A look back at the latest TRAFFIC domain name show.
I’ve read a few blog posts this weekend from people giving their opinion on the TRAFFIC show that just concluded in Orlando. Of course, half of these bloggers weren’t even there, so I don’t know how they can pass judgment on the show.
I’m going to give you my thoughts, up to the time I left Friday afternoon during the auction. (After that point my experience went downhill, since a bellman at the Grand Floridian resort at Disney World managed to pack my bag in the back of someone else’s SUV. When I went to pick it up they discovered that it was in Clearwater and they wouldn’t be able to retrieve it in time for my flight. I won’t get it until Tuesday, which means I’m spending the holiday weekend without things like my tennis shoes.)
Attendance: I don’t think anyone is happy with the attendance numbers. I counted about 200 people in attendance, and only about 75 people attended the auction when it started on Friday (roughly the same number of bidders were online). I’d estimate about 60 of the people there were representing exhibitors. That’s many fewer people than recent shows. I think there are five reasons for this:
1. It was at Disney World, not an ideal location for this crowd. Although billed as a “family friendly event”, it was hard for most people to bring their kids since school isn’t out.
2. It was right before a holiday.
3. The general economy.
4. The domain industry is facing downward pressure.
5. Conference fatigue — too many conferences since the beginning of the year.
In some ways, having a smaller crowd was nice. It created a cozier affair and made networking easier.
Content: I talked to a few first time attendees to get their impressions. The general consensus was that the conference was fun but “light” on content. They didn’t feel that they were learning much. Hopefully they weren’t referring to any of the panels I was on 🙂 Perhaps more “how to” sessions are in order.
Social: I think the social aspects of the conference were very strong. The speed networking session was well organized and I met a lot of new faces. The parties were fun too. TrafficZ had a good beer guzzling party Wednesday night at an Irish pub and Parked.com had its “beach party” on Thursday evening. Unfortunately, rain made the beach part more of an “under the awning” party, but it was fun nonetheless.
Food: The food was great. TRAFFIC listened to feedback from previous shows and decided to have more buffet style lunches than the boring rubber chicken fare typically served at conferences.
Auction: I have mixed feelings about the auction. I think the low/no reserve auction on Tuesday night was a success. I was disappointed in the Las Vegas auction. Although this one pulled in less money, I was content with it. Bidding was strong for the good domains with fair reserves. .Mobis sold for what they should have (not much). I think there were some good domains that should have sold, such as Hoodia.com, but perhaps the right bidders weren’t in the room. Some people have suggested that reserves were too high and that there were many “million dollars bids” that were below reserve. This is sort of true. Some of the reserves were too high, but these “million dollars bids” were actually just the auctioneer getting things started.
Sentiment: The mood of the show wasn’t nearly as upbeat as in the past. Parking revenues are down and there’s a real (albeit slim) chance that Yahoo and/or Google will pull the plug on the domain channel. That wouldn’t be good, but there are still ways to make money with domains that aren’t parked. This just shouts out “Buying Opportunity!” to me. There was one company at the show, Click Forensics, that is working with parking companies to ensure high traffic quality. This is more important now than ever before and companies like this could save the industry from losing advertising partners.
Looking forward, what’s in store for TRAFFIC? The next conference will be September in New York City. Attendance should be up given the location. I did hear that it may be in Brooklyn, which would be disappointing. I love Brooklyn and enjoy visiting, but many people go to NYC for Manhattan. At the last NYC show I stepped out a couple times to meet with people in the city, which would be difficult to do from Brooklyn. But perhaps I just misunderstood the location. Second, I’m curious who will be the lead sponsor of the next show. TrafficZ may be looking for an exit given that it now owns the Domain Roundtable conference, but I’m sure another company will step up to fill its shoes.