On the Scenes at Net.Marketing

Major Earthquake Rocks–and Halts–Conference

Seattle–A major earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.0 hit the Pacific Northwest on Feb. 28 at about 10:55 A.M. Pacific time, forcing the Direct Marketing Association to abruptly end its Net.Marketing Conference early on the last day. It was unclear at press time whether any attendees were injured. After the quake hit, conference attendees fled the Washington Convention Center and were only allowed back in to claim personal belongings. Exhibitors were not immediately allowed to dismantle their booths because of the risks of aftershocks. The quake shattered windows in downtown Seattle, leaving about 17,000 without power, and was even felt as far off as Portland, OR, and Salt Lake City. The Federal Aviation Administration closed the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, after the airport’s control tower was reportedly damaged.

Wientzen to Marketers: Stay the Course

Seattle—Prior to closing several hours early on Feb. 28 due to the earthquake, the Direct Marketing Association’s spring Net.marketing show had opened on Feb. 26 with 137 exhibitors, up slightly from 134 in 2000. But while the total number of registered attendees was not available as of press time, both floor traffic and session attendance seemed more sluggish than last year.

Fewer attendees could indicate shrinking budgets among Web-oriented businesses after what proved to be a volatile 2000 for the industry. In his opening general session Tuesday, DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen reminded the audience that marketing is still in its infancy. Despite last year’s crash and burn of many dot-coms, the Web “will coexist with other channels and continue to progress,” he said. What’s more, Wientzen cautioned marketers to be realistic in their views of the current state of the industry. “The early optimism [about online marketing] was just as unrealistic as today’s pessimism.” In fact, Web-driven sales for 2000 were $24,202 billion, and the DMA expects that number to rise to more than $40 billion this year and to more than $136 billion in 2002.

Internet marketers still face a plethora of challenges, Wientzen said, including an economic downturn and the task of reaching out to the 40% of Americans who do not use the Internet. Political challenges abound as well. “We expect more than 2,000 online privacy and data usage legislation proposals by the states and Congress this year,” he said. And the issue of taxation is heating up. “The officials of 7,600 jurisdictions argue that anyone who sells online should collect and remit sales tax [from buyers],” he said. “But we say that if a company does not have nexus, or physical presence, in a state, then it should not have to collect and remit sales tax from buyers in that state.”

There is currently no legislation that would allow states to collect such taxes. But recently proposed legislation, such as the Wyden-Cox bill, seeks to extend the current moratorium on Internet access taxation and suggests simplifying the tax system if it is to include online marketers. Wientzen warned marketers to be prepared: “Sooner or later it is likely we will have to collect and remit taxes on remote sales.”

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