Search Conference Controversy Sparks Up Again

Apr 30, 2008 • 9:33 am | comments (5) by twitter | Filed Under Search Engine Conferences Coverage

Kevin Ryan of Search Engine Strategies spoke with Daron Babin and discussed the current state of the conference circuit with regards to individuals believing that they have been banned from either SMX or SES events.

Danny Sullivan kindly transcribed the event on Sphinn (which I'm very grateful for!) Here are some key points:

According to a series of events, Rand Fishkin believes that he was banned from SES events. To respond to that allegation, Kevin says:

. There are folks we’ve asked not to come to the event primarily because they were on the competing side of the business from the commercial side of the business and defaming SES. So naturally what kind of a business manager would I be if we didn’t meet with our senior management and ask these people not to come. You don’t go to a Coca Cola convention and the Pepsi people don’t show up at the Coca Cola convention and defame Coca Cola. It’s just not done. It’s childish and foolish and I’m disappointed that Rand is perpetuating a rumor. That’s just not accurate.

Kevin also adds that he believes that there was some sort of exclusion due to his focus on paid search versus organic search:

I was an ad guy doing search, so the red-headed stepchild in the ad community, and I come into the search community and I’m not welcome because I not a search insider.

In his response, Danny says that there was never such a thing and that Kevin has always spoken on panels in conferences that Danny himself arranged.

Finally, one of the last key points is that Kevin believes that the attendees were looking for "fresh" content at the events. Danny responds that the content issue was addressed, but the primary selling point in his experience was the better food (which SMX boasts over SES).

What about banned attendees? Danny says:

At SMX, we banned the staff of one particular show from attending finally in February, in reciprocation for a ban placed on our staff stretching back to December 2006, for a myriad of reasons that would change. If that ban is ever lifted, I'll happily lift ours.

However, Danny is quick to mention that he's always looking for good talent to speak at these events and there should be no perception of exclusion at all.

Forum discussion continues at Sphinn.

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Matt McGowan

05/01/2008 04:35 pm

For clarification - Rand and his team have not been banned, end of story. Let's move on... there are many more interesting things in the world of Search to write about.

Barry Schwartz

05/01/2008 04:38 pm

Matt, we write about what the industry wants to hear about. Check the Sphinn thread and discussion, it is obviously an important topic to the industry.


05/01/2008 11:43 pm

Ok, folks. Obviously, our hopes of the WMR interview putting some of these issues to bed were conditional on interested parties listening to the WHOLE interview, not just cherry-picking loosely transcribed quotes to support their biases or unfounded beliefs. Next time we'll do it in a less conversational, monosyllabic format for those looking for quotables about the mutually cordial yet naturally competitive nature of these relationships. We may even do it on the SEW Blog. Until then, the hope remains that the industry focus more on business issues and less on rumors of who moved whose cheese. Can we all get back to work now, please? P.S. He who is without sin of submitting a late speaker request may cast the first stone ;--)

Barry Schwartz

05/02/2008 01:00 am

Kevin, I think you are too close to all of this. Tamar quoted pieces of the interview but also gave a link to the original/full source. I would love to see a post at SEW. But like you said, let's get back to work. ;-)

Danny Sullivan

05/02/2008 10:36 am

I don't run SE Roundtable, so I have nothing to do with what's picked out from the interview here. I'm glad Matt pointed out that Rand was not banned -- that was made clear in the interview, but that part of the transcript I made of it was not picked up here. Kevin, I transcribed virtually every relevant part of the interview at Sphinn here: If you read that and are calling it "loosely transcribed," well, then I suggest you actually listen to the interview yourself, compare it to what I transcribed and back your statement up. I noted in the transcription that I might not have had it 100% perfect -- but after listening to it like 3 or 4 times, I'd neither suggest it was "loose" in any way. I think at worst, I might have missed a word here or there accidentally. Lots of the whole interview had nothing to do with the banning stuff, so I skipped that -- but anything about speakers, I'm pretty sure I got all that in there. Personally, as I said at Sphinn, it was kind of surprising to hear you felt you were apparently excluded from the SES events when I was running them, when from my perspective, I was ensuring to include you when I knew you wanted to attend and take part far more that I would have others who might have wanted to jump in at late notice. I know it is convenient for you and Matt to brush this all off as not of interest to anyone, but from a business point of view, you and SES last year came out with this big push on how you wanted to be more inclusive, to ensure SES. Recall... "We were looking for a balance of the old guard with new members with the potential to bring new ideas and thought processes to the show," Ryan said. "Everybody involved is highly steeped in search, and many Advisory Board members have been doing paid search or SEO for more than 10 years." "In other words, our world is changing and we're going to change with it. In order to be the guiding force in this industry, it will take a village. Of course, this means you. The Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Strategies contributors, speakers and advisors have helped define standards in the industry and kept the world at large informed about search. The world (as it is) owes you a debt of gratitude and I'd like to invite you to come along with me as we bring about the next evolution of search." You and your company have made inclusion of the search marketing community a selling point of SES (and by definition, suggest that previously under me, it wasn't that way). So when you have some speakers who are clearly not happy about whether they are included at all, well, that's relevant for you to discuss. I'm not talking if they were banned -- Daron was talking in the interview with you on issues of inclusion overall. From my perspective, it's a business issue to me when you in your interview say the biggest issue of attendees in the past was that they didn't want to hear the same speakers over and over. That's what you said you needed to fix -- and it suggests that I somehow missed that for the years I was running things. That's kind of harmful to my reputation, so just as your sick of hearing about stuff you have to defend, so am I have to come back in and defend myself. And as I said, the biggest issue from attendee feedback from what I saw was that they wanted better food. They loved the programming. They loved the speakers overall. They loved the format. And they kept coming back in record numbers for the conferences I ran.

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