A Look Ahead: SEW Minus Danny Sullivan

    November 7, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Search Engine Watch and Danny Sullivan have been synonymous in the minds of search professionals for several years. After November 30th, Sullivan will no longer post to the SEW blog. WebProNews asked a group of well-known search industry pros for their thoughts on the day after Sullivan files his last blog entry under the SEW brand.

A Look Ahead: SEW Minus Danny Sullivan
What’s Next For Danny Sullivan?

Gary Price chimed back very quickly when I asked him about Danny Sullivan. Price called the highly-regarded search maven “the real deal, a true professional, very intelligent, and a very good person to work for.” It’s a sentiment we’ve seen echoed in a multitude of places.

A fundamental shift in the search universe took place when Sullivan disclosed he would depart SEW for good at the end of November. He told WebProNews that continuing to write about search, probably through a new blog or site, is something I’m very likely to do,” back in August.

Sullivan later posted on his personal blog a note that was part of a longer entry about his departure from Incisive Media that he would have news about his new search blog in a few weeks. That would be right around the beginning of December, so we won’t know more until then.

But what about Search Engine Watch? Anyone who knows anything about marketing understands the importance of brand, especially on the issue of trust.

“I see the Search Engine Watch brand and Danny Sullivan’s brand being somewhat intertwined, which is not surprising considering he’s been at the helm since SEW’s inception,” Josh Stylman, managing partner at Reprise Media, told us via email.

“Within the community of people that “follow” search, I actually think Danny’s personal brand is stronger than the site,” he said. “For others that are more on the periphery, they might know Search Engine Watch, without necessarily knowing of Danny Sullivan, specifically.”

I asked Stylman who might be on the short list to slip into Sullivan’s place. “Some of the people that have made stellar contributions to SEW, such as Chris Sherman and more recently, Greg Sterling, come to mind,” he said. “Others that might be good voices for the site, like Dana Todd, are probably too busy running their own businesses to take over the reins.”

Todd, the founding partner of SiteLab, certainly would be an intriguing choice. She’s been a speaker at every US Search Engine Strategies conference, so she would have the name recognition, the brand, others would recognize.

As Stylman observed, Todd is very busy, and she’s not on the short list, or any list, to replace Sullivan. She did tell WebProNews that it “wouldn’t be ridiculous to consider” ClickZ executive editor Rebecca Lieb possibly pulling SEW under her wing.

“I would lean toward someone with significant marketing event experience, as that’s really what the show is – running a business,” Todd said in considering the conference-organizing side of Sullivan’s duties. “You don’t necessarily have to be the most knowledgeable person on a subject in order to plan a winning conference, but it helps.”

“Danny has unique subject matter expertise as well as an ability to plan curriculum that is held in high regard by attendees who come back year after year, conference after conference,” Todd said.

Stylman agreed with this perspective. “Danny literally built Search Engine Watch from scratch and has done so much for the industry around him,” he said. ” The biggest potential impact there won’t be on the frontlines, but instead as overall master of ceremonies for the site and trade shows, where Danny’s responsibilities range from determining the content to finding speakers to about a hundred other things.”

Perhaps it will take two people to handle Sullivan’s roles going forward, and it would not be the first time an iconic person required a couple of people to follow in his footsteps. Maybe someone from within SEW or ClickZ could take the editorial role, while Incisive taps another person to deal with the conference necessities.

Moving someone up from within SEW would make sense. “SEW is not a new publication. It is a very well-respected publication, hence it has brand strength,” Searching for Profit’s Amanda Watlington commented to us about the brand question. “It also has a talented and dedicated staff.”

We are eager to see what Incisive does when December begins. We’re even more fascinated by the prospect of Sullivan’s new search site. His writing on search has occupied the pinnacle of the industry for sometime, and a lot of people can’t wait to see that continue.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.