Bankruptcy and rival shows hit Key3Media

LOS ANGELES: Last week was an eventful one for Key3Media.

LOS ANGELES: Last week was an eventful one for Key3Media.

The hi-tech trade-show producer announced on Monday that it was filing for bankruptcy. On Tuesday, rival Jupitermedia announced that it was launching Computer Digital Expo, an IT trade show to be held in Las Vegas the same week as Comdex, Key3Media's - and the hi-tech industry's - biggest trade show. To cap things off, Sheldon Adelson, who launched Comdex in 1979 but is no longer affiliated with the show, told EXPO magazine that he wants to launch his own hi-tech trade show to rival Comdex.

"There are so many new IT trade shows, maybe Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland will launch one at the Sahara," quipped Fred Rosen, CEO and chairman of Key3Media. "Once we can sort out our financial difficulties, we can focus on the shows," he added. "Our brands are still vibrant. These new shows validate the model. All this noise validates the fact that Comdex is a strong show and brand. And the marketplace will determine who wins. I want to stay on the high road."

During the boom of the late 1990s, Comdex attracted well over 200,000 attendees. In November of last year, the show barely attracted 125,000 visitors.

"The industry requires a show that gives us what Comdex once was," argued Alan Meckler, CEO and chairman of Jupitermedia. Meckler echoed the sentiments of many Comdex critics who claim the show tried to be too many things to too many people, and wasn't focused enough, featuring the likes of Microsoft's Xbox game console, Nokia phones, and chip processor AMD at the same show.

Meckler pointed out that large shows, such as the Consumer Electronics Show, succeed because they are focused on a particular facet of the hi-tech industry. Jupitermedia's new show will focus on IT.

"I think the fact that we still attract companies like HP and Microsoft shows the value of Comdex," countered Rosen. "Meckler gave us InternetWorld, and where is (it) today?"

That show is still around, though Meckler is no longer involved, and attendance is down significantly from the days of the dot-com boom. Meckler in turn alleged that Comdex has lost its luster in recent years due to "inept" management.

Despite the downturn, many hi-tech shows are still thriving, particularly those focused on a specific hi-tech sector, such as networking or wireless.

CeBIT, a global IT and enterprise technology forum, will hold its first US show this June.

Key3Media also announced that it was hiring FitzGerald Communications to help promote the company's various trade-show brands, including Comdex, Networld & Interop, and BioSecurity, along with corporate issues. Key3Media previously handled that PR work in-house; Citigate Sard Verbinnen will continue to focus on the company's IR. Jane Welch, VP of PR, said FitzGerald will focus on brand-related PR, while Key3Media's in-house PR team will handle communications surrounding the bankruptcy.

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