RealTime IT News

Fall Internet World Shows Sedate Side

There is no doubt that Internet World Fall in the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City is a smaller show in 2001 than it was just a year ago; that much is clear from the half-empty conference hall during keynote presentations, an exhibitor floor significantly reduced in size (and with plenty of elbow room), and a press room nearly devoid of reporters.

Despite co-location with Streaming Media East 2001, the show has drawn only about 500 exhibitors this year, according to Steven Wright-Mark, president of Schwartz PR Interactive, which represents show producer Penton Media. That number is down from the 1,000 or so exhibitors the show drew last year.

"We were here last year and obviously it's much smaller this year, but hopefully this will be the final consolidation of the industry and it will grow back to what it was before," said William Freed, marketing development manager for Digital Island. "This is the core of the industry here. We are looking at it as this is what's left of the industry as the strongest companies remain."

As for attendees, there is no official count as of yet. Wright-Mark explained that Penton is one of the only companies that has an independent auditor tabulate attendance to its shows.

"We have no count whatsoever how many people we've had going into the show," Wright-Mark told InternetNews.com Thursday morning.

However, he said that Penton anticipated about 25,000 attendees based on pre-registrations, down from 36,000 attendees last year, representing an overall 29 percent drop. Unofficial estimates were even lower.

Wright-Mark said a number of factors may have contributed to the decline, including the need to reschedule the show from October to November as a result of the events of Sept. 11.

"We definitely did lose exhibitors [as a result of the rescheduling], but, interestingly, we did gain some exhibitors as well," Wright-Mark said, adding that Penton received tremendous support from around the world, both for its decision to delay the show and its decision to reschedule rather than canceling altogether. Still, he pointedly noted that the show lost more exhibitors than it gained.

The decision to reschedule also brought Internet World together with Streaming Media East 2001, which was already slated for the Javits Center for Dec. 10-14.

"We were intending to co-locate in 2002," Wright-Mark said. "It was a little bit quicker than we intended." But while there were hurdles to overcome in integrating the two shows, Wright-Mark said the integration went smoothly.

"Overall, the impression is that attendance is way down from prior years," said Eric Maldonado, regional sales manager (New York) for NaviSite. "My expectation was that there would be a few more people here considering it's a combined show."

However, Maldonado also noted that despite the decreased attendance the NaviSite booth did brisk business during the first two days of the show, aided in part by the fact that it was able to get a larger booth this year as opposed to the pod in CMGI's booth it occupied last year.

"In terms of quality, we've generated a lot of leads but will not know about the real quality of them until after the show, so it's hard to say," he added.

In some ways, the tightening budgets of many companies have been a boon in disguise, according to Paul Macchia, manager of North American public relations for Radware.

"People are not looking to spend more, but to manage what they have, which we think was one of the appeals that was drawing people to our booth," Macchia said. "We believe our product is good for ROI on a company's network."

He added, "We only want to talk to the people who are serious and we've been getting quality leads and that's what's important."

Of course, rescheduling the show likely only accounts for part of the decreased attendance. A second factor in the show's decline is the economic reality of the Internet industry itself.

"The industry itself has seen a downsizing," Wright-Mark said, noting that many companies that have sent exhibitors and attendees in past years either no longer exist or have cut their staffs and budgets as a result of the Internet bubble bursting.

"We were not here last year, but there were 15,000 visitors to Oracle's booth last year and this year we are seeing maybe about half of that," said Sid Poondla, vice president of technology consulting and Web hosting firm (and Oracle partner) BiJTek Solutions. "To some extent we expected this as the Internet boom has gone."

He continued, "We are not feeling let down by the lack of attendance experience as I think the timing was bad also. Not only are people scared to come to New York, many firms have cut their sales and marketing budgets so they do not have the presence here."

Poondla said his firm would assess whether to return with a booth next year depending on customer leads generated during this year's show.

Still, the show goes on, while the makeup of those attending changes. Wright-Mark said 80 percent of the last show's attendees came from traditional companies looking to use new technologies to improve their businesses. Wright-Mark said that is a trend he expects will continue.