ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Domain Name Wire Radio. Find Domain Name Wire on the web at www.domainnamewire.com. Now here’s your host, Andrew Allemann.
ANDREW: Welcome to Domain Name Wire Radio. I am your host, Andrew Allemann. Before I introduce our guest today, I would like to remind you that you can download this podcast or read a transcript of this and any other DNW Radio Shows at www.domainnamewire.com/radio. I’d also like to thank our sponsor, Traverse Legal. You can find out more about Traverse Legal on the web at www.traverselegal.com.
Now on to the programming. You probably know today’s guest by his popular domain name sales newsletter and his live domain name auctions, but Rick Latona is picking up another big responsibility by running the popular T.R.A.F.F.I.C Domain Name Conferences. I invited Rick onto the show today to discuss what’s in store for the conference in 2010. Rick welcome to the show.
RICK: Thank you for having me.
ANDREW: So, Rick, why don’t we jump in? You know, I’m curious, obviously, Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu have been running the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Show for a while. When did you first start exploring the idea of kind of taking over the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. show and why did it make sense for you?
RICK: Well I wouldn’t say that I’m taking over the T.R.A.F.F.I.C Show. Rick and Howard are still part of the business. What I have is a multi-faceted, multi-year licensing agreement. So Rick and Howard, for example, will still be doing one show a year and 2010 will be doing a show in South Beach, Miami Beach, for those of you who don’t that. And we talk regularly about the entire schedule of events. I talked to them four times last week. To answer your question, I wanted to do a show after I saw the show in Brisbane, Australia, that Fabulous.com had licensed. When I went there, I was introduced to probably something like 100 Australians that I never would have normally met, because they wouldn’t have traveled to the big U.S. shows, and I guess it was then that I realized that you have to get local to go global. So after doing that we licensed the show to be able to do an event in Amsterdam which we had done earlier this year in 2009, and after doing the show in Amsterdam and meeting all the tech people and Europeans that hadn’t normally come to the shows, the idea was solidified, I was able to build tighter bonds with both the sponsors and the attendees and ultimately I wanted to do it on a bigger scale.
ANDREW: So when I look at the 6 shows, right, in 2010, I noticed that many of them are outside the country which kind of jives with what you’re talking about. Do you expect a lot of the regular attendees that attend the U.S. shows to also attend the outside the U.S. shows or is it mostly that local or continental audience that you are shooting for there.
RICK: Well I suppose this is a continuation of my last answer. In Australia and in Amsterdam, about half the crowd was first time people. They had never even been to shows. So I had never seen them at a show in the States. The other half were the European and the Americans that go to all the shows, and frankly, if that is the way it remains then we will grow this industry at a brisker pace, because it’s all about bringing new people into the fold. I envision some of the European shows actually getting bigger attendance than the U.S. shows if not in 2010, in 2011. Europe has a large community and as much as Americans may not want to hear this, Europe’s economy is bigger than the United States. So the only other shows that we are adding in 2010 are Canada and Hong Kong, and Canada is hardly international. If you’re Canadian, and I’m not trying to dismiss your country, but Vancouver if I remember correctly is only 100 kilometers across the border. So in reality the only risky addition is Hong Kong, but Asia is such an up and coming fast growing market, it can’t be ignored.
ANDREW: Right and there are a lot of big domainers up in Vancouver as well.
RICK: Yeah, well I mean, between Young Ye, Kevin Ham, and Frank Schilling, I think that would all qualify as big, I suppose.
ANDREW: So what changes do you have in store for T.R.A.F.F.I.C? Obviously, you have some new fresh ideas. What do you hope to bring to it?
RICK: Well there won’t be major changes out of the gate; that’s a quick way to ruin a business is to acquire and then change the whole thing wholesale. It’s already a great show. I’d like to think I’d be continuing to make improvements because the show has always changed every year due to the changes in the industry and so it will be more of the same. Rick and Howard made changes and improvements every year and I’m just going to continue doing the same thing. We’re going internationally. We have opened our arms for a larger attendance. We’re making it slightly less exclusive, modifying the panels to make them more interesting and continuing on the path that has already made the show a great success.
ANDREW: Now, when a lot of people look at domain conferences — and there are certainly a lot of them — on the slate for 2010, they may look at T.R.A.F.F.I.C and think this is the most expensive show to attend which historically it has been. What are your thoughts on your expense of attending?
RICK: Well I’m really glad you asked me that question, because it’s not the most expensive show to attend, and it hasn’t been for some time. We have, the last couple of years, we have lowered and lowered the prices. I mean it certainly was in the beginning, but in Vegas our early bird price was lower than the price for Domain Fest, and I think that people that know me or do business with me know that if they want to come to the show, and they can’t afford to come to the show, or it’s just not in their budget, all they have to do is contact me. I’m not going to let a single customer get away. The important thing is that we have people there for the networking, and that we have people there for the auctions, and that we have people there for the test track which I’m sure you’re going to ask me about so I’ll wait to talk about it. So I’m much more concerned about having as many warm bodies in the room as possible than there probably previously was. So it’s not the most expensive show to go to is answer to the question.
ANDREW: Ok. Let’s talk about that test track. So this is something that Rick and Howard introduced at the last conference up in New York. Tell me a little bit more about that and what you have plans for on that as well.
RICK: Right. Well the test track is something that was modeled after the popular ABC television show Shark Tank. For those who haven’t seen it, it’sâ€¦ I DVR every episode. If you are a business person, I mean, it’s the best entertainment on television. You can go to ABC.com/sharktank to actually download episodes for free, but what it is basically is entrepreneurs pitching a panel of investors business and then deals actually get made during the show. So Howard came up with the idea, hey why don’t we do that at a T.R.A.F.F.I.C event, and when Rick and Howard called me about it, I mean, they hadn’t even finished the sentence and I was sold on it. It’s such a brilliant thing, and I had everybody in New York telling me that they thought it was the most intellectually stimulating part of the show, because you have these entrepreneurs, they have these domains, they’re pitching their ideas, they’re asking for money, and then the panel picks it apart, tells them the good things, tells them the bad things. It’s such a focused event. It’s just educational, and what I’m going to be doing, because I kind of compare the test track in New York to the first auction at the Del Ray Beach, the first track of show in 2004. I don’t know if you were there, but we basically wrote down names on a white board. Everybody wrote down what they would pay for it underneath the name and it was so amateur hour, but over time and over the years, now you’ve got multiple companiesâ€¦it’s a real business now and I want the same thing to happen with Test Tracks. What I’m focused on and what people will see in Las Vegas is a very hand picked selection of entrepreneurs with real businesses of real value being pitched to a group of real investors. So I have legitimate venture capitalists, legitimate, extremely wealthy high networth individuals who actually do angel investment deals and they look for angel investing opportunities and will be on the panel. My goal is for a deal to actually happen live for all to see. It’s going to be great.
ANDREW: Looking overall at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C shows and kind of from your experience, what do you think the number one reason is that people attend these shows?
RICK: Well I actually know the answer to that question, because last week we called 100 of our biggest customers and asked them to pick what their number one reason was and an overwhelming majority of them said the networking was their number one point. I was actually surprised that the lowest reason to attend the shows was the parties and that is a big expense for the shows, but it was networking and then followed by location, followed by auctions, then parties was way down the list. So if you go to www.targetedtraffic.com nowâ€¦actually this morning we actually put the most recent schedule. It’s a three day event that we are going to do in Las Vegas, and what I’ve done is I have front loaded the first day the Thursday, January 21st with networking events. There’s going to be a ccTLDs thing in the morning while people are still showing up and then at 2 pm is going to be Networking Event 1 which is basically anybody who wants to can get on stage and give a 60 second elevator pitch about what they do, who they are. Then there’s going to be a break and then we’re going to do Networking Event 2 which will be speed networking which is going to be longer, better, more focused than previous speed networking events and then is the cocktails. My goal is for the first part of the show to try to make sure that everybody knows everybody in the beginning. That way on day 2 and day 3 they can actually talk about business together, because they have already met on day 1.
ANDREW: Yeah, that makes sense. I can imagine someone coming to a show that has never been before and you know if you or I are at the shows, we know lots of people, but if you come in and don’t know people that would be a great way to kick things off.
RICK: I have beenâ€¦I’m a trade show guy which is one of the reasons I did this licensing agreement. I just like doing industry things, and even before I got in the domain business, and any other business I’ve ever been in, I’ve always went to the trade shows. Always ended up being an infrastructure thing, you know, like doing auctions and doing trade shows and being more in the infrastructure rather than the guy actually trading the names. It’s just kind of my personality. And one thing that I learned over 15 years going to trade shows is that each event, you may meet 100 people, but you start new real relationships with maybe 2, 3, 4 people and what happens is the more shows you go to the more those add up. So you have 3 people, then you have another 3 people, then another 3 people, and after 10 years you know 200 people really well, real strong relationships. And that’s what it’s all about.
ANDREW: Great. A lot of people talk about the domain shows and say, you know, they all have the same basic seminars. How are you going to make your seminars stand out?
RICK: We have spent a lot of time talking about that in our office, and what we’ve tried to do if you look at our schedule that’s on Targetedtraffic.com you will see that we have tried to focus the seminar on one particular issue. What I don’t want to happen is a panel of people just talking about the same shit they always talk about, or whatever they feel like talking about. So rather than saying, for example, that there is going to be a legal panel and having 3 domain lawyers just talk about anything they feel like talking about, what we’re going to be doing is from now on starting in Vegas and at all shows, the legal panels are going to be a review of WIPO cases and various legal cases that have happened since the previous show. So the panel they are going through the major cases and precedents that happened in the last couple of months. That will happen at each show and will be so focused and so educational they won’t be talking about anything else. And then, for example, when it comes to parking, you know, we’re going to have a panel in Vegas for a CPA as an alternative to PPC and we will have, of course, a panel about optimizing your domain portfolio, but it’s going to be with real world examples again. And one panel we’re going to be doing that I don’t know why I’ve never seen it at a show, because it’s such a fundamental part of being a domainer, but not all domainers do it, I mean heck, I’ve never really done it; it’s not been my thing, but have you ever even seen a panel on playing the drop market? Like how to analyze what domains to go after? What tools the masters’ use when trying to determine what to bid or how to know how much a domain will make before you own it, where to buy it, and what to bid? I’ve never even been to a panel on playing the drop market. So we’re going to be talking about that a lot too.
ANDREW: So is Skenzo back o nboard as the main sponsor next year?
RICK: Skenzo has actually signed on through 2011.
ANDREW: Wow, great.
RICK: Yeah, they’ve signed on for 2 years. One of the things that, because we’ve known for a few months that we were going to be running the shows for the next 5 years, so I told my team, I said, “well listen, I do not want to get into a situation where every day we are trying to figure out who our sponsors are, you know, who’s going to be a sponsor for the next show, you know, if we’re going to be doing a show every two months, I wanted to know exactly, if by the end of 2009, I could have all my sponsors covered, then I can spend the entire year of 2010 on making sure it’s actually a great show, and then I’m not chasing money the whole time.” So we contacted all the normal sponsors and said listen, we’ll give you a really good deal if you sponsor all six shows, because we don’t want them just to sponsor, so we’re not just collecting money, we want the support. We want to know that they’re going to be there and they’re going to have the people no matter what corner of the world it’s in. And we’ve gotten the vast majority of them to agree to it. We have another major company coming on the scene that’s going to be just second only to Skenzo, but I can’t tell you who it is because we’re in the final stages in negotiations, but we’ve had Parked.com, InterNetX, and euroDNS. Oh I hope I don’t forget anybody.
RICK: Yeah, and we’ve had quite a few companies already sign on for the entire year.
ANDREW: Great, and you can see all of those sponsors, of course, on the Targetedtraffic.com website. So, finally, you know, you’re going to run this test track again where you’re quizzing entrepreneurs, just getting them up there to give their 30 – 60 second pitch. I’m going to give you a chance here to give me your pitch, not to give it to me, give it somebody who is thinking about coming to the show in Las Vegas, what would your pitch be to make the investment and come out?
RICK: Well I know that the biggest reason to come would be networking, and we are going to give you the best networking opportunities. We’re actually starting an ad campaign that will be going live in a couple of days and the banners that we have purchased everywhere, our entire campaign network wide is going to be who do you want to meet? We’re going to just let people type in a name of a person they want to meet and their email address, and I’m going to set the meetings up for them. All the biggest domain auctions that have ever happened since the very beginning of time have all been at Traffic events. Reason number 3, Vegas! Reason number 4 the Test Track isn’t to be missed. It’s actually going to be the “main event two”. So main event 1 is the auction and main event 2 is Test Track. It will be a fantastic show. I won’t let you down.
ANDREW: Great. That sounds like a pretty good guarantee there. Well, Rick, thanks so much for your time, and we’ll look forward to hearing more about the conference as we get closer, and of course, anyone who wants to learn more about registering for the conference, the hotel at the Hard Rock there in Vegas, can log on to www.targetedtraffic.com for more details. Thanks again, Rick.
RICK: Thank you for having me, Andrew.
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