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2010 GeoDomain Expo Review: New Orleans Rolls Out the Red Carpet for Domain Developers 

By Ron Jackson 

The 2010 GeoDomain Expo enjoyed a successful run at the historic Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of New Orleans April 28-30. Geodomain developers from around the U.S., Canada and beyond converged in the Big Easy for the annual event staged by Associated Cities (a global association of .com city geodomain owners). Don Jones and Bill Hammack, the partners who own and operate AC member NewOrleans.com, served as gracious hosts for the conference and thanked attendees for coming back to a truly unique city that has staged a remarkable comeback since being devastated during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

We provided some daily show photos and highlights while the event was underway in these posts in our Lowdown section:

However when the show is going on, the busy schedule doesn't leave time to provide detailed information on individual sessions nor to edit and post a lot of the great photos taken during the week. To remedy that situation and tie everything together in one tidy package for posterity, we have put together this comprehensive review article. 

The show began Wedneasday night (April 28) with a welcoming cocktail party in the famous Blue Room at the Roosevelt (a landmark luxury hotel that recently completed a $145 million renovation that restored it to its former glory after it had been shut down following Katrina). In its heyday the stage in the Blue Room was graced by music legends ranging from Frank Sinatra to Louis Armstrong to Ray Charles.

In the photo above Diana Jackson and Bob Olea in the Roosevelt Hotel's Blue Room as a jazz trio plays from the stage behind them at the GeoDomain Expo's opening night cocktail party.

Below - part of the crowd gathered in the Blue Room for the start on the 2010 conference.

Below: Faces in the crowd opening night (Left to right) - Patrick Ruddell (ChefPatrick.com), Ammar Kubba (Thought Convergence Inc.), Don Lyons (Moniker.com) and Patrick Carleton (Associated Cities)

Below: Dan Pulcrano (Boulevards New Media) and Caroline Temple (Name.com) 
in the Blue Room Wednesday night (April 28),

Everyone got down to business Thursday morning (April 29) when NewOrlean's.com's Bill Hammack (at left below) and Don Jones (at right below) kicked off the day by welcoming attendees to the their city. 

Below: Part of the crowd on the opening business day at the 2010 GeoDomain Expo

Arnie Fielkow
New Orleans City Council President

We also heard from the President of the New Orleans City Council, Arnie Fielkow, who expressed the city's appreciation for being chosen to host the conference. He urged attendees to spread the word that New Orleans is open for business and is welcoming visitors with open arms. Having spent a delightful week there (we arrived a few days before the show began so we could spend some time exploring New Orleans) we can back Mr. Fielkow up 100% on that. 

In the Expo's first business session Thursday morning a panel featuring Dan Pulcrano (Boulevards New Media), Sean Smyth (Groupon), Tony Wills (AllMenus.com) and Alisa Cromer (LocalMediaInsider.com) covered various ways local media sites can compete against national sites that have a local focus like TripAdvisor, Yelp! and others. Ms. Cromer wrote about one solution, City in a Box, in a column she wrote from the Expo for her website. She also published another interesting article from the show titled What's in a name: Domain strategies for local media companies that is worth checking out.

Local Media Vs. the Nationals panel featuring (left to right): Tony Wills
Alisa Cromer, Sean Smyth and Dan Pulcrano.

Next up the Castello Brothers, Michael and David (Castello Cities Internet Network) discussed Maximizing Geo Brand Traffic Revenue. A lot of local advertisers use Google AdWords to promote their businesses and the Castello Brothers have come up with a formula to show those advertisers that they can deliver the same amount of traffic from their local sites like PalmSprings.com and Nashville.com for less than a third of what it costs to buy traffic through Google AdWords. 

David said CCIN builds a splash page for each client that appears on their local site (a page that often gains its own high ranking in Google's search results). They sell their ads at a flat rate but are able to show advertisers that Hyatt, for example, wound up paying just $1 a click from PalmSprings.com while the cost per click through Google Ad Words ranged from $2.56 to $3.31. As David said, "When the advertisers see that advertising with us is a no brainer."

Michael Castello (left) and David Castello of Castello Cities Internet Network 
provide tips on Maximizing Geo Brand Traffic Revenue

At the Thursday luncheon I gave a media person's view of the prospects for the geodomain industry. I reiterated something I have said a number of times in the past - that I think .com geodomain owners are perfectly positioned to reap huge benefits from the migration of advertising money from traditional media to the web.

After lunch Fred Mercaldo of Scottsdale.com and Cathy Maddox of NewOrleans.com kicked off a series of afternoon sessions with a seminar on Creative Local Branding

Cathy Maddox (left) and Fred Mercaldo discuss Creative Local Branding

Ms. Maddox detailed the many ways that NewOrleans.com drives traffic to their site, including sponsoring and promoting community events, media partnerships with local radio, TV and print outlets and creative advertising included NewOrleans.com logos and artwork on smart cars and special contests.

Associated Cities Co-Founder Josh Metnick 
of Chicago.com speaking during the 
Social Media and GeoDomains Session

A session on Hotel Marketing followed featuring Chad Montgomery of Expedia.com, Bill Marbach of GetARoom.com and Rob Kazmierski of Advanced Reservations Systems. 

The topic the switched to Social Media and GeoDomains with Patrick Ruddell (ChefPatrick.com), Courtney LeClair (ZCO Corp.), Josh Metnick (Chicago.com), Jim Smith (Sobiz10) and Marian Mariathason (Sobiz10) on the dais for that seminar. 

The panelists emphasized the importance of using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to promote your business. People have become used to having two-way communications with the people they do business with so you don't want to be left behind in the obsolete world of one-way communications. 

The first day of business closed with Don Jones of NewOrleans.com and Davis Asplund of ZCO Corporation offering discussing why the explosion of mobile devices is making it critical for you to Mobilize Your Website.  

With the business out of the way, it was time for some fun with a night out at the famous Tipitina's night club in the French Quarter. A New Orleans jazz band led attendees on a procession from the hotel down Canal Street and into the Quarter for a special evening that included a buffet of traditional New Orleans dishes including jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo and po boy sandwiches. 

A local jazz band leads GeoDomain Expo attendees on a march down 
Canal Street to Tipitina's night club Thursday night (April 29). 

At Tipitina's, Chef Patrick (front right) alerts a group of 
attendees that they are on Candid Camera.

Faces in the crowd at Tipitina's included Cathy Hoagland and Associated Cities 
Co-Founder Skip Hoagland of Domains New Media.

On Friday morning (April 30), some of the early risers visited booths in the exhibition area before heading into the conference hall for the day's first business session.

GeoDomain Expo attendees visit the Local.com booth.

The final day of the Expo Friday opened with Ari Bayme (ModernCapital.com) and Kim Mac Leod (Regional Media Advisors) conducting a seminar on Finding the Exit Door - Cashing Out Now or Later. They provided valuable tips on partnership and development deals as well as maximizing the value of your site should you decide to put it on the market. 

Bayme offered three rules be believes everyone should follow before agreeing to a joint venture or development deal: 1) Do not let go of your domain, 2) Define development precisely and 3) if it goes on your page it is yours.

Ari and Kim were followed by Bruce Marler (Missouri.me Network), Fred Mercaldo (Scottsdale.com) and Vic Chabra (Chitika.com) who took part in a panel discussion on Developing Any City - how to make the most of any local geodomain asset. In this session Mercaldo detailed how the City in a Box solution that he developed (and that we referred to earlier in this article) can speed up development of any city geodomain.

Ari Bayme

Phil Corwin
ICA Legal Counsel

At the noon lunch break  the Internet Commerce Association's Legal Counsel Phil Corwin brought attendees up to date on ICANN policy issues and legal threats to domain owners. A few months ago it appeared that the ICA might disband due to lack of financial support from the domain community but thanks to generous donations from a handful of companies and individual domain owners, the organization was able to re-organize and allow Corwin, who is based in Washington, D.C., to continue doing his valuable work on behalf of the industry. 

After lunch it was time for the Expo's keynote address, delivered by GetARoom.com Co-Founder David Litman. Previously Litman co-founded Hotels.com and grew the company from a $1,200 initial investment into a corporation that sold in 2003 with a valuation of $5.5 billion! The theme of Litman's talk was Conservative Entrepreneurship - ways to build a business with minimal risk.

Litman put a heavy emphasis on being frugal  

and controlling expenses. His cardinal rules for running a business include 1) Don't waste, 2) Don't spend unless you have to, 3) If you spend, spend as little as you can, 4) Make sure whatever you spend pays for itself in a short period of time and 5) Know your down side, don't limit upside.

GetARoom.com Co-Founder David Litman delivering his keynote address. 

The Expo closed with a pair of afternoon business seminars. In the first Jessica Bookstaff (eDestinations) and Sara Mannix (Mannix Marketing) offered tips on Creating a Unique GeoDomain Image. Jessica's company operates PigeonForge.com and Durango.com while Sara's firm runs a number of successful geodomain sites in upstate New York including LakeGeorge.com and Saratoga.com.

Jessica Bookstaff (left) and Sara Mannix offered advice 
on Creating a Unique GeoDomain Image

Dawn Pauganan (Local.com) taking part in 
a panel discussion on Building Your Local Business Directory that closed the Expo.

In the closing session, NewOrleans.com Co-Owner Don Jones moderated a panel devoted to Building Your Local Business Directory. The panelists were James Chubb (eDirectory), Dawn Paduganan (Local.com) and Doyal Bryant (Universal Business Listings). 

With Yellow Pages rapidly losing business to the Internet, the panelists pointed out the enormous opportunity geodomain operators have to profit from online business listings. Their companies are all involved in offering services to help website operators do that. Jones, who has a background in the Yellow Pages business, noted that local print directories in many markets saw their revenue plunge 25% in the last full year reported.

Ms. Paguganan's company, Local.com, currently powers directory listings on Atlanta.com, SanFrancisco.com and Portland.com to name just a few. She noted that one of the most attractive features of their platform is that it costs the site owner nothing to implement.

Attendees were left with plenty to think about when the curtain came down on the 2010 GeoDomain Expo, but before heading home to put what they learned into action, many stayed over to join other showgoers for a Friday night dinner at celebrity chef Donald Link's Cochon Restaurant - a New Orleans hot spot famous for its Cajun food (Link was on hand and autographed copies of his Real Cajun cookbook for guests who wanted to take copy home).

One of the three tables filled by GeoDomain Expo attendees at a closing night dinner 
Friday (April 20) at the Cochon Restaurant in New Orleans

This was the fourth straight year I have attended the GeoDomain Expo and it has never failed to please. If you have an interest in developing domains, this is a show you be at when it comes around again in 2011. 


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