17 Oct 2012

I bought Webmaster World, and I’m building a better Ninja Dojo – by Jim Boykin.

See the official press release here. Below is my story of everything that’s transpired over the past few months, leading us up to the WebmasterWorld announcement.

Over 10 years ago I joined WebmasterWorld (WMW) with the username JimsThoughts, and it was over 9 years ago that I attended my first Pubcon conference and was able to first meet in person, those at WMW who I have been learning so much from, and whom I’ve continued to learn so much from over the years. At the Pubcon 2003 conference I had my picture taken with Brett, and it has hung on my wall in my office for years…..who would have guessed what the future would bring? I know I didn’t. But lately, I’ve been dreaming big….and I’ve been getting a little lucky along the way to my dreams.

I’ve been a supporter of Brett for years, and I’ve been going to Brett’s Pubcon conference for the past 9 years. At these conferences I’ve met several of my closest friends in the industry, many of these people have been, or still are, WMW moderators, administrators, and regular contributors.  I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the community that Brett started, and that all of you contributed to.  About 4 months ago I wrote to Brett stating that I’d like to help with the social media campaign for WMW. I felt that if the forums could be tied to places like Facebook and twitter, and if the WMW social accounts were more utilized, that WMW could be made into an even better community. A few days later I got a response from Brett, basically asking me if I’d be interested in talking about possibly buying WMW so Brett could focus his energies on Pubcon and other conference related activities….it wasn’t the response that I was expecting….in fact, it really threw me for a loop. I could see lots of potential for WMW to expand its readership, its brand, its website, and its additional value to those who contribute there….but it was also a scary proposition. I had fears of how the community would take to a new owner, how they would react to any changes, and if I could actually take the community to a new, and improved level.

After a few days of deep thought, I had the faith, and the trust in the community, to say “Yes Brett, Let’s Talk.”

Just as we started to get into talks, one of my managers happened to get a meeting with Ziff Davis, whom I had been trying to get in contact with for the past several years. Largely, because I wanted to see if they’d be willing to sell one of the Developer Shed properties, the SEO forum site called SEO Chat. I had been member #2 there back in 2002, and for the past several years I had wanted to “fix” the site from what had been done to it (it was consumed with advertising that took away from the user experience…so much so, that I left there years ago.).

At the time, I wasn’t sure where the talks would end up with Brett and I about WebmasterWorld….but the day we spoke to Ziff Davis, I found out that the entire Developer Shed network of sites was 1 day away from being sold to another company.  To make a long story short, I was able to pull out a last second deal that landed me the Developer Shed Network (including 7 forums, a few scripts sites, and tutorial/learning sites…and the SEO Chat forum). I also brought back Darrin Ward, the founder of SEO Chat to show that I wanted to return the site to its glory days once again.

I could tell that my business was going to be going through changes, and that I could use additional experience to help get us to where I dreamed the company could be. I’ve known Kris Jones for years, and he’s consulted with us in the past, and I wanted to get Kris more involved in helping with our growth, taking on new levels of clients, and helping our services to make more money. Last month, Kris became our Chairman, and he’s already been a huge help in taking our sales and services to a new level, as well as advising me on business matters.

Then, as Brett and I got back into talks, I also started talking to Kim Krause Berg, whom I know was seeking support for the Cre8asite Forums. I got lucky, and in a short time was able to purchase the Cre8asiteForums and I was able to get Kim to join the ninjas to help make the forum better, and to assist our clients with usability and conversion. This seemed like a match made in heaven for both of us.

The same day we purchased the Cre8asite Forums, Ann Smarty and her family arrived here from the Ukraine. I first tried to hire Ann about 4 or 5 years ago, but she was expecting a baby, and it just wasn’t the right timing. Last year I spoke at the Optimization conference in the Ukraine, and I was able to have some great talks with Ann while I was there. This time the timing seemed right, and after months of visa work, Ann arrived a few weeks ago and is coming on as our Community and Branding Manager (but there’s so many other ways we can utilize her skills).  As you may know, I love tools, and she’s reviewed more tools than anyone, and she has also designed several tools and applications. Also, as such a wonderful blogger, social media influencer, and community builder, Ann’s help will be invaluable now.

And here, just a few days ago, Brett and I finalized and signed all the paperwork, and all the money was transferred, and now I have another piece of the puzzle together with the acquisition of WebmasterWorld. With everything that’s been happening over the past 3-4 months,  all while running a ~100 person in house staff, my head is still spinning a little…can you blame me?….BUT….I have all the confidence in the world that with many, many people’s help, together we can take the forums and each community to the next level. A level that can benefit the community and the individual members even more. I believe in this. I know that by my putting the community first, and not profit, that we can keep great communities alive and that they can thrive. I’m not worried about making a profit with these properties…that’s not my goal. I believe that if I treat the communities with respect, and I listen to them, and I give assistance as I can, then I believe that the communities will be happy, and they should continue to improve over time. When people are happy, then I believe in Karma….business will come my way with out having to intrude on the community with advertising. I’m not coming in to impose my ideas on anyone, I am coming in to listen and to say “What ideas do you have, how can I help, what resources do you need, and who else can help?”

I can’t thank Brett enough for this opportunity. I feel so honored…and so humbled, to have this chance to work with the WMW community. The price I paid for WMW was not cheap by any means….it’s the biggest investment I have ever made, but I know that Brett could have gotten more money if he had put in on the open market, or if he had approached bigger companies than mine.  I’m sure some big company would have just loved to bastardize the site with advertising….and they might even make some good money…but they’d lose the community. The fact that Brett offered the site to me, meant so much to me…..of course I’m scared….I know that I have to earn the trust of the community….there’s a lot of people who don’t like change, but I don’t plan on making changes without the approval of the admins and moderators. I want to give the community what it wants.

I am one person, but I have an in-house internet marketing company which consists of about 100 ninjas who are also here to help any way we can. I am here to listen to each community, and to give the power to those who can make any recommended changes that are approved by the community. I am here to help grow the communities and the websites, and the social presence, and to assist in any way that I can, those who assist each community.

It’s worth noting that Brett only sold the WebmasterWorld forum to me, not Pubcon. Brett will be focusing more on conferences now, but I’m very pleased to announce that he will be staying on at WMW as an Administrator.  Before the announcement I only talked to Neil Marshall (Engine) and Ted Ulle (Tedster)….I wish I could have spoken to all the admins and mods first…but that just couldn’t be the case. But I felt really good after speaking with Neil and Ted, and having their support means a ton to me. Now I will work towards earning the trust of the other admins, mods, and as many members as I can…I ask that you give me a chance to work to make WMW even more valuable to you the community, with your help, I believe we can make an even better community.

The Internet Marketing industry has given me so much over the years, I’ve been able to grow my business, employ lots of wonderful people, have some of my dream people work on the same team as me and travel the world to speak about online marketing. But it has also allowed me to help give when I can to help make the world a better place, and it has given me so many friends in life. To be able to give back to the community, by ensuring that the communities are there for the users first, gives me one of the greatest pleasures I have ever had. I am willing to accept this responsibility, and to listen to what the community wants, and to do all I can to make the community even better than it is today.

I’m Feeling Lucky,
Jim Boykin