Pondering Next Steps — Making No Fast Decisions

It’s been a week since I announced my departure from Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Strategies. A number of people have asked me for a “what’s next” type of update. The answer is, I still don’t know. I will try to give some broad strokes as to where I’m at.

I’ve had a variety of offers, so many that I even started up a spreadsheet to track them all. There are over 50. About 10 of those are very serious ones that I need to weigh up and find out more about. There are about another 15 second-tier ones behind that.

In terms of who is offering, I’ll put them in terms of groups, which will then be helpful in understanding what I’m likely to pursue.

There are a bunch of search marketing companies that have expressed interest. I’m not ruling anything out, at the moment. When pondering your future, I think you need to assess all the options. But I don’t see this as a likely path I’ll be pursuing. I’ve occupied a role largely between the search marketing companies and the search engines. Moving over to an SEM would pretty much take me out of that long-standing role, in my view.

Having said this, I joked on the Daily SearchCast last week that I did accept one offer from an SEM firm, from Misty over at Range. I’m now the honorary boss of Todd “Oilman” Friesen, her director of SEO. Sorry, Todd — that was an offer too good to resist. Thanks to a site I found via Jim Boykin, I even made a seal for myself to prove it:

Look At Me, The Boss Of Todd

Apparently, there’s quite the rumor mill going about me joining a search company. Yes, I’ve heard from several of them, large and small. It’s all pretty informal. It’s also pretty much the situation I see with search marketing firms. Going to work for a search company would throw me out of the impartial role I’ve carefully tried to protect all these years. It’s really not something I see myself doing.

There are some interesting writing, speaking and even broadcasting opportunities that have come across. Most of these are much better fits for what I like to do.

There are also a number of media or event groups interested in me partnering with them. Those are also better fits, since it would be nice to slot into an existing organization where I could continue to do the things I like doing.

Yes, I’m also still talking with Incisive. FYI, about the only public thing the company has said about the entire affair is over here in a Guardian blog post.

I’m not going to do any extensive comments on the post, since I’m really not wanting to get involved in a PR cat fight. I’ll simply say that there’s a suggestion that I somehow made unreasonable demands of Incisive (you get that in the “[Weller] has obligations to his shareholders, stakeholders and staff” reference. You get it more explicitly in the message sent out to Incisive staff last week saying I had expectations on how I should be remunerated that were “far ahead of our own.”

The reality is that I never put forward any figures to Incisive. I asked them to make me a substantial offer for entering into a long-term relationship with them, no figures attached. An offer never materialized. I was given no long term proposal at all.

I don’t want to set expectations of further talks with them too high. I’m still pretty much feeling exactly as I posted beforehand, that any resolution there is unlikely. My post wasn’t some attempt to drive them to the bargaining table. In fact, I became so frustrated with the company on other issues that I originally resigned back in July before we even had any serious negotiations.

Still, as I said, I’m going to explore all options to me. That includes still talking with Incisive. There’s a good team of people who know the conference space well, including many that I count as friends and that I’d wish the best for.

The most attractive option remains simply going it on my own, doing my own site and/or my own conferences. There are a variety of people offering support and funding options here, should I move ahead.

I don’t expect to make any decisions until toward the end of this month. I want to weigh up any future moves carefully. I certainly let everyone know what I’m doing via my blog here. If I have any tough decisions or concerns, I may even ask those interested to give me feedback.

Overall, the feedback and support so far has been greatly welcomed. Having done this for so long, it’s easy for me to wonder if I’ve overstayed my welcome in the search community or whether people really would like a big shake-up. While change is good, I’ve certainly come away with the feeling that many still like the role I’ve been playing. It’s one hopefully I can continue doing a bit longer.

Postscript: See I Work For Search Engine Land, Not Search Engine Watch for my status since this post was written.