As usually happens the day after the TraffcZ
party, morning arrived long before most registrants were ready to
get out of bed! Still the highly motivated ones made it to the
second speed networking session at 10am Thursday (May 22). This time
the format changed with people divided into groups based on their
expressed areas of interest. Some new partnerships came out of this
session as like minded people came together and decided two heads were better than one in realizing their business goals.
The biggest panel of the week, seven members
strong, followed at 11am to talk about the "holy grail",
the possibility of discovering a way to develop hundreds or even
thousands of domains en masse. The panel featured Jeff Beasley (BlueFrog
Interactive), Gregg McNair (Domain Holding Group), Dr. Chris
Hartnett (founder of USA Global Link), Andrew Allemann, Jerry
Donny Simonton and Ammar Kubba.
Kubba (the COO at T.R.A.F.F.I.C.'s
lead sponsor TrafficZ.com
and, along with CEO Kevin Vo, the subject of our October
Story) said he did not believe that
developing thousands of domains in a meaningful way would ever be
possible. Instead he advised developing a few key domains in one
vertical, then taking other domains with traffic in that same
vertical and directing their traffic to the developed sites.
Hartnett (a spectacularly successful
COO Ammar Kubba
| entrepreneur who will be the
subject of our upcoming June Cover Story) told attendees to "Do
what gets you excited. Money will follow when you do something you
are excited about."
Nolte ran through a series of useful tips on
how to develop websites quickly, pointing out that there are often
overlooked free programs that come with the Control Panel most
hosting companies provide with even the cheapest hosting accounts.
Using programs like Fantastico, Nolte showed a string of sites he had
been able to do in as little as 15 minutes, some that include
scripts that update content several times an hour.
those looking for content writers to hire interns from their local
university. English and journalism students will work cheap (or
free) just to get experience. His base in Austin, Texas is home to
the University of Texas, giving him a large pool of talented young
people to draw on.
Bailey (head of Google's domain
channel) made an unscheduled
appearance at the podium Thursday.
|An interesting situation developed just before
lunch. Moderator Howard Neu shook up some people at the beginning of
the day by announcing that he had been involved in a
conversation with Hal Bailey in which the head of Google's domain
channel said some derogatory things about domain owners - calling
them all cybersquatters and people who clicked on their own sites.
(Dr. Hartnett corroborated Neu's account).
Bailey got wind of this and asked to address the audience before
lunch. When he took the podium he indicated that what had been said was in the context of a
larger discussion about the problems of trademark violations and
click fraud. I wasn't privy to the original conversations and Bailey
did make an attempt to diffuse the situation so I would be inclined
to write this incident off to miscommunication, but it does
underscore the wisdom in domain owners exploring ways to reduce their reliance on Google and Yahoo.
nothing to stop the two search giants from deciding one day that they are no longer
interested in using the domain channel and eliminating it from their
ad network. Fabulous.com's respected COO Dan Warner has been very
vocal about this possibility, so it is something that needs to be
seriously considered in your monetization strategy.
Once again, there were just two afternoon
seminars following lunch. In the first of those a four man panel
discussed registration matters including, among other things, UDRP issues and how to deal with
them. Those on the dais included Bill Mushkin (Name.com), Monte Cahn
(Moniker.com), Freddy Schiwek (EuroDNS) and Divyank Turakhia (Skenzo).
CEO Bill Mushkin speaking
on registrar issues Thursday (May 22).
People sometimes ask if their domains would be safe from arbitration
and legal issues if they were held with registrars based overseas.
With the popular global extensions the answer is no. Newcomers
frequently confuse registrars with registries. The registry
administers one or more entire extension (for example Verisign
controls the .com and .net registries). Registries do not deal
the general public. Instead you register your domains with any of
the dozens of registrars out there, who in turn pay the central
registry a set fee for each domain that you register through them.
Since the central registries hold the "book" on all
registrations in the extensions they operate, they have ultimate
control over the domains. As a result, holding domains with a
registrar overseas would not insulate you from arbitration or legal
proceedings directed against .com, .net, .org, .info or .biz domains
because the registries that control those extensions are all based
in the U.S.
I had the opportunity to sit on the final
seminar panel Thursday called Insider Tips. Our group
included Lonnie Borck (NetRocket.com), Page Howe (TheCardShop.com),
Dave Evanson (NetVantagePoint), Lissi Mack de Boer (Sedo) and
Ronen (Sendori.com). I know I may be a bit biased but I thought our
session was one of the best of the show - partly because several of
our speakers took the podium for the first time at a domain
| Borck, Howe and Evanson were in that group and I hadn't
heard Lissi speak before either. Listening to these highly
experienced domainers and executives provide tips for the first time
was an exceptionally valuable experience.
Borck was a special treat
for me because I haven't had a chance to talk with him privately as
much as I have some of the other panelists. In my casual
conversations with him he is always polite, low key and even a bit
reserved. As a public speaker he quickly shifted into a high gear
haven't seen before and he was great, delivering one excellent tip
after another throughout his talk. Several members of the audience
mentioned that to me later and he left the crowd eager to hear more
from him in the future.
By 4:30 the business day was over - the earliest
ever, again by design as Schwartz
| and Neu decided to loosen the
agenda and leave people more free time to enjoy their surroundings
and chat with friends and associates. Many hung out at a wine and
cheese tasting in the sponsor exhibit hall while others headed for
the pool or one of the Disney parks.
My family opted for the wine
tasting and a chance to visit some of the sponsor booths. Parked.com
quickly sucked us in with free rides on CEO Sig Solares' Segway personal
transporter. None of us had been on one before and we all decided we
wanted one after taking a ride. They would be the perfect
alternative to $4 a gallon gas if they didn't cost $5,000 each!
When Brittany took off on her maiden voyage aboard a
Segway (see photo at right), Sig quickly turned his back -
obviously afraid to see what might happen to his vehicle
(she did almost crash into one of the cocktail tables, so his
concern was not entirely unwarranted). To Brittany's right, Michael
Ward and Monte White watched as she peeled out of
the Parked lot.
Everyone regrouped in the evening for
Parked.com's Beach Party. Due to inclement weather that event wound
up being moved indoors to the main lobby of the convention center.
No one minded a bit as the tropical band set up alongside the
buffets and open bars and quickly got the party underway.
A pair of
Disney artists were a huge attraction as they did cartoon
|of anyone who wanted one made (some
may have been sorry they
chose to do so but most got off relatively easily). A crowd gathered
around the artists and their subjects throughout the night, laughing
as they watched the cartoon likenesses develop.
Kubba on the caricature hot seat. The cartoonist didn't
capture his good looks (probably just a coincidence, but I
the artists's rev share at TrafficZ dropped dramatically the
ladies fared better at the cartoonist's hands - but with
subjects like this to work how could they go wrong?
After another short night for sleep, he final business day opened Friday (May 23)
with a 10:30am seminar (the last of the show) devoted to Search
Engine Optimization. Rick Waters (Webcast1), Paul Bliss (Elliance.com)
Schiffer (SEOP.com) handled this session.
Business Week has referred to as one of America's top
ten entrepreneurs, said his company also owns about 30,000 domain
names. He said they have put together a development system,
utilizing content writers based in the Philippines, that
allows them to develop 1,500-2,000 sites a month. By concentrating
on content and proven SEO techniques, Schiffer said they are seeing
revenues quintuple from their starting points before SEO. Schiffer
said that employing SEO experts provides a strong return on
investment and those who do not take advantage of SEO are leaving a
lot of money on the table.
He said his company is also entering
partnerships with domain owners with flexible arrangements that can
include cash payments or equity. Extra value is created and shared
as they add content, video and SEO in the site building
At the Friday luncheon I gave an update on aftermarket
domain sales trends. Despite a continuing downturn in the general
economy, the domain aftermarket continued to grow in the first six
weeks of 2Q-2008, though the rate of growth appears to be
slowing. Over that
| time frame $11.1 million worth of
completed sales were reported to us. In the same period in 2Q-2007,
$10.9 million in sales had been reported, so the increase was
2% year over year. Things could change considerably over the second
half of the quarter. Moniker sold $3.3 million worth of domains in
the live and silent auctions at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East and many of
those sales will be completed and booked by the end of the quarter.
In a related noted, the Senior VP and General
Manager of NameMedia's Domain Marketplace (which includes the
AfternicDLS) Peter Lamson told me that his company had their
best quarter ever in 1Q-2008. Lamson said, "Our SMB
(Small to Medium sized Business) “end user” focus really seems
to be paying off, as global business demand for a compelling online
identity seems only to be accelerating. The momentum is
continuing in Q2, so we are definitely seeing on AfternicDLS
what you are seeing with respect to domain sales remaining strong in
an otherwise challenging economic environment."
After lunch, it was time for the main event,
Moniker.com's live domain auction. By the time the dust had settled
in the four-hour event, a little over $2.55 million worth of
domains had been sold, including a half dozen 6-figure domains
including GasPrices.com and InsuranceRates.com at $225,000
each. The complete list of auction results is available here.
Joel Langbaum and Moniker CEO Monte Cahn
conduct the live auction Friday (May 23)
While the auction total was lower than recent shows a higher
percentage of domains was sold. Moniker has been pushing sellers to
set more reasonable reserves and when they do so more names
naturally change hands. People are looking for bargains and just as
potential real estate buyers are waiting on the sidelines, hoping to
see prices fall more before they jump into a house, many domain
investors are being patient, waiting to see if problems in the
general economy spill over to this business and start pulling domain
prices down. Many have strong cash reserves and are ready to pounce
if they think domains are priced right. I've also talked to many
domain owners who say they would rather sit on their assets until
the economic storms blow over than sell out cheap, so it's largely a matter
of who will blink first.
|Throughout the day Friday, normally dignified
men and women were seen decked out in mouse ears and
princess tiaras. Many were coming from a Disney character breakfast
where this kind
of fashion was de rigueur. By the time the farewell dinner rolled
left, Gregg McNair (AKA Goofy)
with Goofier (AKA Ron Jackson)
(Photo courtesy of Barbara Neu)
| 7pm, it seemed like half the people in the room had a
silly hat on. I didn't plan to be one of them, but earlier in the
day I had taken a photo of a group sporting new Disney headwear. I
razzed Gregg McNair about being the oddball because he was the only
one not wearing an extra set of ears.
Later at lunch McNair showed up
with an eye catching Goofy headdress on. In the interest of good
sportsmanship I felt like I had to reciprocate so I selected a fine
piece of haberdashery on an afternoon outing to Epcot that I wore to
dinner. Unfortunately, there were people with cameras running around
that ignored the time honored code that says "What Happens at
Disney World Stays at Disney World."
|After dinner Disney left the Magic Kingdom open
from 11pm to 2am for hotel guests only so a large group (of all
ages) decided to take advantage of it and hit the park together.
We started by catching the spectacular fireworks show above
Cinderella's Castle, then went on to hit rides in every corner
of the park. In those wee hours there were few lines (a real
rarity at Disney) so we felt like we had the run of the place.
Rob Grant, Chris Hartnett and others adopted a new slogan and
tried it out on every stranger they saw, declaring "This
is the best day of your life!" I'm sure that as soon as some of
display over Cinderella's Castle May 23
(captured on a handheld Sony H50 camera)
those folks put some distance between themselves and our mad hatters
they probably did indeed feel that way (or if not the best day, at
least, once they were out of harm's way, the luckiest!). Of course
it was all in good fun
and has now been commemorated at...where else would domainers
commemorate something....a website: ThisIsTheBestDayOfYourLife.com. Here are some photos from one of the best
evenings of our lives:
by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride he just
Dr. Chris Hartnett grabs a sword and goes postal.
|The ride below looks safe
enough, proving looks can be deceiving...
|| ...we almost lost one of
our best men on it!
conquered space mountain and lived to tell about it.
(photo courtesy of Barbara Neu)
By the time we got back to the hotel it was 3am. That made it a short night (but well worth the sacrifice) before the final order of business
Saturday morning - a meeting of the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. advisory board.
Anyone at the show is free to sit in on these gatherings. The board
consists of about ten volunteers who provide the promoters with
feedback on what they are doing right or wrong, where future shows
might do well and the like. This time they were also asked to help
provide input for a transparency seal of approval T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
plans to make available to qualifying parking companies and domain
Attendees at these meetings also get updates
from Schwartz and Neu on what their plans are for the future. In
this case, next will be the New York City show Sept. 23-26 that will
be held at the Marriott- Brooklyn Bridge. That will be
followed by the first overseas T.R.A.F.F.I.C. show, T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
Down Under that will be staged by Fabulous.com
on Australia's Gold Coast November 18-20, 2008.
In 2009, Schwartz and Neu plan to cut
back to two shows, likely to be one on the West Coast (San Francisco
or Silicon Valley) and a return to New York. Florida is expected to
be back on the schedule in 2010 with Orlando in the running again.
Schwartz said he is also considering a very limited capacity
boutique show back where it all began in 2004, the Marriott in
You may recall that at the New York show last summer
Schwartz told the advisory board he was interested in selling his
share of the conference and returning to " civilian life". At this
meeting it was announced that he had changed his mind and plans to
stay at the helm with Neu.
at the Brooklyn Bridge - Site of
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York Sept. 23-26, 2008.
|That means T.R.A.F.F.I.C. attendees will
continue to be greeted by Rick and Alina Schwartz alongside Howard,
Barbara and Ray Neu. I'm personally glad to hear that. They have
been consistently great hosts from day one and it just wouldn't feel
like T.R.A.F.F.I.C. if any of them were missing.
Rick & Alina
Howard, Barbara & Ray
(shot taken at 2am after many many rides and a rain
storm but they were still going strong!)
Journal Show Coverage BONUS!
For dozens of additional photos
continue on to the
T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2008 Photo
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