signed on to co-promote the event at the W Hotel City Center. Kelsey is
one of the world's leading consultants on local media matters and
since geo is all about local, their alliance with Associated
Cities was a match made in heaven.
The end result was a record breaking Expo crowd in Chicago that
was attracted by several factors including (but certainly not
- Increased interest among domain owners in learning how
to develop domains into full-blown businesses,
something that leaders in the geo field have always
concentrated their efforts on.
- Show organizers' decision to broaden their base
by opening the doors to geo domain owners in all
extensions and to those who own geo targeted domains
(for example, ChicagoHomes.com), not just pure city
domains (that broadening of the base will be further
accelerated by AC board's decision to welcome state and
country geo owners as members and rename the group Associated
Geos to reflect that change).
- Greater recognition of the inherent value of geodomain
assets as potential replacement platforms for
faltering traditional media outlets like newspapers,
magazines, radio and TV.
- The decision to hold the show in Chicago, one of the
world's greatest cities and one that, despite unlimited
attractions and amenities and a large base of local
domainers, had been bypassed by promoters on the general
domain conference circuit. Incidently, Chicago also
happens to be home to Josh Metnick, the AC board
member (and owner of Chicago.com) who first came
up with the idea of organizing fellow city domain owners
into the group that became Associated Cities.
With all of the prevailing winds blowing in its favor, the
2008 GeoDomain Expo was a grand slam home run, a feat that
was especially remarkable given the fact that the show
location and dates were announced just seven weeks before
the event took place.
While the official show dates were July 10-12, about three dozen
people who arrived in Chicaco a day early were treated to a very
special evening Wednesday night (July 9). The Expo's lead sponsor, TrafficZ.com,
invited them to a spectacular Lake Michigan dinner cruise
aboard the Odyssey II to celebrate the recent
acquisition of Name Intelligence by TrafficZ's parent corp, Thought
Convergence. The cruise departed from Navy
Pier shortly after 7pm and by sunset the vessel was gliding past
the Chicago skyline, offering a spectacular view as guests dined at
three tables on the Odyssey II's multi-level decks.
COO Ammar Kubba (at front left) and local domainer Anthos
(front right) were among those on Traffic Z's dinner cruise.
Ward (Atlanta.com) and wife Angie
When darkness fell, the ship
served as the ultimate vantage point for watching a spectacular
lakefront fireworks show over Chicago (photo above snapped from the Odyssey II deck).
Incidentally, people have
asked us why TrafficZ, one of the leading domain parking companies,
sponsors the GeoDomain Expo, a show that focuses entirely on domain
development. Obviously people who are developing domains are not
parking them so on the surface there appears to be a disconnect.
However, if you read our October
2007 Cover Story about TrafficZ's leaders, founder Kevin
Vo and COO Ammar Kubba, you already know that they have ambitions that
stretch far beyond the PPC space. In fact, they
are already heavily involved in domain development themselves, having partnered
with Associated Cities board members Michael and David Castello
to develop Cost.com.
TrafficZ is steadily
building a broad based industry conglomerate (witnessed by their
Name Intelligence acquisition) that will be involved in just about
every aspect of the domain business (as well as interests that
extend beyond the domain business). That's why you see them
involved in just about any function where domain owners meet.
The next day (Thursday July
10), the Expo would officially open with a 6pm welcoming cocktail
party, but at noon that day a special series of private seminars for
Associated Cities members only began with a session called The
Real Deal: How Sites Make Money.
The panel (seen left to right in the photo above)
included Fred Mercaldo of Scottsdale.com (standing at the
podium), moderator Dan Pulcrano
(CEO and Founder of Boulevards New Media), Natalie Lambert
(Castello Cities Internet Network) and Pat and Michael French
While I popped in to snap the photo above I unfortunately didn't get
to stay for the private seminars. Originally I wasn't scheduled to
be in Chicago at all on the 9th. As part of the deal to go a day
early I had to promise my wife I would take her to the fabulous Art
Institute of Chicago Wednesday afternoon.
The museum, located
just down Adams Street from the W Hotel, is home to Grant Wood's
iconic 1930 painting American Gothic. It's hard for me
to miss anything related to domains, but the Art Institute is one of
those Chicago landmarks that just can't be missed (especially if you
value your marital relationship!)
Though I was away, you should know about the kinds of special seminars
that come with Associated Cities membership. At 1:15pm the topic was
Getting the Most Bang For Your Buck: Advertising Strategies
for Site Development. David Castello moderated a
panel that featured Mark Burgess (San Diego.com), Ari
Bayme (Modern Capital) and Associated Cities Executive Director Patrick
Wood's American Gothic
on display a few blocks from the Expo
Next up at 2:30 it was External Site Marketing: How to use
newsletters, blogs and keyword marketing programs to bring traffic
to your site. Carleton moderated a session that featured Sean
Miller (NewYorkCity.com), Jessica Bookstaff (PigeonForge.com),
Josh Metnick (Chicago.com) and Mike Ward (Atlanta.com).
At 3:45 SEO veterans Sara Mannix (Albany.com) and Truman
Hedding (LosAngeles.com) headlined Back to Basics: Design
Implementation and Strategic SEO with Ms. Bookstaff serving
The final seminar, Technology Roundtable: Take Advantage of
Emerging Technologies to Build Your GeoDomain, featured Jeremia
Froyland (Branson.com), Jon Lumpkin (Richmond.com) and
others who summarized web technologies that geodomains owners can
incorporate into their sites. Obviously, to steal a line from American
Express, Associated Cities membership has its privileges.
At 6, the AC members headed for the ballroom for the official opening
cocktail party and a chance to mix with a crowd of show goers that
traveled from around the globe to be there. People were packed wall
to wall and the bright prospects for the geo sector had them
crackling with energy and excitement.
For most attendees, the night continued long past the cocktail
hour as they split up into groups to sample the wide variety of
great restaurants around Chicago. Name Intelligence co-founder Jay
Westerdal took one group of about 15 to a great local Italian
restaurant where they closed the place down. At one end of the table
Diana and I enjoyed chatting for hours with the Castello Brothers,
Natalie Lambert, Dan Pulcrano and Parked.com
co-founder Sig Solares. Similar conversations among domain
owners were going on throughout the Windy City that night.
The next morning (Friday July 11) it was time to get
down to business but thankfully - given the late night out - not
until 10:30am when Associated Cities chairwoman Jessica Bookstaff
and founding board member Dan Pulcrano welcomed everyone to
Pulcrano also gave a geodomain "State of the
Union" talk touching on the rapid changes in the media world
that are working to the advantage of domain owners and geo domain
owners in particular.
With newspapers in a tailspin that they might not be able to
recover from — and other traditional media stalwarts like
magazines, radio and TV losing audience to the Internet — local
city geodomain owners have a chance to take a pre-eminent position
in their communities. From their
domain platform they can deliver all forms of media, print,
audio and video in one convenient location. When you couple that
capacity with the unforgettable brand name of
Boulevards New Media
| the city itself (a la NewYorkCity.com,
LosAngeles.com, etc.) you have a truly powerful combination
that could end up being the dominant force in the new media
At 11am, the Expo's keynote
address was delivered by Kelsey Group founder John Kelsey.
Kelsey said he has been impressed by the diversity of people who have
come to the conclusion that domains are the place to be. "There
are people from newspapers, Yellow Pages, real estate, ISPs - all
these different people from different areas who have come to the
same place with the same objective - to build a successful
business," Kelsey said, adding that the unique nature of
geodomain assets made this the right place to be.
speaker John Kelsey
"It's all about the
real estate and you have prime real estate," Kelsey said.
However he also noted how important it is to get to know the
community you represent if you want to succeed. "You have to
figure out the right building for your property. There is no one way
to play Monopoly you know. What you can do is increase your
chances to win by doing the right things and just as importantly,
not doing the wrong things like wasting your time on little things
that aren't going to make any difference."
If your basic foundation is
sound Kelsey thinks you will be positioned to reap major rewards.
"People care most about their local circumstances and
local solutions. Because of that I think there is a goldmine of
national advertisers that are moving out of traditional media and
into local web based media. They will go to the web because that is
where our children and in my case, grandchildren, are growing up.
That's where the customers will be."
I spoke at lunch Friday,
giving an update on trends in the domain aftermarket and also noting
some specific geodomain sales of interest. .Com city domains are
seldom put up for sale because they are already in the hands of
people or companies that have developed them and are continuing to
build businesses on those platforms. The largest city .com sale
we've seen in the past year was Melbourne.com at $700,000. Another
large Australian city domain, Perth.com, sold for $200,000. When you
think that some large city newspapers are losing $200,000 every week
that looks like an exceptional bargain to me.
Though their newspaper
brands are dying many papers still have legions of content writers
and photographers on staff that could turn a city .com into a media
powerhouse. However, even though they can still produce the content, they've yet to
come to grips with the fact that they are no longer using a viable
platform. Simply putting the name of their paper on the web isn't
enough because that brand is not familiar to the new generation that
has grown up on the web. That generation didn't read the Chicago
Tribune, for example, so that name on the web carries little
weight with them. Chicago.com on the other hand, in their web based
world is a very powerful natural brand for news and information
|There were three afternoon
seminars after lunch. In the first ways to get Local Revenue
from Local Advertisers was the topic. Tips were provided by
panelists Dan Pulcrano, the Castello Brothers and Jessica
Bookstaff (PigeonForge.com and Durango.com).
Castellos talked about how they built PalmSprings.com from
scratch into a site that earns $1 million a year from the
front page alone. Their story is detailed in our December
2006 Cover Story).
Pulcrano discussed how his company is
building a network with their wholly owned large city geo domains
(including SanFrancisco.com, LosAngeles.com, Dallas.com
and many others) that taken as a whole, now ranks among the
world's top 360 web properties according to Quantcast. Pulcrano's
story was also told in a DN Journal Cover
Story in February 2008.
Ms. Bookstaff is creating a
great story of her own with her success building up PigeonForge.com
(a major Tennessee tourist area) and her Durango.com site on
the opposite end of the continent in Colorado.
PigeonForge.com & Durango.com
The next panel focused on International
Geo Domains and featured (left to right in the photo below) Ramon Lujan (Acapulco.com), Rob
Sequin (Havana.biz) and Skip Hoagland (Cuba.com, Buenos
Aires.com and many others) who was profiled in our July
2008 Cover Story. David Castello, whose Castello Cities
Internet Network owns Acapulco.com, moderated this session.
and Hoagland pointed out the importance of partnering with people
based in international cities that are familiar with the local area,
language, customs, etc. in order to relate to local advertisers.
Sequin, who has a special interest in Cuba (he publishes HavanaJournal.com)
talked about the hurdles that have to be overcome to develop sites focused
on countries that the U.S. government currently has embargoed.
Newton (Boulevards New Media)
sitting on the Future of Technology panel
|The day's final seminar was
titled Pushing the Envelope: The Future of Technology and
GeoDomains. Sean Miller (NewYorkCity.com), Harlow
Newton (Boulevards New Media), Jon Lumpkin (Richmond.com)
and Jeremia Froyland (Branson.com)
talked about some of the latest technologies that geodomain owners
can utilize to improve their sites.
Miller noted that most of the
new technologies in social media, evolving local databases, the
semantic web and the mobile web are tied to the user's specific
location and identity, a major plus for geodomains as they are
inherently about location and identity.
Each day during the show, attendees could visit sponsor
booths that were located in the hall running between between
the seminar room and and the ballroom where social events
were held. With all of the show activity and the exhibit
area conveniently located on the pavilion level one floor up
from the hotel lobby, it was very
|easy to take in everything that
happened throughout the week. The photos below show some of
the interaction between attendees and exhibitors.
owners catch a demonstration at the Ares booth
lot of geodomain owners were interested in eDirectory's software
MojoPages booth also drew steady traffic
With business out
of the way Friday it was time to socialize and do some networking starting
with a 6:30pm cocktail hour/buffet dinner. A highlight of that event
was a book signing session featuring Wall Street Journal reporter
David Kesmodel signs copies of
The Domain Game for Expo attendees
Kesmodel recently released a book about the
domain industry, The Domain Game, that has been
earning rave reviews and there was a constant line of people waiting
to meet him and pick up signed copies of the book (it can also be
ordered from Amazon.com).
I picked up a copy and read a big chunk of it on the plane ride back
home to Tampa. Very interesting and well researched material that
will serve as a key resource for domain history. As soon as I am done
with the article your are reading, I'm going to finish the book, then get together
with David for a piece we will publish about the project and his
experiences researching and writing it.
After the cocktail party it
was on to a signature TrafficZ party at Chicago hotspot The Hunt
Club. Domain owners took over two of the three levels at the
club and had a great time in a get together than ran into the wee
hours of the morning. The pictures below give you a taste of the
atmosphere on that special evening.
Hoagland chatting with a new friend at the Hunt Club
top level gave party goers a bird's eye view of the fun
Up On Page
Final Day of the 2008 GeoDomain Expo
From GeoDomain Pioneers
in the News
Live GeoDomain Auction
Give You A Seat at the 2008 GeoDomain Awards Dinner
members take the mic
at the GeoDomain Town Hall Meeting
to Page 2