you in this comprehensive conference review.


View of the Pacific Ocean from the Fairmont Miramar
Hotel in Santa Monica, California where the 2012 
DOMAINfest Global
conference was held Jan. 31-Feb. 2.

While this was the 6th show in the DOMAINfest Global series it was considerably different than the ones that came before. The show's organizers, Oversee.net, parent company of lead sponsor DomainSponsor.com, decided to expand the scope of the show beyond traditional domain investor issues with an increasing emphasis on alternative ways to generate traffic and revenue - topics that are of increasing interest to domain owners seeking to offset the heavy decline in PPC revenue in recent years. As a result the agenda was seasoned with sessions devoted to how domain developers and website owners can win the daily online marketing battle for traffic and conversions. 

The change in subject matter brought dozens of new faces to Santa Monica, both in the audience and on the dais. I think this differentiation was a smart move for DOMAINfest Global and one that appeared to play well with registrants as attendance at the various sessions was unusually strong. It's no secret that in recent years the conference calendar became over-saturated and that familiar content filled most show agendas. As a result, many registrants skipped sessions on topics they already knew inside out and used that time to network in the halls or schedule private meetings. The new subject matter apparently drew many of them back into the meeting rooms. 

Part of the opening day crowd at DOMAINfest Global Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

What we are seeing, as we always do, is the market correcting itself. As of this writing just two large scale shows with a worldwide focus are scheduled in 2012 - the just completed DOMAINfest Global and T.R.A.F.F.I.C. next October in Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Florida. With DOMAINfest Global evolving in the way it has, the two surviving 800-pound gorillas in the space now have their own very clear and unique identity and I believe that will serve both them and the industry at large very well going forward. 

DOMAINfest Global officially got underway when the sponsor's exhibit hall opened at 8am Tuesday morning, Jan. 31. The hall served two purposes. In addition to allowing attendees to meet face to face with representatives of leading service providers to get questions answered and demo new products, the hall was an always open refreshment center with free coffee, soda and snacks for guests.

Angie Barrow (ANY-Web Ltd.) picks up some material and information from TrafficMedia's 
Dennis Lastochkin at the company's DomainParking.com booth in the exhibit hall.

At 9:30am the show's first panel discussion got underway on a most timely topic - ICANN's plan to roll out an unlimited number of new gTLDs. The application period opened last month and the first new extensions are scheduled to start appearing in 2013. 

The New gTLD Workshop that kicked off DOMAINfest Global 2012 featured (left to right): moderator Todd Greene (Oversee.net) at the podium, Mason Cole (5x5 Communications), Ken Hansen (Neustar), Juan Diego Calle (CEO, .CO Internet S.A.S.) and Michele Jourdan (ICANN).

Juan Diego Calle, the CEO of .CO Internet S.A.S., the company that successfully re-launched Colombia's .CO TLD as a global extension last year, had some especially well balanced comments on the new gTLDs, pointing out both the possible rewards and the high risks involved in playing in the expensive new gTLD registry game. 

Due to high start up fees ($185,000 just to apply for a new gTLD), the low public awareness of new gTLDs, the big marketing budget needed to raise that awareness, the large number coming online all at the same time and a tough distribution environment (there will be limited shelf space for new gTLDs at the handful of registrars that dominate that space), Calle said many will fail. Still, noting that lots of left of the dot projects also fail, Calle supports the free market approach being used for the program and said those that have the money and do it right could duplicate .CO's success (.CO now has over 1.2 million registrations).

Debra Domeyer, Oversee.net
Co-President & Co-CEO

At 11am, Debra Domeyer, Oversee.net's Co-President and Co-CEO (roles she shares with Scott Morrow) took the stage to deliver welcoming remarks on behalf of DOMAINfest's Global's parent company. Ms. Domeyer underscored the point I made at that top of this article, saying that  DOMAINfest Global has expanded beyond being just a show about domains and is now featuring "Internet entrepreneurs of all stripes."

I first met Debra at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. last fall, soon after she and Scott took over leadership of Oversee.net from the departing Jeff Kuipetzky. When we sat down for what turned out to be an hour-long chat, I was quickly impressed with her openness, intelligence and penchant for listening. in fact I was a bit embarrassed when we were done, realizing that she had me talking more about myself  than talking about her background and plans for Oversee.net. 

I've always believed you learn a lot more from listening than talking and I left that conversation and several others we had at DOMAINfest Global feeling that Debra's gifts, which include a great sense of humor and sociable demeanor, are going to serve Oversee and its customers very well. She is actively seeking out and carefully considering everyone's input and I fully expect she will use that feedback to deliver improved products and services at Oversee.

During her welcoming comments at DOMAINfest Global Ms. Domeyer offered  her predictions for our industry in 2012. For details on what she expects, read her thoughts (and those of Scott Morrow's) in our annual State of the Industry Cover Story that came out in January. 

After Ms. Domeyer welcomed attendees, the morning closed with Eli Goodman, Search Evangelist at comscore, reprising a popular talk from last year - his reading of Internet Vital Signs. In keeping with the show's broadened theme, rather than domains, Goodman's presentation, titled "Its a Social World," covered the top 10 things you need to know about social networking

Some of the things Goodman said you need to keep in mind are that social networking is the most popular online activity worldwide, the importance of Facebook cannot be overstated, microblogging has emerged as a disruptive new force in social networking, it's not just young people using social networking, it's everyone and mobile devices are fueling the social addiction. He drilled deeper into each of those and his other points, offering advice on how to use this knowledge to improve you online business.

Eli Goodman

After Goodman's talk everyone headed outdoors for a buffet luncheon served under glorious blue skies and the majestic fig tree that towers over the Fairmont Miramar courtyard.

Above: Tuesday (Jan. 31) luncheon under the fig tree in the Fairmont Miramar courtyard.

Below: (left to right) Stefan Schinzinger (Optimo.com), John Ferber (DomainHoldings.com) 
and Bill McClure (Coffee.org)
shooting the luncheon breeze under sunny skies.  

After the lunch break the first afternoon session Tuesday (Jan. 31) got underway at 2pm - a panel discussion on Mobile and Local Opportunities for Publishers and Advertisers. Debra Domeyer returned to moderate this panel featuring (left to right in the photo below): Greg Sterling (Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land), Eli Portnoy (CEO, ThinkNear) and Bryson Meunier (Director of Content Solutions, Resolution Media).

One thing I have always liked about DOMAINfest Global are the half-hour coffee and snack breaks they build into the morning and afternoon sessions that, in addition to providing refreshments, give you ample time to chat with other attendees or visit company reps manning the booths in the exhibit hall where the breaks are held. I'm sure sponsors appreciate having this extra traffic around their booths twice a day and it opens up a lot of options for registrants as well. The 3pm break Tuesday gave me a chance to catch up on what was new at some of the companies on hand.

Susan Lawrence and Ren Warmuz welcomed visitors at the Trellian.com/Above.com booth.

After the break it was back to the Starlight Ballroom for a 3:30pm session on Affiliate Lead Generation Best Practices. This session moderated by Oversee.net's James Keating featured  HasOffers.com CMO Peter Hamilton (standing in the photo below) and (seated left to right behind him) Brook Schaaf (CEO, Schaaf-PartnerCentric), Jay Weintraub (CEO, NextCustomer Inc.) and Eoin Matthews (VP of Business Development at VigLink). 

The first day of business closed with a one-hour Sponsor Showcase in which representatives from the top DOMAINfest Global sponsors each had five minutes to take the stage and talk about their services.

Attendees then had an hour to get ready for the show's first official evening social event, a Dinner Networking Reception, sponsored by Sedo at Monsoon, a Balinese restaurant just a couple of blocks east of the Fairmont Miramar. At this function, Sedo CEO Tim Schumacher made his last official appearance in that capacity as Tobias Flaitz, who was also on hand, would take over that role the next day. Tim filled the crowd in on some big news that night - a new partnership deal between the SedoMLS and GoDaddy.

Incidentally, I have an extensive interview article with Tim coming up later this month in which he  reflects on the ten years he has spent at the pioneering company he co-founded (Tim will continue to serve Sedo as a member of their Supervisory Board). 

A scene from Sedo's Opening Night Dinner Networking Reception at Monsoon. 
Conversations on 2 floors and all 4 sides of the restaurant continued throughout the evening.

After the Sedo event, PPX International hosted an open late night party at the Shangri-La Hotel, just south of the Fairmont Miramar. This was not an official DOMAINfest Global event but parties like that are a fixture on the show circuit and as a great free entertainment and networking opportunity, they benefit both the conference and guests (as long as they are not scheduled at the same time as a show function). 

PPX Chairman Gregg McNair is famous for hosting these late night socials and the one at the Shangri-La was packed. I talked at length with new Sedo CEO Tobias Flaitz there and it didn't take long to see that Sedo had found a worthy successor to the highly esteemed Tim Schumacher. Another highlight of the PPX Party was having three industry leaders volunteer to have their heads shaved by McNair in exchange for donations to a charity that is much beloved in the domain communiity - The Water School.  By giving up their tresses, Vern Jurovich (InternetTraffic.com), Jeff Gabriel (President, DomainAdvisors.com) and Bill Lozada helped pull in over $30,000 in pledges!

Above: Even though Gregg McNair (center) had just finished "scalping" them, Jeff Gabriel (left) 
& Vern Jurovich (right) remained on good 
terms with the PPX International Chairman!
(Photo courtesy of Dan Adamson)

Right: McNair and his shears caught up with the 3rd "victim," Bill Lozada, later the same night.

Day two at DOMAINfest Global 2012, Wednesday, Feb. 1, began a little earlier for me that for most other guests. I joined some other members of the domain industry press corps for an 8am media breakfast with Oversee.net's new Co-Presidents and Co-CEOs, Scott Morrow and Debra Domeyer. During a Q&A session they confirmed some big rumored news that was made official shortly after the briefing - that Oversee had sold Moniker.com and SnapNames.com to KeyDrive. The pair said the company had decided to focus in a different area, alternate forms of domain monetization in particular, and  added that Oversee was building a publisher's network that will feature multi-channel distribution, including mobile. 

During the breakfast the Scott and Debra also commented on the unusual power sharing arrangement they have. Morrow said they had complementary talents (with each having expertise in different areas) that made them an effective tandem. The company's Board has also seen them work together well as Co-Presidents for six months and liking what they saw, the board added the Co-CEO roles to their responsibilities shortly before the show began. 

Debra Domeyer and Scott Morrow, Co-Presidents and Co-CEOs at Oversee.net.

Bill Hunt, President
Black Azimuth Consulting

After the media breakfast it was on to the Ballroom for the day's first session, a 9:30am workshop on Analyzing Keywords to Find Revenue Opportunities conducted by Black Azimuth Consulting President Bill Hunt. He provided advice on how to use updated keyword research and modeling techniques to compensate for the latest changes at Google, Bing and Yahoo.

After the morning coffee break at 10:30, another session convened at 11am - a panel discussion that covered Advanced PPC Best Practices and Campaign Management Tools. The experts on the dais offered tips that they said could help double your conversions, lower your costs and save time in the process. 

Below: Advanced PPC Panel participants (left to right) were moderator Dwayne Walker (Oversee.net), Joanna Lord (SEOmoz.org), Jeff Ferguson (CEO, Fang Digital Marketing) and David Rodnitzky (CEO, PPC Associates).

After another delightful outdoor luncheon under the fig tree, business resumed at 2pm Wednesday  with a solo presentation from Tim Ash (SiteTuners.com), the author of Landing Page Optimization, speaking about - you guessed it - landing page optimization - specifically Landing Page Optimization Best Practices and Conversion Tools. Ash offered specific landing page adjustments that he said will dramatically improve anyone's conversions.

Tim Ash (on stage) offering sage advice on landing page optimization Wednesday (Feb. 1)

After Mr. Ash spoke, attendees enjoyed an extended one-hour coffee break that gave show organizers a chance to reset the stage for another DOMAINfest Global staple - the PITCHfest Contest. Many used the extra time to bone up on the latest developments at the various companies represented in the Exhibit Hall.

Page Howe (at far right) paying a visit to the Go Daddy booth.

In a related note, the winner of the Passport Drawing (attendees got their passports stamped by visiting each exhibitor's booth, then dropped the completed passport in a drawing bin) was Adam Young who won a $500 Amazon gift code. The $250 second prize went to Daniel Eisenhut and Enrico Schaefer received a $150 American Express gift card as third prize. 

In another giveaway, for the second year in a row the winner of DOMAINfest's Fantasy Domaining Contest was Edwin Sherman who picked up a great prize package that included free DOMAINfest admission, four free nights at the hotel and a $1,000 travel stipend. 

At 4pm sharp Wednesday everyone was back in the Ballroom for the Pitchfest Contest that gave ten entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their online business ideas to a panel for four distinguished judges; (left to right in the photo below): Jeff Cohn (eStrategy Partners), Scott Jarus (Director, Oversee.net), Benjamin Kuo (SocialTECH.com)  and John Morris (Vistage International).

The contestants were also pitching the audience of 600 because both the panel of judges and the audience were able to select their own winners and they don't always agree. That was the case this year, as the judges wound up choosing Elliot Labreche of Akashic, a cloud file storage startup, as their winner based on creativity, viability, originality and revenue potential.

Elliot Labreche of Akashic (left) collects the Judge's Award from Oversee.net 
Co-CEO and President Scott Morrow after Wednesday's Pitchfest Contest.

The audience went in another direction, persuaded by a powerful presentation from John Karavas of Babafoo, described as a "Linked In" for high school athletes. They voted him winner of the Pitchfest Audience Choice Award.

John Karavas of Babafoo making the Pitchfest presentation 
that won the Audience Choice Award for best online business idea. 

The Wednesday business day closed with a discussion of Public Policies Impacting Domain Investors. Internet Commerce Association Legal Counsel Phil Corwin gave a comprehensive presentation outlining legal and policy issues domain investors need to stay abreast of in order to protect their interests. After his talk, Phil sat down with Sedo General Counsel Jeremiah Johnston and Oversee.net Senior VP and Legal Counsel Todd Greene to answer questions from the audience.

(L to R): Phil Corwin (ICA) Jeremiah Johnston (Sedo) and Todd Greene (Oversee.net)
at Wednesday's update on legal and public policy issues impacting domain investors.

With day two's business agenda now complete, attendees had an hour or so to get ready to catch the buses that would ferry them across town for the evening's big social event, a trip to the world renowned Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles for a Dinner Networking Party sponsored by the .CO Registry.

Above: Guests at the .CO Registry's Wednesday night (Feb. 1) party 
at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

Below: Rare and exotic cars and motorcycles from every era were on display at the 
Petersen Museum including famous film cars like the Batmobile (second shot below).

In another highlight of the night .CO Registry CEO Juan Diego Calle screened a preview of the Go Daddy/.CO Super Bowl TV ad that aired the following Sunday when it was seen by an estimated 120 million viewers  worldwide.

To top it off, Calle then introduced, in person, the star of the ad, Colombian super model Natalia Velez,who hung out with the delighted crowd and had  photos taken with every guest that wanted one. 

This was the second straight year that Go Daddy and .CO teamed up or a Super Bowl spot. The latest 30-second ad cost over $3 million but based on the results from last year's Super Bowl exposure, .CO is confident that putting the extension in front of so many viewers around the world will pay big dividends for a long time to come.

Natalia Velez (center), star of the Go Daddy/.CO Super 
Bowl commercial with .CO Director of Marketing Linda 
(L) & .CO Vice President Lori Anne Wardi (R). 

The next morning, after the hearty daily breakfast in the Fairmont Miramar's Wilshire room, the final day of DOMAINfest Global 2012 (Thursday, Feb. 2), got underway with at 9:30 panel discussion centered on Domain Valuation Techniques for Buying and Selling.

The Domain Valuation panel featured (left to right) moderator Lisa Box (Oversee.net), 
Paul Nicks (Go Daddy), Liesbeth Mac-de Boer (Sedo) and Ken Taylor (Marksmen Inc.). 

After that experienced group provided advice on setting domain prices, as well as buying and selling strategies, it was time for one of the week's most anticipated events - a Keynote Fireside Chat with Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone skillfully conducted by Oversee.net co-President and co-CEO Scott Morrow

Prompted by Morrow's prescient questions about his youth, Stone served up one hilarious anecdote after another about growing up in New England and his early business ventures in an enlightening and inspirational interview that was the one of the  most entertaining keynotes I've ever had the pleasure seeing.

Stone said he was a "dork" as a kid but shed his outsider status by talking his school into starting a lacrosse team. Since he was one the few kids who knew anything at all about the sport he wound up being the captain of the team, as well as its creator. Stone said he learned one of the most important lessons of his life from that experience - that "opportunity can by manufactured," you don't have to sit around waiting for one that may never come your way. 

Stone was always determined to go his own way. He told teachers in high school that he had a personal philosophy - "I don't do homework but I will pay attention in class!" He still managed to get through high school but when he went off to college he found that philosophy didn't play so well with his professors. 

While trying to find an environment that matched his outlook on learning and life he transferred from Northeastern University to the University of Massachusetts where he got a job "moving boxes" at a graphic arts company.

Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone speaking
at DOMAINfest Global 2012
(Feb. 2)

When Stone learned that company designers had been told to submit cover designs for a client's new book, he surreptitiously did one himself and slipped it into the envelope that went to the publisher. His design wound up winning. When notified of the publisher's choice, the company's puzzled art director, not recognizing the artwork, asked "who did this?" Stone piped up, "Me!" The astonished art director said, "What? The box guy!"  Stone wound up graduating from moving boxes to a full internship thanks to that initiative. Once again he had manufactured an opportunity.

Stone said he used to make up "pretend" companies. He called one of them Genius Labs. After  finishing college and landing a job at Google, Stone wrote on his blog that "Google Has 

Acquired Genius Labs!" Stone said to this day, people still think it was a real company and the "acquisition" is often cited in biographies about him. Stone said that was an example of another one of his core beliefs - that "creativity is a renewable resource."

Stone went on to detail how the creation of Twitter came about (including he fact that he and his partners got the Twitter.com domain name for just $7,500). The Twitter story has been told elsewhere several times, so I won recount here, but it was amazing to hear Stone say the Twitter founders turned down a $500 million purchase offer from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at a time when Twitter has just been valued at only $20 million

Asked how they could turn 

down so much money Stone said his partner, Evan Williams, said, "Look, if it's worth $500 million to someone, it's worth $1 billion, and if it's worth $1 billion, it's worth $10 billion!" Stone protested, "What kind of math is that!!" but they decided they wanted to see it through on their own and in hindsight it was the right decision. The incident also underlies another Stone adage - "To succeed spectacularly, you have to be willing to fail spectacularly." They took a big chance and won big.

Asked how being co-owner of a company that is now worth billions had changed his life, Stone said "Well, people will answer my phone calls now which is awesome!" You simply have to love this guy.

After another pleasant courtyard luncheon (during which people were still buzzing about Biz), attendees returned to the Ballroom for the final DOMAINfest panel discussion at 2pm Thursday - one covering SEO Tips and Best Practices

The SEO Tips session featured (left to right) Bruce Clay, moderator Scott Morrow
Andy Atkins-Krueger (WebCertain Group) and Danny Sullivan (Search Engine Land)

This group of well-known experts talked about the importance of quality content and website architecture and provided advice on the latest SEO techniques and tools. In case you are wondering if it is really necessary to have a professional assigned to SEO tasks, Bruce Clay noted that Google says it makes 450-500 algorithm changes every year with over 200 variables considered. Trying to keep abreast of such rapid change is obviously not a challenge part-timers are likely to do well at.

The final business event of DOMAINfest Global, the Moniker Live Domain Auction, followed at 4:30pm Thursday (Feb. 2). The auction wound up producing more than $392,000 in sales led by Empire.com at $135,000QE.com added $89,000, CatFood.com went for $61,000 and Marriages.com for $36,000

Auctioneer extraordinaire Wayne Wheat (at the podium) 
conducting Moniker's Live Domain Aucton Thursday (Feb. 2, 2012).

After the auction it was time for a final night of fun. The ladies got a head start on that with a 6:30pm Women in Domaining reception at the Fairmont Miramar. 

Some fabulous Women in Domaining at their Thursday evening (Feb. 2) reception.
(Photo courtesy of Kamila Sekiewicz)

Soon after the ladies' reception began, motor coaches started carrying guests across town to Hollywood's House of Blues for an evening of networking, good food and fine performances from Lucent Dossier, a performance artist group that combines a dash of Cirque du Soleil style acrobatics with creatively attired models and modern dance.

Performance artist group Lucent Dossier entertaining DOMAINfest Global guests 
at Hollywood's House of Blues Thursday night (Feb. 2, 2012).

Lucent Dossier re-appeared on stage ever 20 minutes or so in new costumes and new routines. In between each appearance, cast members mingled with guests and had photos taken with them.  The breaks between performances also gave guests plenty of time to circulate through the crowd to see old friends and make new ones. It was an excellent format for a group that likes nothing better than networking.

Faces in the crowd at the House of Blues  included (at right) Diana Jackson and veteran domain investor Roy Messer.

(And below, left to right) a nine-man group that would make a fine domain industry all-star team: Ammar Kubba, Page Howe, Roy Messer, Steven Kaziyev, Ari Goldberger, Michael Lindsey, John Yeomans, Andrew Rosener and Bill Lozada.

The visit to the House of Blues and Friday morning's farewell breakfast that offered a final chance to say our goodbyes, was a fine way to cap a wonderful conference week graced with fabulous weather in Southern California. While we saw a lot of changes in the DOMAINfest Global agenda, one thing remained the same. As always, the fast-paced show ran like clockwork from start to finish with much of the credit for that going to Oversee's Aaron Kvitek and Corinne Forti who put in a ton of work behind the curtains to make the magic happen.

While the once overloaded domain conference scheduled has undergone a long expected contraction, Oversee's Debra Domeyer told us DOMAINfest Global will remain a fixture on the calendar and will definitely return in 2013. So, if you missed the big event this year, you've got plenty of time to get your plans in place for DOMAINfest Global's lucky #7 conference that will help kick off the next New Year. The past six shows have provided ample proof that it will be an event you won't want to miss.


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