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08|13|2008 01:48 pm EDT

Rick Schwartz Comments on TRAFFIC Conference Auctioning Sponsorships

by Adam Strong in Categories: Featured

The News of Our Demise Has Been Greatly Exaggerated – Mark Twain

Rick Schwartz announced in an email a few days ago that the upcoming TRAFFIC show would be auctioning sponsorship positions. My gut reaction to reading this email was that it had a ring of desperation. I posted on a forum to see if I was alone. As you could expect from any good forum post about domains, and especially one involving Rick Schwartz, the topic got sidetracked. I let it rest a day or so. . . . It must have just been me. . . .

A day or so later I received an email and later an IM from individuals who had not seen my posts. I guess I wasn’t alone and the overall sense I got from these others was that they feel that the thought of auctioning sponsorships showed a sign that the TRAFFIC conference is in some trouble. Add to the mix other off-the-cuff comments I’ve seen/heard about the show being in Brooklyn and not Manhattan, the recent low attendance at the Florida TRAFFIC East show, and TrafficZ (the main sponosor) and (former main sponsor) now operating competing events (DomainRoundtable and DomainFest respectively). It does make one wonder I suppose.
So why not ask the man himself ! I emailed Rick to get the low-down. Maybe we’re all crazy.

I wrote :

Hi Rick
A few industry vets have emailed me with unprovoked comments regarding the auctioning of sponsorships. They see it to be a sign that TRAFFIC is struggling . Could you comment on that viewpoint ?

Rick replied :

“We are just opening things up just like we did with the new multiple auctions. Competition creates a better product and what may be good for one company can not stand in the way of what is good for the entire industry. There was a lot of pressure not to do that as you might imagine. But we have to do what is best for domainers not what is best for individual companies and sponsors. The results as always will be quite evident and visible for the entire industry to see once we get to New York. No question that domainers welcome this decision and it will change the game as we know it. Plus it’s gonna be a LOT of fun!

The idea for opening up the sponsorships actually came from Dan Warner in a conversation a week or so ago. He suggested that we auction off the auction slots to the highest bidder in future shows. I just took his suggestion and applied it in a slightly different direction. Bidding for sponsorships that just started yesterday is already very active and new faces, companies and solutions are coming into the industry because of it. That is not in the best interest of the status quo. There are those that have taken our business and traffic for granted and the competition we are going to introduce in New York will challenge the business as usual mentality. Should sponsors take notice? You betcha!”

Although he did avoid the question about TRAFFIC struggling, I appreciate Rick’s candor on the topic and look forward to seeing how the bidding on sponsorships goes. I think shaking things up is always good and this business definitely could benefit from fresh ideas and sponsors can open that door. Between the multiple auctions, auctioning sponsorships and a new location, this will definitely be a show worth writing about. I hope these new ideas, new auctions and new sponsors give TRAFFIC and the industry another solid showing. At least one of us from Domain Name News (that’s me) will be at the show next month, so watch for our posts and look for me there.

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Howard Neu

August 13, 2008 @ 2:51 pm EDT

It is true that the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge is on the Brooklyn end of the bridge, but it is a fabulous venue and minutes from the financial district, Wall Street, Little Italy and ChinaTown. Also, Brooklyn has become the hot spot in the metropolitan area with a number of new clubs and restaurants.
In direct answer to your question, no, T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is not struggling, but rather being the creative force that it has been since its inception. It is presently the hottest ticket and we are rapidly running out of space. We expect more networking and excitement than ever before and our multiple auctions will raise the bar for all others that seek to compete with T.R.A.F.F.I.C – the ONLY show run by Domainers for Domainers.
For the first time anywhere, domainers will be joined by SEO people, developers and affiliate afficionados who will be competing with parking companies for the domain investors’ business.


August 13, 2008 @ 3:13 pm EDT

The reaction you evocate of some domain vetrans is very strange.
It was more than clear for me that if they were planning to aution sponsorships it was certainly because there was more ad demand than possibilities!

Acting this way Rick and Howard should maximize their ad revenues.

What I did not realize and thanks Rick for your clarification, it’s this will involve new actors will start to sponsor TRAFFIC shows.
I imagine that show after show some old sponsors accomodated and was asking for everytime higher discounts. It was probably not easy to decline these proposals, in the other hand it was certainly also very frustrating to offer discounts when new motivated actors are entering in the dance.

Their auction solution is a good solution, well done!

Adam Strong

August 13, 2008 @ 3:17 pm EDT

Francois. The show is a month away and was announced a long time ago . If the demand was high like you say, one would think the sponsors would have secured their spots before now.

Howard thanks for your post.

Veteran Domainer Battallion Troop 438

August 13, 2008 @ 3:29 pm EDT

Hmm.. When I saw the price of admission rise to $2,000 – I didn’t exactly think hot ticket, hot air is actually what came to mind, I mean, no one was in Florida. It’s no wonder why the sponsors are reluctant to pony up the big bucks, their target audience isn’t even attending. It seems these days like every other person is trying to sell me on their company, product, or service at these shows – and by the way, SEO people, developers and the other typical parasites in our industry have been leeching (i mean attending) these conferences since the beginning.

I guess for $2,000 I’m paying to come in and see who the new sponsors are… goody!! I can’t wait. ;)


August 13, 2008 @ 4:37 pm EDT

You are kidding Adam, exact?

Who can imagine TRAFFIC having hard times finding sponsors.
We are talking here about the main domaining conferences of the world.
If TRAFFIC should have difficulties finding sponsors then what will happen with the less popular conferences?

I don’t share your pessimism.

I don’t know how sponsorships were reserved and if advertisers had to fully pay their ad spot in advance or just put some money down.
My feeling is they reconducted some sponsorships (the core) and decided to auction the rest for the reasons exposed above.

Adam Strong

August 13, 2008 @ 5:29 pm EDT

Am I kidding about what Francois ? Have you been to any of the recent shows ? I think there may have been more people at the Geo Domain Expo then the last TRAFFIC.

Another from the trenches

August 14, 2008 @ 7:32 am EDT

My vote is that this is an act of desperation. Ridiculous pricing and greed can’t work now that there is competition. His greed is even replected on hos forum where he charges people a per centage of what business they do there. Domainers and sponsors are tired of reaching in their pocket and finding Ricks hand in there. Ever see Rick or Howard at a competing conference? But then, he and Howard have nothing to sell…joke of the decade.

Sean Wood

August 14, 2008 @ 3:48 pm EDT

Why would anyone complain about sponsors at this venue. They should use advertising to the maximum since it will attract more eyes when it comes to big business and provide additional revenues to improve the Moniker auctions.

As far as Moniker struggling, I think that is all to obvious. As I’ve mentioned before the domain names going up at the auctions these days have reserve prices that are out of reality and the timing of the auction lists don’t foster a domain buying crowd.

When will these auctions realize that the best advertisments for these auctions are the domain names for auction them selves. It is easier to justify a plane ride to New York if I can explain to my marketing head that I am going to try to win the domain name Only problem is the lists come out 15 days before hand living very little time to arrange going. :(

There is tons of room for improvement in the wholw auction arena DomainRoundtable, DomainFest, Moniker, SnapNames and BIDO. These companies are neglecting the fact that their auctions should offer Domain Packages rather than just domain names (By the way it is possible that a Domain Package can contain just one domain name).

If you have a good domain name and decide to buy up the spelling mistakes to prevent leakage, how do you submit these domain names? Will you just sell the main name? Won’t that decrease the value since I will still own the spelling mistakes? Most domain names have spelling mistakes that offer permanent traffic leakage.

There is something to think about.

Adam Strong

August 14, 2008 @ 4:52 pm EDT

Sean: Who is complaining about the sponsors?

No one implied in this article or said to me that Moniker was struggling. The topic was regarding the TRAFFIC conference. These are 2 separate entities owned by 2 separate groups.

As for your comments about auctions. ..
“As I’ve said before” . . . I’m not sure where you’ve said this but organizers of these auctions are pushing down reserves as much as they can while at the same time balancing out having good domains for sale. Part of the responsibility of appropriately priced domains lies on the auction house and part of it lies on the owners to be realistic.

Re: the topic of timing and fostering more bidders: All the auction venues have an online bidding component and Moniker has been offering phone-in bidding as well since some of the first auctions. I agree that the marketing isn’t up to par and the lists come out late, but knowing domainers I’d venture that many good domains come in under the wire at the last second. Additionally, most domain owners don’t want to lock the domain into a contract for a lengthy period which would be necessary if any pre-auction promotions were to take place.

You are right there are a lot of things that could use some improvement in the auction space, but in general this article was not about that topic at all.

Thanks for your input though.

Devil's Advocate

August 15, 2008 @ 12:39 am EDT

No matter how they sugar coat it, Brooklyn, is NOT New York and is an obvious step DOWN. As a veteran of many of these shows I have seen the decline in quality first hand. TRAFFIC has gone from informative, innovative and standard setting, to predictable, boring and out of touch.

The domain business has changed so much in the past year but TRAFFIC has not kept up. After 11 shows you would think they could do better than “you can’t afford not to go” type tag lines. $1500 – $2000 is at the top end of show rates and for what attendees get, it is vastly overpriced.

They stop reading their own press clippings and try and get back in touch with this business. The first show in Delray Beach, FL was ground breaking and exciting, the last couple shows were basically a waste of time. Either change with the times or fade a way.

Donna Mahony

August 15, 2008 @ 7:31 pm EDT

Maybe Rick has empty spots because he banned all the crooked PPC companies he has been ranting about.

August 17, 2008 @ 2:35 am EDT

why waste time going to the shows when you can sit at home and bid on the auctions online?

before, you had to goto the shows to bid at auctions…now, you can just bid from home…so why go..other than to meet people and get your drink on…

Matt Wegrzyn

August 22, 2008 @ 2:27 am EDT

Donna, do you know which PPC companies are banned?

My opinion is as follows:

Price is ridiculous. Why would I pay $2000+ to get in, a big 15% or so commission to bid in the auctions, add in a few more hundred or even $1000+ for the hotel stay, not to mention the air line tickets and all the additional expenses such as a) cab, b) food, c) tips? It makes little sense.

Secondly, sponsoring these events could be a tough job, but if you figure how much commission they make off the auctions, it is probably even worth creating your own domain trade conference, giving a FREE ticket for everyone, hell – even free airline tickets, and still make a huge profit off of the auctions.

And that’s probably why their business is going downhill. Many in the industry started their own trade shows because they realized that running it is not really that difficult, and the revenue is pretty big. These conferences make money off of a) sponsors b) auctions, and c) entrance tickets. They can at least give us a break with c). Until TRAFFIC completely removes the entrance tickets – I will never attend that show. There’s little reason to anyway – since in reality most of these shows just waste my time. Do I really want to hear CEO of X and Y tell me their opinions on the current market and what THEIR business has planned for the future? No. This could be different for others, but I like to take a look at the industry news once a week, and take in the bigger news that may affect me/my business/my clients in the future.

So at the end of the day, DomainNameNews is one of the only resources I need. And like someone said, you can bid on domains in these auctions from your bathroom if you want to.

Adam Strong

August 22, 2008 @ 2:37 am EDT

“So at the end of the day, DomainNameNews is one of the only resources I need.”
Thanks for the compliment but even we can’t cover everything but glad to help.

Donna Mahony

August 22, 2008 @ 8:12 am EDT

Matt, I didn’t mean to imply that he banned any PPC companies. I was speculating about why there could be empty sponsor spots this close to a conference. I heard through the grapevine that the next conference was about moving away from PPC and into…something else. Just guessing Matt, sorry for the confusion.

Matt Wegrzyn

August 23, 2008 @ 4:29 am EDT

Ah, I see.

Well, I once talked to Rick about sponsorship back in the day. The prices were pretty steep. The problem is as someone else mentioned – why spend $50,000 to give a 15 minute key note speech? Your target audience is not potential customers or clients, but mainly competitors actually. It all depends on what kind of business you conduct, but if you are a registrar or domain parking company, then it doesn’t work out well.

Take a few minutes, and I bet you can come up with a much more effective advertising plan for $50,000. It costs like $15,000 to put your company name on a hat. Ridiculous.

I don’t remember the exact prices per-se, but they were pretty steep from what I remember. I have the email, but on a different PC, so I can’t tell you what the prices were. And they could have been in confidence, so I rather not say. :)

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