To paraphrase Charles Dickens in his immortal "A Tale Of Two Cities," it was the best of shows, it was the worst of shows. The "best" part was on a personal level, where despite having the flu and having lost my voice, I still managed to meet many new people and have some very worthwhile conversations. As for the "worst" part, well, you'll have to read on:
I've been attending Internext since the previous century when it was known as "ia2000" and I have seen a steady decline in recent years of both the number of exhibitors (as well as the size of their exhibits) and the number of attendees. While first-time attendees will have no frame of reference for comparison, seasoned exhibitors and attendees alike expressed disappointment in this year's event. The event itself isn't necessarily to blame, however, as it merely reflects the lower cash flow, tighter budgets and politics of our current marketplace.
Sadly, the show floor often seemed like a ghost town scene out of an old western movie, where one almost expected tumbleweeds to blow by along the empty aisles, to the tune of coyote howls in the distance. It's not that it was really that bad, but it did pale in comparison to the "good old days" when throngs of attendees and endless mega-booths made seeing the whole event nearly impossible.
The show floor isn't the only draw to Internext, however, which is known for its informative and thought-provoking seminars. Unfortunately the venue chosen for this year's seminar program was an empty, open space adjacent to the registration area. Surrounded by fabric walls, this area offered such poor acoustics which were further hampered by the continuous cacophony of passers by and the nearby AEE show floor that actually hearing the presentations was quite challenging, which was unfortunate as there was a healthy slate of worthwhile topics and knowledgeable speakers. I'm certain that the promoters would have preferred a better venue, but the other shows ate up so much space that this was all that was left. It was better than a tent in the parking lot – but not by much.
One significant draw to this year's Internext was the fact that it coincided with AVN's Adult Entertainment Expo. For those with passes to both events, the size and strength of AEE left many Internet-based operators to feel that they might be on the wrong side of the business. Indeed, I saw a number of booths at AEE that were promoting name brand websites seeking to move their content into the DVD market.
The Beginning of the End?
Interestingly, some of the biggest buzz generated at Internext didn't actually surround this particular show – but the next one to be held in Las Vegas, which is scheduled for March 1-3, 2007 at the Mandalay Bay Resort. That's right; there'll be no January Internext next year.
Many will welcome the choice of an alternative date for the show, especially those smaller webmasters who have long complained about the financial burdens of attending a show so close to the holiday season, as well as those who are dismayed by the enormous crowds and higher prices that result from scheduling Internext to run alongside of AEE and CES (which alone drew an estimated 130,000 attendees).
However, the selection of a show date so close to the Phoenix Forum left many of the serious players opining that if it's a choice between attending Internext and the Phoenix Forum, that we'd all be seeing each other in Arizona. Some also found it non-coincidental that CCBill (the primary sponsor of the Phoenix Forum) for the first time did not have a booth at Internext, preferring a more personal approach to working the show. If the show's promoters were hoping that scheduling Internext alongside Phoenix would "knock out" the smaller event, they could be in for an unpleasant awakening as this strategy may indeed backfire on them.
There seemed to be a consensus among many folks that I talked to that at this point in the industry's development, that having only one Internext per year, rather than two shows, or even combining it with AEE, would be a smart move. Indeed, dropping attendance figures and a lack of exhibitor support may force such an outcome. Interestingly, some also felt that there were compelling arguments for wrapping the whole thing back up into CES, from which it split off several years ago.
In conclusion, I'd like to draw a comparison between this show and a beautiful girl who has aged beyond her prime: while still attractive, she doesn't turn nearly as many heads as she once did. Sure, there's still life in the old girl, but it's time for her to get an extreme makeover if she hopes to receive any favorable attention in the future. I look forward to the continued evolution of Internext and to what the future has in store for the "show of shows."