Vlog #44: Chris Elwell - The Man Who Thought To Kick Off The SEM Event Space

Feb 10, 2020 - 7:52 am 0 by

Chris Elwell

At SMX East, yea, several months ago - catching up here on publishing these vlogs - I convinced Chris Elwell (@celwell), the CEO of Third Door Media, the company that owns and operates Search Engine Land, Search Marketing Expo and a bunch of other properties, to sit down and talk with me. He was a tad reluctant, he doesn't understand why people would care to here about him, but the night before SMX East started, we chatted for a bit. I think it is important for you to know the man with the vision to help start the SEM event space.

Chris Elwell may have been credited for making the SEO space, specifically the conference event side of things. He was responsible for acquiring Search Engine Watch, with Danny Sullivan back in 1997 or so while working at Internet.com and with Alan Meckler. In 1999, Search Engine Watch was doing well and they kicked off an SEO event with a conference in San Francisco. It had 250 or so people at the first event, including Google had a booth at that event.

We talked a bit about the various spin offs and acquisitions throughout the years and how the company became Jupiter Media. He said the highest number of attendees had over 6,000 attendees at the event. Then he and Danny Sullivan started a company named Third Door Media and the brands Search Engine Land and Search Marketing Expo. They bootstrapped the company in the early days and we discussed those early days. Mike Grehan, who I interviewed here, gave the company the domain name SearchMarketingExpo.com.

We then talked about Danny Sullivan’s departure from Third Door Media. He said from day one, Danny wanted to build a company that transcended him, which he did. Chris said he was not surprised by his departure, although I was. I did interview Danny Sullivan earlier on and here is that video of him stabbing in the back. We talked about him coming back to SMX and speaking as a Googler, maybe.

Third Door Media now has about 40 people, not including contractors. We talked a bit about how the journalists and business operations people are really separated in this company. Which led us into the stresses of running a business, such as a conference business. He said he has been doing this for a while, so he has gained some confidence. But while you cannot always control the revenue side of this business, you can control the expense side. He said the company watches the expenses really closely and then shared some examples of this.

We then talked about some of the individuals who help run the company, including Henry Powderly VP of Content, Mark Sirkin SVP of Marketing & Experience, Leslie Bacon Head of Sales, Chris Sherman VP of Event Programming and Ginny Marvin Editor-in-Chief (who I interview at SMX after this video). I only have good things to say about everyone at SMX. He then gave me parenting advice. :)

You can learn more about Chris Elwell on LinkedIn or on Twitter at @celwell.

You can subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here so you don't miss the next vlog where I interviews. I do have a nice lineup of interviews scheduled with SEOs and SEMS, many of which you don't want to miss - and I promise to continue to make these vlogs better over time. If you want to be interviewed, please fill out this form with your details.

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