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CentralNic and .CLUB reveal premium sales

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2017, Domain Services

CentralNic and .CLUB Domains have both revealed sales of premium domain names over the last several days.

CentralNic said yesterday that it has sold “a number” of premiums for $3.4 million.

The names are believed to be from its own portfolio, rather than registry-reserved names in any of the TLDs it manages. The company did not disclose which names, in which TLDs, it had sold.

The sale smooths out potential lumpiness in CentralNic’s revenue, and the company noted that the sales means that recurring revenue from its registrar and registry business will become an increasing proportion of its revenue as its premium portfolio diminishes.

Last week, .CLUB announced that it sold $380,793 of premium .club domains in the third quarter. That was spread over 452 domains.

The big-ticket domains were porn.club and basketball.club, sold by the registry for $85,000 together.

The Q3 headline number was a sharp decline from the Q2 spike of $2.7 million, which was boosted by auctions in China.

The company published a lot more data on its sales on its blog, here.

.CLUB HQ trashed by Irma, nobody hurt

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2017, Domain Registries

.CLUB Domains returned to its new digs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida yesterday to find the building trashed by hurricane Irma.

Irma damage

Fortunately, none of the .club gTLD registry’s 17 employees were hurt during Irma, the category 5 hurricane which lashed Florida over the weekend.

Irma caused at least 10 reported deaths in the state and untold amounts of property damage. Over its full path, close to 50 people have been reported killed.

Chief marketing officer Jeff Sass said that “large parts of the roof had been torn away, exposing our office to devastating wind and rain, pretty much ruining everything”.

“Literally, it looks like a bomb went off. I couldn’t believe the damage. It’s truly a sad day for our company. We feel for everyone affected by this horrible storm and we are very fortunate as all our staff are safe,” CEO Colin Campbell said in a blog post.

Ironically, the building had been scheduled for a refurbishment anyway.

.CLUB plans to use the facility as a tech startup incubator under the brand Startups.club. It had recently been approved for funding by the local Fort Lauderdale government, according to Sass.

None of the company’s registry operations, which are based hundreds of miles north in Virginia, were affected by the damage.

Fellow new gTLD registry MMX is legally based in the thoroughly devastated British Virgin Islands, but has no staff or premises there so was unaffected.

Domain Name Wire is reporting that some registry functions of Anguilla’s .ai ccTLD, also in Irma’s path, were not working in its wake.

Photo: .CLUB Domains

Registry bosses to talk ICANN “tax cuts” at private meeting

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2017, Domain Registries

The CEOs of 20 or more gTLD registries are due to meet privately this month to discuss, among other things, the possibility of a reduction in their ICANN fees.

The Registry CEO Summit is being held in Seattle at the end of September, I’m told.

Jay Westerdal of Top Level Spectrum (.feedback etc) and Ray King of Top Level Design (.design etc) are organizing the event.

“It’s a small, informal gathering, where the agenda will be set by the participants, most likely around best practices for running a new registry,” Westerdal said.

“It’s not an official group like the RySG, and we don’t expect to be putting out any statements or ‘work product’,” he said.

He said he expects 20 to 25 registry CEOs to attend.

.CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell, who said he will attend, said he intends to bring proposals to the meeting around persuading ICANN to support the industry with marketing support and fee reductions.

Campbell wants ICANN to commit to spend $4 million on marketing new gTLDs at trade shows and conferences.

He also wants ICANN to reduce its $0.25 per-domain registry fee, which he referred to as a “tax”, to $0.18 for three years (which would match the $0.18 registrars pay ICANN per transaction).

He said the money would ideally flow through into the pockets of registrants, rather than the industry.

“I’m not suggesting that it be permanent, I’m suggesting that in order to support the fledgling new gTLD industry that they offer a small reduction and hope registries will pass that on to registrars and hopefully registrars will pass that on to consumers,” Campbell said.

The reduction would also help raise awareness of new gTLDs, he said.

The $0.25 fee only kicks in when a registry tops 50,000 billable transactions per year, so the reduction would at first only affect the roughly 50 to 60 new gTLDs that are already over that milestone.

The $0.07 per-domain reduction is so small that even a registry as large as .club, with about a million domains, would only see its fees reduced by about $70,000 per year.

Over all the affected TLDs, it would come out to a cost to ICANN of about $1.2 million per year if current volumes hold.

“It’s a very small amount but I still believe the benefit goes to end users,” Campbell said.

For registrants, it’s difficult to imagine $0.07 making a huge difference, unless they’re a high-volume buyer (which are not always the buyers you want). Generally, the cheaper domains get the more they attract abusive registrants.

Whether the ideas will get any traction among other registry CEOs remains to be seen, but it’s not the first idea for reduced ICANN fees to come out of the registry community recently.

In March, the RySG formally asked ICANN to tap into its war chest of excess new gTLD application fees to waive 75% of its fixed $25,000 annual per-TLD fee, a move that would affect all new gTLDs rather than just the larger ones.

The rebate would have cost ICANN $17 million.

But ICANN knocked that idea back last week, saying it still does not know how much of this $96 million cash pile it will have to spend on unexpected events stemming from the program.

.CLUB nears profitability, talks renewals and “trial” domains

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2017, Domain Registries

.CLUB Domains is nearing profitability and poised to become a “growth engine”, despite the view that most of its current domains are not expected to renew, according to its CEO.

Colin Campbell told DI today that the company made $6.7 million in revenue last year, and is “very close” to breaking even.

The company reached one million domains under management milestone in June, but Campbell freely admits that the majority of its current domains are unlikely to renew.

Almost 700,000 of these domains are what .CLUB considers “trial accounts”, he said. These are domains that typically sold for under a dollar — .club has been seen for sale as low as $0.88 — to speculators.

The registry usually sees a 10% to 15% renewal rate on these domains, he said.

Of the remaining 300,000 “solid, regular registrations”, Campbell said he sees first-year renewals in the 68% to 70% range and subsequent years at 80% to 90%.

The company typically only discounts on its first-year registrations, so renewal rates are a much better indicator of performance.

He said .club has around 120,000 web sites (not including parked domains), some of which are showcased on its web site.

With this in mind, renewals are at the forefront of Campbell’s mind. He said a key performance indicator .CLUB uses is “average cost of acquisition per renewed domain”, which the company tracks on a per-registrar basis.

The company invested $3.3 million in marketing in 2016, he said. That does not include rebates to registrars participating in volume programs, but it does take into account acquiring prominent shelf space on key registrars, he said.

“We’re very close to break-even and we’re still going to be able to invest multi-million dollars in ad campaigns and marketing,” he said.

“We’re going to have a company that’s breaking even and is still going to be a growth engine,” he said. “We’re going to be able to sustain a path of growth. I don’t know too many TLDs who could say that. Of course, if you reduce your expenses down to nothing you can make a profit, but can you also be a growth engine?”

“That’s where I feel like a TLD needs to get to, to be a sustainable long-term presence in the market, like a .org or .net or .co,” he said.

Despite the narrowing losses and starkly higher volumes, the $6.7 million in 2016 revenue is a lower than the $7 million in 2015 revenue Campbell told Domain Name Wire about a year ago.

Campbell said today that the reason for the dip is that late 2015 saw many gTLDs (old and new, even including .com) benefit from a bump from the Chinese market. .CLUB’s top line was particularly exposed by some premium sales it made to Chinese investors during that growth spike.

Premium sales have also been performing well in 2017, Campbell said, driven by the financing options and broker program introduced in January.

.CLUB announced first-quarter premium sales totaling $505,000 and $2.5 million in Q2.

.club premium sales approaching $5 million

Kevin Murphy, April 11, 2017, Domain Registries

.CLUB Domains sold half a million dollars worth of reserved premium names in the first quarter, bringing its cumulative to-date total to almost $5 million, the registry reported at the weekend.

Q1 sales were $505,139, the company said, bringing its total since launch to $4,844,428.

There were 475 premium sales in total, sold via auctions, registrars and aftermarket platforms, it said.

Headline sales in the period included seniors.club and pet.club for $18,000 apiece, and photo.club for $10,000.

The numbers may indicate that its broker program and financing options, introduced in January, may be taking off.

The registry’s Q1 sales amount to more than half of what it sold in the whole of 2016.

More sales figures are available in the .CLUB Domains blog post.

.club financing option sees early traction with $150k sales

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2017, Domain Registries

.CLUB Domains said it has seen some early successes with its new 0% financing option, selling $150,000 worth of premium .club domains in its first week.

The registry announced that it sold 39 premiums for a total of $149,480, and that 37 of those names were sold using the financing option.

This option allows registrants to spread the cost of their domains over five years — 60 monthly payments — for names priced over $1,000.

The scheme was announced at the NamesCon conference in conjunction with a new brokers program, which gives brokers the ability to pass on 10% discounts to their clients and earn 15% commissions.

Seventeen of the 39 names were sold via brokers.

The results of the the first seven days of these programs compare favorably to other periods. In the fourth quarter of 2016, .CLUB said premium sales were $112,000.

For the whole of 2016, the registry sold $941,000 of reserved premium names, making a total of $4.3 million since .club launched May 2014.

Buy a $10k .club, get a free T-shirt

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2016, Domain Registries

.CLUB Domains will today release 9,200 previously reserved .club names into the channel at premium prices.

Club T-ShirtThe registry is also offering free T-shirts to the first 500 people to purchase a premium name for $59.99 and more, personalized with said name.

While the names will become available at 1500 UTC today, the full list is not expected to be published until midnight UTC at landrush.club

CMO Jeff Sass gave the following list of examples of names to be released: watches.club, vino.club, ocean.club, elite.club, driving.club, comicbook.club, Chinese.club and gambling.club.

A thousand of the names are three-character strings.

The first-year prices are suggest at between $100 and $10,000 at the retail level, Sass said.

All premium names renew at standard-name pricing, he said.

The T-shirt offer requires the user to tweet using promotional hashtags and expires December 31.

.xyz, .club and .vip get the nod to sell in China

Kevin Murphy, December 5, 2016, Domain Registries

The Chinese government has granted licenses to operate in the country to its first tranche of new gTLDs — .vip, .club and .xyz.

The agreements mean that Chinese registrars will be able to give their Chinese customers the ability to actually use their domains for web sites.

It also means the companies will be obliged to censor domains the government does not like, but only those domains registered via Chinese registrars.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced the licenses, given to the Chinese subsidiaries of Minds + Machines, .CLUB Domains and XYZ.com respectively, today.

M+M CEO Toby Hall told DI that it’s “a great moment of support for Chinese registrars”, giving them a “very clear signal about which TLDs they can focus on”.

XYZ.com said in a blog post that some of its Chinese registrars (its biggest channel) are planning on offering discounts to celebrate the approval.

It’s always been possible for Chinese people to register new gTLD domains via Chinese registrars — it’s estimated that 42% of the 27 million new gTLD domains in existence today are Chinese-owned.

However, Chinese citizens need a government license if they want to launch a web site, and the government only issues licenses for domains in approved TLDs.

In addition to .cn and China-based gTLDs, which were the first to be given the nod, Verisign was approved earlier this year for .com.

Hall said that while .vip has been popular with Chinese domainers, the MIIT license means it can start to tap the small business market there too.

Obtaining the license means that the three registries, which are all based in the US or Europe, will have to comply with Chinese regulations when it comes to Chinese customers.

That basically means the Chinese government gets to censor pretty much anything it doesn’t like, up to and including sites that “spread rumors”.

Hall said that there’s no chance of this censorship bleeding out to affect non-Chinese customers.

M+M, along with XYZ and .CLUB, are using Chinese registry gateway ZDNS to act as a proxy between their own back-ends (Nominet for .vip, Neustar for .club and CentralNic for .xyz) and Chinese registrars.

“All of our Chinese web sites go through ZDNS, so only web sites going through ZDNS would be affected,” Hall said, referring to the censorship rules.

Hall added that he was “not aware” of there being a blocklist of politically sensitive strings that Chinese customers are not allowed to register.

.xyz passed two million names, growing like crazy

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2016, Domain Registries

The .xyz gTLD at the weekend became the first new gTLD to pass the two million domains mark, as it experiences ridiculously fast growth.

Its zone file has grown by 274,315 domains in the last seven days, hitting 2,092,346 yesterday.

It added 130,000 names on Saturday alone.

That’s the kind of growth more usually associated with .com, and pre-2012 new TLD launch periods.

It’s reasonable to assume that the majority of these names are being registered for investment purposes. It seems Chinese registrars processed much of the spike.

But XYZ.com isn’t the only registry that saw a big spike over the weekend.

.CLUB Domains’ .club added almost 44,000 names to its zone between Saturday and Monday. Its usual daily add rate is around the 1,000 mark.

New gTLD registries talk up marketing plans at NamesCon

Kevin Murphy, January 15, 2015, Domain Registries

This week’s NamesCon conference here in Las Vegas, which ended yesterday, offered several new domain registries the chance to talk about their efforts past and future to market new gTLDs.

One theme to emerge was how registries need to work with each other and with their registrar channel partners to raise awareness of alternatives to .com.

Donuts VP Dan Schindler said during a Tuesday keynote that the company plans to ramp up its marketing in 2015.

“There’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done by all the beneficiaries in this process,” he said, saying that Donuts intends to carry out a “broad education and awareness program over course of 2015 and beyond”.

He said the company is pursuing co-marketing efforts with some of its registrar partners at trade shows and such and “possibly including television”.

Schindler also spoke out against paid placement — where registries pay popular registrars for prominent shelf space — “not because we’re cheap”, but because Donuts doesn’t believe it offers registrants the best choice of relevant TLDs.

Here’s a photo of Schindler talking, offered for no other reason than it just cost me £6 to upload from my phone. Note the juxtaposition of a) the extensive Verisign .com/.net sponsorship, b) the Donuts “Not Com Revolution” messaging, and c) my thumb.

Dan Schindler

Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling said in his keynote an hour later that he expected “more marketplace collaboration… where it is in our best interest to collaborate” on new gTLD promotion.

But he offered a somewhat dissenting tone with regards what he called the “dog and pony shows” of marketing new gTLDs.

Saying the company is “bootstrapping” some of its strings, he said big marketing spends now would lead to Uniregistry needing to raise its prices in two to three years to cover today’s costs.

Instead, he pointed to efforts such as its decision to release most of .click’s available names for a flat, cheap registration fee at launch, which he said should get names into the hands of users more quickly.

Contrarily, .CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell boasted during a brief pre-auction address on Tuesday of his company’s $2.2 million marketing spend for 2014, which he said would increase to $3.5 million in 2015.

Another recurring theme emerging from the conference (and from every other new gTLD event I’ve ever been to) was, as Schindler put it, that “use begets use”. The more high-profile sites a gTLD gets, the more likely it is to gain mindshare and sell more domains.

DotStrategy, the .buzz registry, is to be the beneficiary of such customer marketing.

Howard Lefkowitz, CEO of travel site operator One Degree World (which revealed it paid $100,000 for vegas.club earlier this week) revealed during NamesCon that some of his company’s city-related .buzz domains, such as sydney.buzz, are to feature for two weeks on the US TV game show Wheel Of Fortune as prize sponsors.

Will we see a bump in .buzz sales as a result? The gTLD currently has fewer than 8,500 names in its zone file, so if the TV time bears fruit it should be fairly easy to spot.