The eighth annual Spring Internet World, one of the tech industry's largest conferences, is kicking off Monday at the Los Angeles Convention Center with a host of panel discussions ranging from electronic publishing to digital home appliances--some of which have a decidedly "survivalist" bent after vast changes in the market.
Despite market gloom, organizers for Internet World say they have already filled the 12 hotels housing conference attendees. And a quick survey of exhibitors shows that more than 500 companies will display their wares during the week.
One sales executive familiar with the show's history, however, said that attendance will be less than it has been in years past, largely because of a negative climate in the market that has caused widespread staff cutbacks and earnings warnings at major tech companies.
"The questions on everyone's mind are, What's the future going to bring, and how does the Internet industry get back on a growth path?" said John Pallatto, the west coast bureau chief for Internet World magazine, who will be attending the conference. He said he's expecting a robust crowd of exhibitors, including RealNetworks and Microsoft.
Despite the industry's mood, the conference boasts several power-player keynote speakers, including eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman, USA Networks CEO Barry Diller and Siebel Systems CEO Thomas Siebel.
A chunk of the show will be devoted to the "digitization and distribution of media and entertainment" through the conference's newly featured "D2ME Festival," the focus of a two-day seminar. During this segment, awards will be given out for achievement in Internet film, animation and Web series. Web surfers can vote online for the best in these categories.
Many panel discussions will cover the state of online advertising and marketing, which has been in the spotlight in recent months as increasing numbers of ad-supported dot-coms go out of business or miss earnings because of a slowdown in the market. One of the panels in particular will look at alternatives to banner ads, the industry's incumbent advertising standard, which have come under fire for boring consumers.
The difference in the show this year is mainly that "people are going to have to talk more and more about what's real--what is the real capability of the technology now," Pallatto said. "The industry's come through a huge period of euphoria with unrealistic expectations. Now everyone's being forced to act like real business people and with real business plans."
Much of the show's first-day seminars appeal to the industry war veteran. Discussions include such titles as "Staying alive with brand-building tactics," "Survival of the Fittest: Finding the winning strategies amid the mass confusion," and "Surviving the clutter: How one-to-one marketing can make each of your customers feel special."
Industry gadfly Michael Tchong, who publishes Internet advertising newsletter and Web site Iconocast, said he's skipping the conference this year.
"I've a sneaking suspicion that it's going to be much more of the same," he said, "which isn't much."