The Day After & Many Thanks!

I hadn’t planned to post again so soon about my decision to leave Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Strategies, but the response from friends and readers has been so overwhelming. I deeply appreciate all the comments of well wishes people have left on my original post, and the reaction from around the search engine world has greatly appreciated (see Techmeme and Barry Schwartz’s incredible recap).

Personally, one of the biggest impacts has been on my wife. She’s been to only two of the SES events, both small ones outside the US and never actually into the shows themselves, since she’s been watching the kids during these times when a family trip crossed coincided with some conference work. As a result, she’s largely isolated from the search marketing community that I take part in each day online and in real life during trips. She’s been amazed by the outpouring from the community.

Now that I’ve read the many comments, concerns and questions, let me address some of the major ones.

First, I need to make absolutely clear that I’ve done well by SEW and SES. I haven’t struggled financially at all. Alan Meckler, who runs the company that used to own SEW and SES, noted earlier this year that I make “more money than most CEOs throughout the world.” Indiscreet, but I knew Alan meant is as a compliment that I’ve been successful not just in terms of personal satisfaction but also in pay.

In short, I wasn’t working for peanuts for Jupitermedia — and my arrangement with them carried over when my contract moved to Incisive. It was a great, generous deal for any contracted writer or conference organizer. I have no guilt over it, since I’ve known I’ve worked incredibly hard and provided good value with what I’ve created.

So why would I want more, and is it a case of being too greedy, as Nacho Hernandez wondered in his comment:

Personally, I hope your decision is based on anything else but greed. It has been said that “greed” is the biggest killer to any role model no matter what their past history has been.

I’m sure some might think so, perhaps especially Incisive. All I can say is that for me, it hasn’t just been wanting more money but rather receiving what’s fair.

As I explained in my original post, the sale of SEW and SES to Incisive changed everything for me. A long-standing relationship I’d had with one company entirely shifted, something that would cause anyone to do some reassessments. For all I know, tomorrow Incisive could decide to sell SEW and SES to another company. They could also decide to run things in association with the conferences I organize that potentially pull away from the core attendance, upon which my pay was based.

Incisive repeatedly stressed that they wanted to retain me and that they had no intention of cutting me out of future plans. Such reassurances are nice, but they aren’t binding. I simply was unwilling to transfer any further knowledge of the search engine and search marketing space to Incisive on the basis of verbal reassurances. There was absolutely no reason for me to do this. It would put me in a weaker position with the company.

If my departure was only about making more money, staying with Incisive would have been the more “sure thing” move. Goodness knows they’ve got no end to conferences they want to do, and I could have been involved in many more than I do already. But if I’m going to do something, I’m going to put my all into it, my entire being and soul. That meant I still wanted to spend a good chunk of time doing the Search Engine Watch site. It also meant that I couldn’t do as many conferences. Over the years, I’ve pulled back to only doing the US shows mainly because I don’t have the time to do more than that and do them as well as I’d like.

Instead, what I do next is unclear. I’m not worried. People have joked that my inbox must be full of offers. Fortunately, that’s actually the case. I’ll take my time to look through those, plus I’m still contemplating what I might do just on my own.

Over at Barry’s recap, Ross Dunn remarked that lots of the commentary on me leaving has sounded like there was a funeral going on (knock wood!):

What with the pictures and all this looks like a eulogy. I realize this is an important and profound change in our industry but the fact remains that Danny is very likely to continue molding the future of SEM – just from a different podium.

Exactly, Ross. I don’t know precisely what I’m going to do next or how I’ll be doing it, but it’s not like my voice is going silent. Those who aren’t sick of hearing it will still be able to tune in. The Daily SearchCast podcast carries on, and if I’m not writing at Search Engine Watch, I’m almost certainly going to be writing somewhere else. As I said yesterday, watch Daggle, and I’ll keep you informed.

At Rand Fishkin’s blog, he expressed this worry:

My primary fear is a selfish one – that the industry will turn corporate, faceless and cold without Danny keeping us firmly on track. In his position as head of SEW & SES, he was our leader not only in name, but in direction – operating the largest sources of information dissemination available to folks seeking to learn about search. My brief experience with other industries and the stories I’ve heard from those who’ve been to SES or involved in the search space is that our industry is one of the most friendly, unassuming, cordial and welcoming in the professional world. Without Danny, I fear for the survival of our culture.

Ah, shucks! Seriously, I know I’m a leader in the industry. I’m not the only one, and many people beyond me have helped shape it into being the welcoming, helpful place that it is. Search forums like WebmasterWorld, Digital Point, Cre8aSite, HighRankings, iHelpYou, Search Engine Forums and the Search Engine Watch Forums are all places where the newcomer is welcomed into the community.

Of course, I have tried to do my part to keep the search marketing space from turning into a community-less business enterprise. One of my goals, had I stayed with Incisive, would have been to figure out a way for SEW and SES to remain that way even if I eventually departed or moved on to a new role. As I contemplate new directions, one of the most attractive ideas is figuring a way to establish similar institutions that would have that respect for community as part of their core nature.

Conferences are, of course, how many members of the community gather in real life. The hardest thing about leaving SES is that it’s been a fun, exciting gathering place that I and others have looked forward to during the year. But just as with my writing will likely come back another way, I’m also fairly sure you’ll see me get involved with putting on at least one type of big search event in 2007.

Finally, I can’t express enough how SEW and SES is more than just me. I’ve clearly been the leader for the two and made a major impact. I certainly think I could have helped both thrive going forward. But Chris Sherman and Elisabeth Osmeloski play huge roles.

Chris is a friend, colleague and someone with huge stature in the search space. He’s been a big reason behind the success of both SEW and SES and frankly deserves getting a long-term incentive to stay with Incisive as much as I wanted. I couldn’t have done as much as I have at SEW and SES without Chris.

Elisabeth is also a friend and colleague who deserves so much praise. Two years ago, Search Engine Watch lost its forums virginity when we created the Search Engine Watch Forums. Elisabeth came in to run them, and they’ve been her baby — a baby that’s grown into a thriving community of over 11,000 people talking about search. As I said in a discussion there on my departure, that forum has been a discussion home for me, as well. I still expect to post there and support it as my time will allow. And it will thrive without me being the overall editor-in-chief as long as Elisabeth and the hard-working moderators there are kept happy.

I wish I could simply whisk everyone away with me, but I can’t, at the moment. So I wish them all the best and success. As for myself, I know I’ll find a new role and place that suits me going forward.

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