PubCon 2008 Kickoff Keynote: Shawn Rorick

Good morning. Here we are at the first day of PubCon. Everyone’s a little confused this morning because we’re in the North Hall instead of the South Hall, unlike every previous year. Luckily my cab driver was a smart bunny and figured it out for me. He also told me that cab drivers in Vegas are only required to know where the hospitals and major government buildings are. Like where to get that shotgun marriage annulled after you get your stomach pumped to avoid alcohol poisoning. [They sure train ’em up good in Vegas. –Virginia]

Brett Tabke gets us started this morning with some housekeeping. Maybe he’ll tell us how to get on the Wi-Fi. That would be awesome. This is the biggest PubCon ever, as far as sessions go. When the financial stuff hit in September, registrations just stopped. About a week out from the election, registrations started to build again. Wow. He asks who has seen a decrease from the last six months — it’s about half the room. Those who have seen an increase — the other half of the room. Almost everyone is optimistic for the next six months.

Microsoft Live Search pretty much underwrote the whole conference. Kudos to them. Yahoo isn’t here this time around.

There will be three conferences next year:

  • Austin, March 11-13
  • London, July 4
  • And of course, Las Vegas

Let’s get going.

Shawn Rorick is in charge of marketing the Cirque du Soleil shows. Brett asked him to speak because they’re on the bleeding edge of marketing. [I heart Cirque du Soleil. Oh, Susan, go to LOVE while you’re in Vegas! –Virginia]

This is Shawn’s first keynote, he tells us, and he’s not a morning person. All his notes are on a cardboard box. Heh.

Shawn got into Internet marketing in 1996 when he joined a marketing firm and they came to him and said “we want a Web site”. No one in town knew how to do it so he called Microsoft and they sent him FrontPage. Hee. He spent a couple of years learning Java and HTML while doing consulting. Then he went to the MGM Mirage after a while and built their team from three to fifteen people. After a few years he went to Cirque.

Where we are, where we’ve been, where we’re headed

Where we are: Google’s mission statement is to organize the world’s information and make it accessible and usable.

The world’s information doubles every three years. Five exabytes of storage were required in 2003.

It used to take 50 years, then 25, then 15, etc. It’s the half-life formula. If it used to be 50 and in 2003 it was three, imagine what it is now.

Right now we’re in the “cloud” which is just a metaphor for the Internet derived from network diagrams.


  • No more software titles at Best Buy
  • No more cables to your television, phone or stereo
  • No more video stores
  • No more “hard drives” for storage
  • No more Web sites
  • No more downloads

How are primary marketing tactics used in a world like this?

The Web is getting smarter. Instead of results we’re getting recs; the future of the Web is personalization. There are four parts: the individual’s behavior, crowd behavior, item behavior, all three combined.

Looking at the new engines, like Blinkx and Cuil, gives you an idea of where we’re going. The look of search is changing.

Look at where online media spending is today: search, display ads, classified, video, rich media, email.

He thinks we’ll see virtual worlds coming into play, social media search, search, mobile, widgets and desktop apps, RSS. This is reflected in the growth rates in today’s emerging media spending.

The “long tail” is changing because of all those emerging markets. The tail is getting thicker because there are so many different ways of diving into information. The fragmentation of media is the result of an increased online user population over time.

“The future of online media is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” — Wired

The last big jumps in Internet usage were in 2001 and 2003. They’re now five to seven years mature in Internet usage. Shawn’s dad got online to play chess against people in China. Now he uses it for eBay, for his business, etc.

He thinks that the recent presidential race is a perfect example of old tactics versus new tactics.

McCain uses: video sharing, blogs/social media
Obama uses: video sharing, in-game advertising, blogs, mobile (SMS), viral campaigns

[Pretend you’re watching a viral video blaming Shawn for losing the election right now.]

2.9 million U.S. mobile subscribers received the text message announcing Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s running mate. It was the largest mobile campaign to date.

Why are new media tactics approached “conservatively”?

  • Unproven application
  • Non-applicable demographics (younger)
  • Etc.

Most people over the age of 55 are not going to be thinking in terms of new tactics. The average estimated age of someone on a board of directors is 55+. The old school exited with Enron, Friendster, Qwest and Xerox. Once they retire, the new generation will come in and take over.

He sees a merging of media. There used to be a split in media between online and offline channels. Ten years later, they’re coming together. It’s primarily due to acquisitions and mergers of offline and online agencies. It’s also because there are comparable formats. Telemarketing is like mobile marketing, etc.

He proposes a new concept: halo media.

Media fragmentation exhibits users deciding where, how and when they will consume media. This fragmentation results in a cluttered environment, and as marketers, we’re forced to have multiple points of advertising.

With halo media, you have your company, then you create a circle of presence around your company. Experience, reference, discuss and purchase when they are ready. The user isn’t asked to “click and buy”.

So what do marketers need to ask themselves?

Where is my time best spent, and where do I get the most bang for my buck?

  • Measurement is critical.
  • Remember that not all opportunities are “applicable”.
  • Forget the “rules”.
  • Get closer to traditional media.
    • Continue to be the “expert”.
    • Educate and share insights.
    • Play the budgets.

Action items:

  • Get closer to understanding traditional media (formats, metrics, etc.).
  • Attend new or emerging media conferences.
  • Don’t spend money on what you already know.
  • Join or start a local Internet marketing association.
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • Interrogate the sales people and learn to turn around the pitch.
  • Remember that you have the “keys to the car”.
  • You are only as transparent as you want to be.
  • If they’re not doing what you’re doing today, they’re six months behind.
  • ALWAYS put yourself in the user’s shoes.
  • You are a trendsetter and an opinion leader in the digital age. We are at another pivotal point where emerging media is influencing audiences.

You are the innovators. Discover. Evaluate. Evolve.

[We close with another video. It’s soundtracked with that music from 2001.]

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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