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M+M lays off dozens in focus on S&M, promises profit next year

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2015, Domain Registries

Minds + Machines has outlined its plan to refocus its business on sales and marketing, which has already resulted in a couple dozen job losses, as the latest stage of its profit runway.

The new gTLD company also outlined plans to return about half of its cash reserves — mostly obtained by losing new gTLD auctions — to its shareholders.

For the first half of the year, the London-listed company reported an EBITDA loss of $1.2 million, compared to income of $5.7 million a year earlier, on revenue that was up to $3.6 million from $113,000 in the comparable 2014 period.

The company said it is “committed to achieving its stated goal of crossing over into profitability in 2016” and blamed high operating costs for the loss, but said it has been restructuring to help it return to profit.

M+M said its headcount has been reduced from 58 to 44, but that it has added ten jobs in sales and marketing, which seems to indicate at least 24 people recently lost their jobs.

The bottom line was also affected by the fact that most of the company’s cashflow to date has been generated by auction losses, and there were more of those last year than this.

The company hit three of its six “key performance indicator” targets — domains under management market share, premium sales growth and standard sales growth — but fell short of the other three.

Average revenue per name for premiums was $184 versus a $200-$225 target, and average revenue per standard name was down from $28 to $10, largely due to a deep discount promotion for .work domains. Higher prices for soon-to-launch .law could increase the average, M+M said.

The company also announced that it will spent £15 million ($23.1 million) of its cash reserves on a share buyback.

That’s almost half of the $48.3 million is has in the bank. This time last year, M+M’s share price peaked at 12p; it’s currently at 8.55p.

The price saw a spike in May, shortly before then-chairman Fred Krueger was asked to resign by the board. Krueger has since sold off the majority of his substantial shareholding, despite explicitly saying that he would not.

Architelos: shadiest new gTLD is only 10% shady

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2015, Domain Registries

Disputing the recent Blue Coat report into “shady” new gTLDs, domain security firm Architelos says that the shadiest namespace is just under 10% shady.

That’s a far cry from Blue Coat’s claim earlier this week that nine new gTLDs are 95% to 100% abusive.

Architelos shared with DI a few data points from its NameSentry service today.

NameSentry uses a metric the company calls NQI, for Namespace Quality Index, to rank TLDs by their abuse levels. NQI is basically a normalized count of abusive domains per million registered names.

According to Architelos CEO Alexa Raad, the new gTLD with the highest NQI at the end of June was .work.

Today’s NameSentry data shows that .work has a tad under 6,900 abusive domains — almost all domains found in spam, garnished with just one suspected malware site — which works out to just under 10% of the total number of domains in its zone file.

That number is pretty high — one in 10 is not a figure you want haunting your registry — but it’s a far cry from the 98.2% that Blue Coat published earlier this week.

Looking at the numbers for .science, which has over 324,000 names in its zone and 15,671 dodgy domains in NameSentry, you get a shadiness factor of 4.8%. Again, that’s a light year away from the 99.35% number published by Blue Coat.

Raad also shared data showing that hundreds of .work and .science domains are delisted from abuse feeds every day, suggesting that the registries are engaged in long games of whack-a-mole with spammers.

Blue Coat based its numbers on a sampling of 75 million attempted domain visits by its customers — whether or not they were valid domains.

Architelos, on the other hand, takes raw data feeds from numerous sources (such as SpamHaus and SURBL) and validates that the domains do actually appear in the TLD’s zone. There’s no requirement for the domain to have been visited by a customer.

In my view, that makes the NameSentry numbers a more realistic measurement of how dirty some of these new gTLDs are.

M+M gets $3.5m from two gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, August 27, 2015, Domain Sales

Minds + Machines secured loser fees totaling $3.5 million from its participation in .art and .data new gTLD auctions, the company disclosed today.

It seems .data was auctioned recently. It was a three-applicant string and none of the applicants have yet withdrawn their applications.

It seems either Donuts or brand applicant Dish DBS won the string.

The .art auction happened well over a month ago, with the final losing applicant withdrawing on July 23.

UK Creative Ideas won .art. Whatever it paid for the string would have been shared between nine competing applicants.

M+M also said that “strong interest” (presumably no sales yet) has been expressed in its $15,000+ “super premium” registry-reserved names, and that it has sold 20 premium names in its .london auction last month.

Carlsberg snaps up 150 .beer domains, including the most British domain I’ve ever seen

Brewing giant Carlsberg has joined Minds + Machines’ pioneer program for the .beer gTLD, buying 150 brand and generic .beer domains.

M+M said today that football.beer, which is arguably a more British domain than gov.uk, is among Carlsberg’s new portfolio.

The registry said in a press release: “football.beer will help support the company’s far-reaching commitment to the football. Carlsberg is a leading sponsor of UEFA EURO 2016, the Barclays Premier League, and Liverpool Football Club.”

The brewer will also use quality.beer in its marketing.

Trademarks baltika.beer, tuborg.beer, holsten.beer and kronenbourg.beer have also been acquired.

Carlsberg is the fifth-largest brewer in the world and fourth-largest in the UK, with annual global revenue of $9.5 billion.

The .beer gTLD could use the publicity. It has been in general availability since September last year. Today, it has fewer than 7,800 names in its zone file.

M+M sells net.work for $100,000

Minds + Machines has made its first six-figure new gTLD domain sale.

The domain net.work was sold in a private deal to business consultancy BearingPoint for $100,000, the company said today.

It added that a “significant annual renewal fee” applies.

It’s one of 430 premium domains to have been sold in .work, M+M said, since it went to general availability in February.

The gTLD had just shy of 55,000 domains in its zone file yesterday, recent growth partly attributable to a deep discounting program.

M+M’s registrar currently sells .work domains for less than $2.