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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.

Seller’s remorse despite .club leading $1m NamesCon auction

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2015, Domain Services

The Right Of The Dot and SnapNames auction here at the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas last night raised just shy of $1 million, in what attendees broadly seem to agree was a successful event.

The grand total was $990,851, with 87 out of the 134 lots hitting their reserve and selling during the live/online bidding.

Leading the pack was homecare.com, which sold for $350,000.

But that deal actually closed before the live event began, leaving .CLUB Domains’ wine.club at the top of the sold list with a winning $140,000 bid.

Despite the sale, registry CEO Colin Campbell — evidently disappointed he had not placed a higher reserve on the name, expressed some seller’s remorse on Twitter this morning.

.CLUB also offloaded reserved names weed.club ($16,000), fight.club ($13,500) and tequila.club ($8,000), among others.

.com of course had the best night, with carauctions.com going for $90,000, susan.com going for $34,000 and tik.com and vil.com both going for $33,000.

Organizer Mike Berkens took a $76,000 hit on sexeducation.com, which he purchased for $100,000 and sold without reserve for $24,000.

Also noteworthy was what I believe was the biggest bid of the night — a $1.2 million in-room bid for auctions.com, owned by .xyz registry CEO Daniel Negari.

The domain failed to meet its reserve, however, and will join the other unsold names in an extended online auction that begins this weekend.

Vegas.club sells for $100,000

Kevin Murphy, January 13, 2015, Domain Sales

.CLUB Domains said today it has sold the domain vegas.club for $100,000, and will help in its promotion as a members-only site for deals related to Las Vegas.

The deal was announced here at the NamesCon conference at the Tropicana hotel in Vegas.

The buyer is One Degree World Systems, a local company that develops booking sites for tourist destination cities worldwide.

I’m not sure the deal would be reportable as a straightforward domain-only sale, given that .CLUB said the companies have a “partnership” to develop the domain.

According to a company press release, the upcoming site will offer “members-only deals on nightclubs, hotels, shows, attractions and tours as well as concierge services, VIP status at local attractions, and white glove services like personal assistants on the ground, butler and nanny services and more.”

.CLUB had a similar relationship with its first big anchor tenant, the rapper 50 Cent, for the fan site 50inda.club.

It’s the second .club name the registry has sold for a six-figure sum. It sold coffee.club, also for $100,000, last year.

Right Of The Dot helped broker the vegas.club deal, the registry said.

NamesCon 2015 bigger, longer and more popular

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2015, Domain Services

NamesCon 2015 is due to kick of in Las Vegas this coming weekend with about 50% more attendees that its inaugural outing last year.

Organizers tell me that so far roughly 750 people (not including press and staff) have registered to attend the conference, which is taking place for the second year at the Tropicana hotel. That’s up from the roughly 525 registered a week before the 2014 event.

Some are expecting the final turnout to top 800.

Registrations were boosted as 2014 came to a close by the announcement that NamesCon had acquired the rights to use the longstanding DomainFest brand and domain to promote its own show.

The show is due to run from Sunday, January 11 to Wednesday, January 14, a day longer than the year-ago event.

NamesCon is a bit of a strange beast, catering heavily to domainers but with also a strong series of sessions aimed at digital brand managers and the intellectual property side of the industry.

Where else could you see sessions called “Workshop: I’m Getting Sued – What Do I Do Now?” and “Making the Most of Your .BRAND and the Evolving Internet” running side by side?

For domainers, a highlight of the week may be the live domain auction, which is being run by Right Of The Dot and SnapNames from January 13 from 1630 until 1930 local time.

There are 350 names going to auction, in an eclectic mix of legacy and new gTLDs.

Currently, slightly more than half of the 23 names with bids are new gTLD domains, though their asking prices are a lot lower than the .coms on the list — most seeing bids in the $250 range compared to a top .com bid fo $51,000 for agree.com.

Domains that do not sell during the live event will carry over to an extended auction that ends February 5.

TLD Registry, which runs a couple of Chinese-script new gTLDs, has a strong presence at NamesCon too, sponsoring a day-long session on the Chinese domain market on the Sunday.

Keynote speakers during the conference proper include Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, as well as executives from Go Daddy, Donuts, Uniregistry and others.

DI will be in attendance. I’ve agreed to do a presentation on DI PRO and industry metrics on Sunday, probably sharing the stage with another tools vendor, on Sunday, but the exact time and location have yet to be confirmed.

Conference passes are still available for $799 from the NamesCon web site. Registration on the door goes up to $849. For context, that’s still less than half the price you’d paid to go to TRAFFIC.

NamesCon will be biggest new gTLD show yet

Kevin Murphy, January 8, 2014, Domain Services

The inaugural NamesCon new gTLDs conference, set to run for three days in Las Vegas next week, has attracted roughly 525 registrations, making it the largest such event to date.

Organizers are speculating that the final tally of attendees could pass 600, despite the fact that early bird pricing ended last night and tickets went up $200 to $599.

All of the previous new gTLD conferences I’m aware of — .nxt, gTLD World Congress, newdomains.org and a handful of smaller ones — have struggled to get half that number of delegates.

I suspect that the relatively low cost of tickets, hotel rooms and flights will have something to do with the relatively high participation for an as-yet unproven event.

According to organizers, there are about 100 speakers/panelists and 30 sessions over the two full days of the conference.

With just 45 minutes scheduled for most sessions, and five speakers on many of the panels, moderators will have their work cut out making sure discussions are balanced yet focused.

I will be on two panels, “Meet the industry Press” and “Important Tools of the Industry”, both of which are on Wednesday afternoon.