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The Lowdown
November 2009 Archive
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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

New Online Media is Devastating Traditional Outlets But New York Times Reporter Says the Future is "Not a Bad Deal"

In my last Lowdown post Friday I had an item about 30-year-old Jay Penske, one of several young entrepreneurs who are building new media empires by taking advantage of the historic destruction the Internet is raining down on traditional media platforms. David Carr penned a very interesting article on this subject called "The Fall and Rise of Media" that appeared in the New York Times Sunday. 

Carr set the stage in his opening paragraph by noting how things used to be in the media business, writing "Historically, young women and men who sought to thrive in publishing made their way to Manhattan. Once there, they were told, they would work in marginal jobs for indifferent bosses doing mundane tasks and then one day, if they did all of that without whimper or complaint, they would magically be granted access to a gilded community, the large heaving engine of books, magazines and newspapers."

Contrasting that situation with the new media world we are seeing born before our eyes, Carr wrote this about the young people who have bypassed the old gatekeepers and built their own platforms to reach the world: "Their tiny netbooks and iPhones, which serve as portals to the cloud, contain more 

David Carr
(photo from David's 
Facebook page)

informational firepower than entire newsrooms possessed just two decades ago. And they are ginning content from their audiences in the form of social media or finding ways of making ambient information more useful. They are jaded in the way youth requires, but have the confidence that is a gift of their age as well. For them, New York is not an island sinking, but one that is rising on a fresh, ferocious wave.

Many people employed by traditional media giant resent this change and it is hard to blame them after seeing how the shift has decimated their ranks. Carr characterized the old guard's predicament by noting, "For those of us who work in Manhattan media, it means that a life of occasional excess and prerogative has been replaced by a drum beat of goodbye speeches with sheet cakes and cheap sparkling wine. It’s a wan reminder that all reigns are temporary, that the court of self-appointed media royalty was serving at the pleasure of an advertising economy that itself was built on inefficiency and excess. Google fixed that."

Traditional media outlets are slashing 
jobs but young writers still have 
boundless opportunities online.  

Many in Carr's business have lashed out at the newcomers, but he is not among them. Carr said the future is "...not a bad deal if you ignore all the collateral gore. Young men and women are still coming here to remake the world, they just won’t be stopping by the human resources department of Condé Nast to begin their ascent. 

For every kid that I bump into who is wandering the media industry looking for an entrance that closed some time ago, I come across another who is a bundle of ideas, energy and technological mastery. The next wave is not just knocking on doors, but seeking to knock them down."

Carr mentioned the role that a company in our industry that you are all familiar with, Demand Media, is playing in the new scheme of things. He underscored how hard it is for old media to compete against the economic advantages that the web enjoys. Noting that big city writers were once paid as much as $4 a word Carr observed "Demand Media now tests headlines for reader salience and cranks out thousands of articles and videos daily that it pays about $20 apiece for." 

Even so, Carr believes there will always be a market for quality so even though the delivery mechanism is changing, some familiar brands (like the Times) are not likely to disappear entirely. "Certain stalwart brands will survive and even thrive because of a new scarcity of quality content for niche audiences that demand more than generic information," Carr wrote. As I wrote in my post Friday, that is exactly how I think things will play out as well. His is a very insightful article, so if you are one of the many domain developers who run or are planning to build media sites, be sure to check out Carr's entire piece here

One other note today, domain monetization pioneer DomainSponsor has announced that they are opening a European operation with Joerg Schnermann serving as General Manager of  DomainSponsor 

Europe. Joerg was previously Chief Operating Officer at KeywordDomains.comJoe Higgins and Jessica Bessling are joining the team in Europe at an office located in Frankfurt, Germany. Joerg, Jessica and Joe will be working directly with local publishers to improve and optimize the DomainSponsor platform, and will be hiring and training a local team for the formal launch of the European business in the first quarter of 2010.

(Posted Nov. 30, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091130.htm

With Acquisitions of Mail.com, Fan.com, Deadline.com & Others, the 30-Year-Old Son of Auto Racing Legend Roger Penske is Building an Internet Media Empire

Reader John Picchietti sent me a link to a very interesting story that was published in the Los Angeles Times Thanksgiving Day. The article by Ben Fritz detailed how 30-year-old Jay Penske, the son of auto racing legend Roger Penske, has been quietly building an Internet media empire over the past five years with some very nice generic domains providing the foundation for his rapidly growing enterprise. 

Just three years after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's famous Wharton Business School, Penske made his first big move by acquiring Mail.com to be the cornerstone of his Santa Monica, California based Mail.com Media Corp.  In the new media world in which online publications are are steadily taking market share away from traditional print outlets, Penske decided to go after the celebrity news and lifestyle segment first with a series of online magazines.

With $35 million in funding, led by private equity firm Quadrangle Group, Penske bought old school magazines Movieline and Hollywood Life and converted them from print to the web. Penske also added to his stable this past summer by spending several million dollars to acquire Nikki Finke's popular showbiz blog Deadline.com.

 

 

Jay Penske
CEO, Mail.com Media Corp.

Penske is spending big on talent as well as publications. He hired star magazine editor Bonnie Fuller to run the new HollywoodLife.com website that launched last week. Fuller has an impressive resume after serving as the editor of Star, Us Weekly, Marie Claire and Glamour magazines, among others. Fuller is overseeing a staff of 11 professional writers at HollywoodLife.com. They come from places like CNN, the New York Post and the New York Daily News. Fuller and Penske both believe that compelling original content will be the key to their success. 

Penske told the Times, "There's such an abundance of reheated content on the Web, and we think original content is what people want and advertisers are looking for. I look at this as building an all-star team of editorial talent in each of our categories." 

With online advertising still representing just a tiny fraction of overall ad spending it is tough to support the size and quality of staff that Penske has committed to but he believes he can beat the odds and that each of his online properties will be profitable within 18-24 months (quicker than brick and mortar businesses typically pass the break even point). Penske isn't even going to wait around to see if his four existing sites start making money before launching a fifth, devoted to sports, coming soon at Fan.com. He is convinced the sky is the limit for online publications.

According to Quantcast Penske's four sites are attracting a total of 4.5 million visitors a month. TMZ.com, People.com and Yahoo's OMG each attract more traffic than that with 

their solo sites, so Penske has a long way to go before he is King of the Hill in this category. However if he succeeds he will prove his model works and will likely become the template others will follow.

Many of my friends from traditional media fret that professional journalists will soon become a thing of the past and the huge job losses in traditional media would appear to back them up. However it has always been my belief that quality will always be in demand and once online ad revenues reach a tipping point there will be plenty of opportunities for professional writers to make a good living online. 

I believe we are currently just going through a transitional period from old media to new that is causing temporary dislocations as the old platforms contract even faster than most anticipated. They are shrinking so quickly that their online successors haven't had time to reach maturity and absorb all of the qualified refugees from traditional media yet. However, I have no doubt that the day is coming when the new order will be able to do that and I am rooting for people like Penske who are placing their bets on exactly that kind of outcome.

(Posted Nov. 27, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091127.htm

On Thursday Millions of Americans Will Gather to Give Thanks (17 Members of Our Family Will Be Among Them When We Meet at One House)

We're getting the decks cleared here so we can join the rest of the U.S. in celebrating one of America's biggest holidays Thursday - Thanksgiving Day. Like many Americans we will spend some time on the road traveling to a central family meeting place for the traditional holiday meal. In our case that means a 90-minute drive to Venice, Florida where my wife Diana's mother lives. She has hosted so many Thanksgiving dinners I've lost count!

Diana and her three sisters will all be there with their husbands and at least some of their children (most of whom are grown up now). One sister is driving all the way from Texas and other family members will be traveling long distances too. My daughter Brittany has been away at medical school but she is driving four hours to get home for the occasion. It is an event that no one in the family wants to miss - we expect 17 people at the dinner table. 

It's quite an annual production but it is a great time to get together and give thanks for the many blessings we have experienced throughout the year - blessings that are all too easy to take for granted. Diana and I try to never forget how lucky we are. Those who have visited our home can tell you that the centerpiece on our kitchen table shown in the photo at the right stays there year round as a constant reminder of how blessed we have been.

Still Thanksgiving Day is a special time to be with family (another reason to be thankful) and to think about what we can do to make life a little bit better for those who haven't been as fortunate. We wish each of you a wonderful holiday and safe travels if you will be among the millions out on the highways Thursday. 

Before shutting down for the holiday (we'll be back with a new post here Friday), we'll leave you with a couple of news items today. The EVO Media Group, Inc. has something to be thankful 

for today. The Seattle-based company behind the DevHub.com domain development/monetization platform has closed a round of capital financing totaling $1.5 million from an undisclosed private equity group and several top Seattle/Los Angeles technology and 

media angels including Geoff Entress of Voyager Capital, John Cunningham of Clearfir, Alex Algard (CEO of WhitePages.com), Jeff Schrock of Intel Capital and Richard Wolpert (former President of Disney Online). 

Last but not least, NameMedia's SmartName division is inviting everyone to a free webinar titled How to Maximize Revenue with Your Domain Portfolio at 2pm (U.S. Eastern time) on 

December 17th. SmartName is a domain monetization platform that provides access to PPC, eCommerce and full content solutions. 

In this one-hour webinar, the company plans to cover how to earn the highest ad payouts on 

your domain name landing pages, how to set-up your account and choose from SmartName’s optimized, customizable templates and how to work with their optimization team to determine the layout that yields the best click-through rate. You’ll also have the chance to ask your questions in a Q&A session. You can reserve your seat for the webinar here: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/113117859.

(Posted Nov. 25, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091125-2.htm

Former Fabulous.com Exec Dan Warner Named CEO at DomainAdvertising.com

DomainAdvertising.com has named industry veteran Dan Warner as the company's  Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Warner has over 12 years of experience in internet strategy, marketing and operations. He is a well-known figure in the domain industry having previously served as the Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Operations Officer of Dark Blue Sea, the Australian public company that owns Fabulous.com

DomainAdvertising.com is a newly launched domain media business that caters to online advertisers and publishers. The company is backed by leading investors including the Ashmore Group and the Directi Group. Ashmore is one of the world's leading investment managers dedicated to emerging markets with $24.9 billion under management. Directi is a $300+ million group of businesses that develops innovative mass-market web products for global customers.

The Ashmore Group's Anoop Polavaram said, "Dan Warner was the Board's first choice for this position. He is the perfect leader for DomainAdvertising.com. His extensive experience and recognized leadership within the domain industry will be invaluable to the business. He is undoubtedly one of the most influential people in the industry."

Dan Warner

Warner said, "I was looking for a challenge where I could manage growth and innovation in the Internet industry.  This was difficult to find in a market which has recently focused on reducing head counts, research and infrastructure.  Both Directi and Ashmore have a great reputation and substantial resources. When I was approached by them, I realized the potential of this business. I am thrilled about the opportunity. We will be doing the exact opposite of most domain companies. Significant capital, human resources and infrastructure will be used to accelerate internet advertising innovation and design. We expect that many of the other players in the industry will look like they are standing still or going backwards in comparison to our scheduled advancements.”  

Warner has already assumed his role as CEO and is planning to fully launch the DomainAdvertising.com business by January 2010. Warner leads an initial dedicated team of over 30 people with access to over 500 people as required within the Directi group. Under Warner’s leadership, DomainAdvertising.com says it will focus on advancements in research, innovation and optimization to benefit professional domain owners.  

(Posted Nov. 25, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091125.htm

German GeoDomain Website Wins $7,500 First Prize in the 2009 .INFO Awards Contest

Earlier this month we told you that final voting was underway in the 2009 .INFO Awards, an annual contest conducted by .INFO registry operator Afilias, to recognize the best .INFO websites around the world. With $15,500 in prize money up for grabs, the contest attracted more than 50 entries hailing from 18 different countries. The last round of voting began after judges whittled the field to ten finalists with the public then choosing the three prize winners.

When the smoke cleared, voters awarded the $7,500 first prize went to Thueringen.info, a travel information portal in the Thuringia area of Germany. The second place prize of $5,000 was awarded to 

GPS-Tour.info, a peer to peer file sharing service where people, tourist regions or organizations can share and download outdoor GPS tours. The $3,000 third place prize went to Turkel.info, a travel and tourism marketing agency in the United States.

Afilias Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Roland LaPlante said, “.INFO has proven itself as a useful and vibrant top-level domain with millions of great Web sites. Our 2009 award winners embrace the global need for sharing information on a domain that is intuitive and makes information easy to find. These unique characteristics are what make .INFO an attractive address and ultimately makes .INFO Web sites successful.”

Afilias’ Board of Directors Chairman Philipp Grabensee, who was on the panel of judges, added "I was impressed with the broad range of information presented in the candidate sites. .INFO is truly a preferred address for those wishing to get their information out in a memorable manner.”

Congratulations to the winners and we also think Afilias deserves kudos for encouraging and rewarding .INFO development with their annual contest. For all of the newer TLDs, the key to growth is widespread adoption and development within their extensions. Useful content rich websites will attract visitors and over time build recognition of the TLD, spurring others to build sites in the extension as well. 

One other note today, in yesterday's Lowdown post we mentioned that the domain CFJ.com had just been stolen from Andrew Rosener's GoDaddy account. We are happy to be able to follow up today with news that GoDaddy helped Rosener quickly recover his domain. This morning Rosener (who operates MediaOptions.com) told us, "Getting the word out and preventing the domain from being resold is the most important factor in a timely recovery. I must say that I am really impressed with how Godaddy handled the situation.  It has been just over 12 hours and they just notified me that the domain has been recovered and reallocated to my account."  

Rosener added, "We are still trying to sort out how exactly they were able to get into my account, but it appears to have been done using Keylogger spyware software that was somehow installed on my computer.  They 

closed a deal with a buyer on NamePros.com and then went in and initiated the change of Registrant.  Luckily, I was able to catch it early enough that the domain, although it had changed registrants, was still at Godaddy and they could lock it down."

(Posted Nov. 24, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091124.htm

SnapNames Shill Bidding Scandal Leads to Another Class Action Lawsuit Against Oversee.net

The insider shill bidding scandal at SnapNames.com has resulted in a second class action lawsuit being filed against SnapName's current owner, Oversee.net. The shill bidding activity 

allegedly conducted by former SnapNames VP Nelson Brady began a couple of years before Oversee bought SnapNames in 2007 and it was Oversee who discovered it and made it public earlier this month. Even so, as the company left holding the extremely hot SnapNames potato when the scheme was uncovered, Oversee now has to deal with the legal aftermath. 

Though they have extended a restitution offer to those victimized by the shill bidding activity, the offer has not satisfied some customers and they have instituted class actions lawsuits as a result. The first one was filed in Florida on November 9th with the second one (PDF file), as reported by Andrew Allemann this morning, following this past Tuesday (November 18th) in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, California. Both the plaintiff in the California action, Stewart Resmer, and Oversee.net are located in Los Angeles. Resmer is being represented by the law firm of KamberEdelson LLC.

 

Nelson Brady
The former SnapNames VP who allegedly
operated a massive shill-bidding scheme.

After citing a number of laws allegedly violated during the class action period from 2005-2009, the suit closes by asking for unspecified damages and reimbursement of legal expenses and, in what would be an especially big financial blow to Oversee if awarded,  a request that the court "disgorge Defendants of all revenue earned from SnapNames.com Internet domain name auctions during the Class period."

The SnapNames imbroglio won't stop Oversee from proceeding with its 4th annual DOMAINfest Global conference, coming up January 26-28 in Santa Monica, California. On Friday show organizers announced a couple of new contests for this year's show: PITCHfest and LAUNCHfest

PITCHfest aims to uncover new, innovative products or services designed to enhance the value of parked or developed domain names by driving increased traffic and/or revenue. Up to five finalists will present a five-minute summary of their offering to the DOMAINfest audience and a panel of expert judges (you can apply to present here). The DOMAINfest Global 2010 PITCHfest Service Innovator trophy will be awarded for "the idea with the most creativity, viability, originality, and revenue potential." 

The LAUNCHfest contest will reward the most innovative and viable plan for building an online business around one of ten undeveloped, premium domain names that will be made available by Oversee.net. Contestants will select one name, as listed on the contest site, and submit an online application with key business plan elements. Up to five entries will be selected as LAUNCHfest finalists and the finalists will present a five-minute summary of their business plans to the DOMAINfest audience and a panel of expert judges. Judging will be based on creativity, viability, originality, and revenue potential.

The LAUNCHfest winner will have the opportunity to develop their business on the domain, subject to a pre-determined lease arrangement. Oversee.net will waive the first year of the lease payments to help the winner focus his/her cash flow on launching and growing the business. 

The winner has the right to lease the chosen domain name for five years for the annual rate shown on the contest site. At any point during the five-year lease, the winner will be able to purchase the domain name for a pre-determined price. Entries are restricted to U.S. residents, and must be received by January 15, 2010.

(L to R) Michael Castello, Extravaganza owner Alan
Shayne
and David Castello in Santa Monica Friday night.

In some other news from Santa Monica (where DOMAINfest Global will be held) a couple of guys who have a lot of experience in launching successful websites, brothers Michael and David Castello, were in the beautiful oceanfront city Friday night promoting one of their biggest developments - Whisky.com

The Castellos attended the 16th Annual Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.

The Castello Brothers (from Castello Cities Internet Network) may be best known for their geodomain sites like PalmSprings.com, Nashville.com and Acapulco.com, but they also operate sites on several top notch generic domains including Whisky.com and Daycare.com. The Castellos treat each of their sites as a full-blown business and put in the hours necessary to promote their properties and make key contacts in the industries served by their sites. As owners of the category killing Whisky.com website, they have received a warm welcome among whisky producers and aficionados around the world.

Elsewhere, Steve Morales, who operates the geodomain informational websites at SimplyGeo.com and GeoDomainer.com is making potential advertisers an offer they can't refuse. Free ads from now until January 31, 2010.

Morales laid out the no strings attached offer in a post at SimplyGeo.com today. He wrote, "This is a first come, first served promotion." You have until Friday of this week (November 27) to secure your position by sending an email to info @ simplygeo.com. Eight spots are being made available on SimplyGeo.com and ten on GeoDomainer.com. Morales said, "it is the time of year to give thanks and additionally 

Steve Morales
SimplyGeo.com & GeoDomainer.com

Give. So we want to give and say Thank You to our readers and business owners for all the support throughout the years by giving away free advertising."

While some like Morales have gotten into the spirit of giving as this holiday season begins, others feel no shame in taking, stooping to outright theft of property belonging to others. Andrew Rosener of MediaOptions.com reports that someone stole CFJ.com from his registrar account this morning. Rosener wants to alert others in case the thief tries to sell them the stolen asset before he recovers it. Another reader, Nasser Himed, says three domains were taken from his account at another registrar last month (33Z.com, 8RB.com and Ksacam.com) and he is still trying to recover them. 

One final note today, Rick Latona has announced a change of dates for the June 2010 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference that his company will be staging in Vancouver, Canada. Latona, who will produce five of next year's six T.R.A.F.F.I.C. shows, had originally 

announced that the first T.R.A.F.F.I.C. event in Vancouver would be held June 15-18. In his latest newsletter, Latona said the dates have been moved up one week and the Vancouver show will now run June 8-10.

(Posted Nov. 23, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091123.htm

Editor's Note: I'll be traveling today, so there won't be a Friday Lowdown post. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you back here Monday. 
(Posted
Nov. 20, 2009)

Domain Aftermarket Options Are Expanding As Industry Players Launch New Sales Platforms 

At a time when the recession is causing many industries to contract new players are crowding into the domain aftermarket space. Francois Carrillo, who operates the popular news headline aggregator, Domaining.com, just launched the first iteration of a new marketplace at 

BargainDomains.com today. This site introduces some interesting new twists. They only accept domains that are priced no more than 30% of the appraisal value returned by another of Carrillo's sites - Valuate.com - a clever way to drive more traffic to Valuate.com. BargainDomains.com will charge a 15% sales and escrow commission and require a short 15-day sales exclusivity window. 

 

There is no charge to list domains but to be accepted names will have to appraise at Valuate.com for at least $500 and be listed for sale at no less than $100. Also, submissions are limited to no more than five per person in a 30-day period. BargainDomains currently does not accept adult, gambling or trademark related domains, IDNs, and domains with hyphens or numbers.

In another smart cross-promotional move, Carrillo said newly listed domains will start be being featured in a Domaining.com newsletter sent exclusively to premium members who pay a $50 annual fee. The next day they will be listed in the free Domaning.com newsletter sent to regular subscribers, then on the third day they will be listed on Domaining.com's home page. Unsold domains then make their final move to the BargainDomains.com website one week after they are listed.

Another new domain marketplace, NoktaDomains.com, was just launched a few days ago by Nokta Internet Technologies, a company that has sold more than 1,100  domain names over the past eight years, including TripleCreditReport.com for $260,000 and FreeCreditReport.co.uk for $300,000.

Nokta says it has a searchable catalog of over 200,000 high quality, commercially focused, generic keyword and premium domain names for sale. To find a particular domain name in the inventory, you can use the “Advanced Search” option with any keyword, phrase or domain name. More than 40,000 domains are listed as Fixed Price Bargain Domains available with the “Buy Now” option. The rest of the inventory is based on negotiation, an “Offer-Counter Offer” system which enables you to contact the seller if needed. NoktaDomains said they also have a team of Domain Consultants available around the clock. 

Nokta previously had their names listed for sale at a number of different marketplaces. A company representative explained why they decided to build their own sales platform. "By having our own marketplace, customers can access the whole portfolio and follow promotions, news and deals we offer. We know our portfolio better than anyone else, so we can offer the most appropriate domain name to customers with the right pricing. Moreover, through Noktadomains.com, the customer can buy our domain names with without paying any commission or transfer fee."

For the time being, Nokta is listing only domains that they own for sale. However that may change. They said, "We are very interested in further collaboration with other marketplaces and individual domain owners. We believe that our appraisal and 

sales experience would be very useful to our future partners for both domain acquisition and sales. Once our marketplace is technically developed enough, we would be selling other portfolios as well.”

Still another aftermarket solution is expected to be unveiled in the next week or two. In our Lowdown item yesterday about domains being jointly developed by T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu and the Rodan Media Group, Rodan spokesman Danny Pryor said they are about to launch a new domain sales site at BestDomainsWebsite.com. Pryor said, "Domain investors and prospectors will have the opportunity to view the domains for sale, view the search metrics related to keywords in the domain name itself and view a screen shot of the domain."

(Posted Nov. 19, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091119.htm

ccTLD Boom Fuels Interest in Canada's .ca Extension & Back in the States T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu Gets on the Development Bandwagon 

In a complete reversal of form from just two years ago, ccTLDs now routinely leave non .com gTLDs in the dust in our weekly reports on domain sales. The latest report, released today, is typical. There are five ccTLDs on the all extension Top 20 chart and there were a dozen five-figure country code sales reported. Not one non .com gTLD made the chart and only three reported non .com gTLD sales reached five figures. Average prices paid for names on our Year-To-Date Top 100 ccTLD Chart are approximately double the average price paid for domains on the Top 100 Global Contenders Chart (our nickname for non .com gTLDs).

While Germany (.de) and Great Britain (.co.uk) have traditionally dominated ccTLD sales, we're seeing increasing interest and activity in many other extensions.  One example is our northern neighbor, Canada, and its .ca extension. .Ca growth is spurring the development of more tools and services aimed at those interested in .ca investing and development.

Jeff Behrendt dropped me a note to let me know about a new .ca drop catching service his company has rolled out with partner Hubbard 

Media at Dropping.ca. Every Wednesday at 2:00pm., the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) releases expired domains that have not been renewed.  This is known as the "TBR" (short for "To Be Released"). Behrendt said, "Dropping.ca can help you obtain these TBR domains with a high-touch service combined with an easy to use interface." You can find out more about the TBR and Dropping.ca here.  If you want to sign up at Dropping.ca, you can visit this link

Jeff Behrendt (Dropping.ca)
speaking at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. ccTLDs
conference in Amsterdam last June.

While he was writing, Behrendt also filled me in on the Domain Owners Association of Canada (DOAC), a new organization that represents stakeholders in Canada's domain community - not just domain registrants, but also domain registrars, hosting companies, the tech community, online ad agencies, webmasters and more. "Its mission is to promote internet business and investment in Canada," Behrendt said. "Its goals include promoting the use of dot ca domains, increasing the number of dot ca domains registered, protecting the rights of dot ca domain owners, and most controversially, lifting the dot ca presence requirements. 

Behrendt said The first directors were just elected and they are: Harold Simpkins (Emall.ca), Peter Maxymych (Emall.ca), Rick Silver (N49.ca), Frank Michlick (DomainNameNews.com), Jeffrey Behrendt 

(Dropping.ca), and Larry Franschman (Evote.ca). You can find out more about the association on their website http://www.doac.ca/. Membership is free and you can sign up here.  

Back on this side of the border, I keep hearing more about veteran domain owners who are undertaking development projects. One of the latest is T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founder Howard Neu 

who, in conjunction with the Rodan Media Group, has just launched InvestingFunds.com and MalpracticeAttorneys.com. The Rodan Media Group is headed by Donnie Goodwin, a former Paine Webber investment banker who also operates a law practice specializing in bankruptcy and helping investors gain a fresh start on their march to financial independence.

InvestingFunds.com is the first site in a planned Fidelity Funding Network, a group of websites that will cover economic news and events. InvestingFunds.com features user commentary pages so visitors can add their viewpoints about the present state of the economy, from stocks to domain investment, retirement planning to international trade. The website also includes economic analysis from Steve Forbes and New York real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran

Rodan Co-Founder Danny Pryor said the next Fidelity Funding Network site to go online will be BestDomainsWebsite.com, which will 

Howard Neu has gotten on the 
development bandwagon with domains 
developed by the Rodan Media Group

list premium domains for sale in a non-auction platform. Pryor said, "Domain investors and prospectors will have the opportunity to view the domains for sale, view the search metrics related to keywords in the domain name, itself, and view a screen shot of the domain."

MalpracticeAttorneys.com is a separate project that includes a blog (with some posts personally written by Neu, who is also an attorney) and a directory of the nation's malpractice attorneys.

(Posted Nov. 18, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091118.htm

Domain Attorney Ari Goldberger Goes Hollywood With Appearance on Hit HBO Series Curb Your Enthusiasm 

If you are among the millions of people who watch HBO's hit comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm on Sunday nights, you may have noticed what looked like a familiar face in a restaurant scene that aired November 8th (Episode #68 - "Officer Krupke"). If you said to yourself, "Hey, that guy in the background looks just like Ari Goldberger!" you would have been half right. The guy looked like the noted domain attorney because that's who it was! In the photo from the episode below, with co-stars Larry David and Cheryl Hines in the foreground, you can see Ari immediately to Cheryl's right at the table behind her.

Below is a closer view of Ari Goldberger to the right of series co-star Cheryl Hines.

Ari, who was featured in our June 2006 Cover Story (one that I believe was among our best ever), was not in this scene by accident. As his friends know (and as we reported in our profile about him), Goldberger has been involved in charitable giving and fundraising since he was 8 years old. When he learned that the producers of Curb Your Enthusiasm were trying to raise money for the Alzheimer's Foundation by auctioning off a visit to the show's set (complete with an opportunity to be an extra on the program) he stepped up and placed the highest bid.

That resulted in Ari traveling to Beverly Hills, California where he not only met the Curb Your Enthusiasm cast members but joined them in front of the cameras for the restaurant scene.

Above: Ari Goldberger (left) with Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David.

Below (left to right): Cast Members Jeff Garlin, Ari and Larry.

If you missed the episode when it first aired, it is available on Comcast OnDemand and as well as from many other OnDemand-capable cable providers. You can find more details about the "Officer Krupke" episode here. A special thank you goes out to Scott Ross who let me know about Ari's HBO debut and also secured and provided these publicity photos from the show so we could share them with you. Ari told me "It was a lot of fun and they treated us great on the set." That made it a win win for everyone, especially the Alzheimers Foundation, the organization this special event was all about.

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First Known Criminal Indictment of a Domain Thief Has Been Handed Down by New Jersey's Attorney General

In August we told you about the arrest of Danny Goncalves, the man accused of stealing P2P.com from co-owners Marc Ostrofsky, Albert Angel and his wife Lesli Angel in 2006 and 

selling it on Ebay for six figures. This evening I received word from one of the victims, Albert Angel, that New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram indicted Goncalves today for that hijacking, the first known instance of a domain thief being indicted on criminal charges. You can read the Attorney General's entire press release about the indictment here (PDF document). 

It turned out that Goncalves picked the worst possible people to try to steal from. Marc Ostrosky is an industry pioneer (who sold Business.com in a deal valued at $7.5 million) and Albert Angel is a noted attorney and former Justice Department prosecutor who wasn't going to rest until 

justice was served. His perseverance led to today's indictment and we are hopeful it will lead to a conviction that will serve notice that domain theft will no longer by overlooked by the criminal justice system. 

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Steve Morales Resumes GeoDomain Duties After U.S. Army Mission Takes Him Away for Seven Months

After a long absence on an overseas tour of duty with the U.S. Army, geodomain fans will be happy to hear that Steve Morales is back at work at SimplyGeo.com LLC (a joint venture between Morales and Skip Hoagland) where Morales writes the SimplyGeo.com blog and administers the GeoDomainer.com social community. 

Morales, who is a Sergeant First Class in the Army Quartermasters Corps, made his first post since last April at SimplyGeo.com today. Morales told us, "I want to apologize to all Geodomain supporters and our SimplyGeo.com readership for the leave of absence without communicating my situation. However, as many of you know, when the Armed Forces calls for duty, you must go. That is all that I can say. The good news is I am back to complete what I initiated with some solid team members."

"There were a variety of projects and services announced that SimplyGeo.com LLC was launching when the economy was booming," Morales continued. "I wanted to give the community our reasons for delaying the launch of these projects/services. The economic meltdown has been our number 1 enemy in launching our services. Money is tight in every industry and Consumers/Business owners are just not willing to spend money as freely as they once did during the good ole days." 

Steve Morales
Co-Founder, SimplyGeo.com LLC

"In order to become successful with launching new services, you have to have an abundance of paying customers to pay for development expenses. Simple words for entrepreneurs, you don't build a business to lose money! Everything is about timing and at this stage of our planning, we will move forward cautiously and launch these products one site at a time. I will explain more of this situation on SimplyGeo.com in the coming weeks," Morales said, adding "In the meantime, you can utilize GeoDomainer.com, SimplyGeo.com, and SimplyGeo.net to network and find services, and get targeted questions answered.  Thank you for your continued support!"

While Morales is not at liberty to talk about the mission he was away on, it is clear that he is doing a good job in his military position. Last week he receive a commendation for his recent service directly from Brigadier General Jesse R. Cross, the Commanding General of the 118,000 soldiers in the QuarterMaster Corps, the largest Corps in the U.S. Army).

Sgt. First Class Steve Morales with Brigadier General Jesse R. Cross last week
when the General gave Morales a commendation for his recent service.

Skip Hoagland

Morales expressed a special thank you to his partner for keeping things together in his absence. "Without Skip Hoagland our developments and services being launched would not be strategically possible. Everything would have fallen apart this year without him as my partner," Morales said. 

"I really think it is important for readers to understand how hard it is to find a professional business partner as a best friend, mentor, and coach who is willing to do what it takes to build success in this industry legally for all involved. Additionally, Skip has continued to build our empire by acquiring LocalDomains.com. To most this does not seem like a big acquisition, but wait till you see what we are going to do with this popular brand in the local space for small business owners."

(Posted Nov. 16, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
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Bad News Comes in Threes? eNom Founder Paul Stahura Leaves Demand Media

This may go down as the most memorable Friday since I've been in the domain business. In earlier posts today I reported that Pete Lamson, NameMedia Senior VP (and General Manager of their Domain Marketplace including the AfternicDLS and BuyDomains) had left the company last week and that we received word that their Senior VP for Direct Search, Brian Carr, had also departed. 

Now Paul Stahura, the man who founded eNom.com (and sold the company to Demand Media four years ago) has told his Facebook friends that he has left Demand where he had stayed on as President after selling eNom. 

Stahura wrote, "After much thought, and 12 years after founding eNom, I’ve decided to join the ranks of eNom alumni. Demand Media, the company I sold eNom to nearly four years ago, is a great company and will be even greater in the years to come. Truly “going big”… Huge. The board, the management team, the employees - everyone – our customers, our services, are top notch. Demand is still in the first innings, but its time for me to move on. I look forward to working with Demand in the future, just not as an employee, and to keeping in touch with you all. Very best of luck to everyone at eNom and Demand Media! So long for now, Paul."

eNom Founder Paul Stahura

When I say bad news comes in threes, I don't mean these developments are necessarily bad news for the individuals who are moving on to new chapters in their lives. I mean it is bad news to see three executives of this caliber leaving their companies and their daily interaction with the domain community. That is bad news for the industry, but I am hopeful that all of them will continue to be involved in our space in one way or another in the years ahead. 

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A Second NameMedia Senior VP, Brian Carr, Has Reportedly Left the Company

Earlier today we reported that NameMedia Senior VP Pete Lamson, who was also General Manager of the company's Domain Marketplace (including both the AfternicDLS and BuyDomains) left the company last week. This afternoon I heard through the grapevine that 

the company's Senior VP for Direct Search, Brian Carr, also left recently. I have a call into Brian to confirm this directly with him. 

If true, it is a double dose of bad news for the industry as both rank among the most talented executives in our space. The current recession has necessitated staff reductions at almost every major company in the industry over the past 12-18 months. I don't know if that was the cause for the news coming out of NameMedia today but we all know that Carr's area of responsibility, PPC monetization, has been hit harder than any other industry sector in the current downturn. 

Like Lamson, Carr has an impressive work history dating back more than 20 years to when he started out as a reporter for the Patriot Ledger newspaper in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Brian Carr

A few other notes before we head into the weekend. Rick Latona Auctions will, at no charge, provide the online auction platform for the WhyPark Charity Domain Auction scheduled for December 7-11.  The WhyPark Charity Auction will be the first online auction to utilize Rick Latona’s new beta auction platform at a new location, www.LATONAS.com

WhyPark’s auction will consist of up to 50 domain names, with no reserve price, all donated by domain industry leaders. The proceeds from the auction will be given to a socially-responsible charity chosen by the highest single bidder in the auction. To submit domain names for the auction and for complete details, visit: http://www.whypark.com/auction.

Canadian domainers who want to enjoy a night out with fellow pros will have a chance to do that again Wedensday, November 25th when the 9th Domainer Dinner will be held in Toronto at Rosewater Supper Club. Tickets for the event being organized by DomainConvergence founder Frank Michlick are $90 + eventbrite fee and include food and two drinks. The amount of seats is limited, so if you would like to attend, it would be a good idea to register ASAP. 

Last but not least, those who want to relive or vicariously enjoy a few days in paradise as provided at the SedoPro Partners Forum in Key West, Florida last month will want to visit Sedo's Facebook page. They have just posted 194 photos from the event that were taken by a professional photographer hired to document the 4th annual event. 

new Facebook album of 194 photos from last month's SedoPro Partners Forum in Key West, Florida includes the shot above of Sedo's three Co-Founders and the company's COO & General Counsel Jeremiah Johnston (2nd from left). The Co-Founders are Tim Schumacher (far left), Ulrich Essman (to Johnston's right) and Ulrich Priesner (far right).

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Senior VP Pete Lamson Has Left NameMedia Where He Ran Two of the Domain Industry's Biggest Sales Platforms; the AfternicDLS and BuyDomains

Pete Lamson, a Senior VP at NameMedia who also served as the General Manager of their Domain Marketplace (including two of the industry's most successful sales platforms, the AfternicDLS and BuyDomains), has left the company on good terms. I came to regard Pete 

very highly since meeting him for the first time nearly four years ago at the 2006 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Silicon Valley conference. From the start, the Harvard Business School graduate encouraged the industry to adopt more professional standards to improve its standing in the general business world. 

Lamson also consistently worked to expand aftermarket sales opportunities for domain owners. Through the development of NameMedia's expanded promotion platform, he played a key role in making  small to medium sized business (SMB) owners around the world aware of the high value proposition represented by good domain names. That process involved heavy ad spending in general interest business publications aimed at the SMB market. 

Before Lamson's arrival at NameMedia the company did not share BuyDomains sales data. However, Pete quickly saw that doing so would bring more transparency to the market and  

Pete Lamson
Former Name Media Senior VP and 
 Domain Marketplace General Manager

help foster additional sales by allowing buyers to make more informed purchase decisions. He agreed to start sending me their sales results each week and those have become a key component of the weekly report we publish to give buyers and sellers around the world insight into current prices and trends in the domain aftermarket. 

I reached Lamson by phone this morning and he said he thoroughly enjoyed his four-year run at NameMedia and had the utmost respect for his colleagues there. Lamson said, "I'm very proud of what our team accomplished and also proud of what NameMedia as well as other companies and individuals did collectively to try to move the industry forward. There is still a long way to go but we have also come a long way in recent years." Lamson said he doesn't plan to begin his "next adventure" until the just the right opportunity comes along. He will be able to draw on an impressive history of successful executive business experience when he returns to the playing field. 

I am hopeful that next opportunity keeps Pete in the domain industry, but if it doesn't we wish him the best in whatever lies ahead and thank him for the many contributions he has already made to our space.

(Posted Nov. 13, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
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Editor's Note: I will be out of the office today, so no Thursday Lowdown post. See you back in this space tomorrow!
(Posted Nov. 12, 2009)

GeoDomain Giant Skip Hoagland Teams Up With Databanq to Launch a Major New Site at ChamberOfCommerce.com

Skip Hoagland's company, Domains New Media LLC has teamed up with Databanq to launch a major new site on one of Domains New Media's premier domains, ChamberOfCommerce.com.  The site's CEO, Databanq Co-Founder David Bayer, says the goal of the company is simply to build the largest local business directory in the world

ChamberOfCommerce.com is focused on helping businesses more effectively use the Internet to acquire new customers and get found online. The site features more than 14 million businesses and aggregates business data from than 100 online and offline sources. "By combining strong technology with the one of the most trusted business brands in the world, ChamberofCommerce.com is creating a new marketplace for effectively connecting with consumers,” Bayer said.  

Bayer added "ChamberofCommerce.com offers a suite of tools to help businesses develop and manage their online marketing campaigns. In addition to business profiles, ratings, reviews and a host of multimedia applications, ChamberofCommerce.com offers ChamberList, which allows businesses to manage their information across more than 80 online search engines and directories."

David Bayer
CEO, ChamberOfCommerce.com

"In addition, ChamberofCommerce.com provides exclusive sponsorship opportunities across more than 1,000 business categories. Making it easier for businesses to develop a web presence and measure their marketing campaigns helps them maximize return on investment and allows them to focus on their business rather than trying to figure out the web," Bayer said.

Skip Hoagland
Domains New Media, LLC

ChamberofCommerce.com also has a Partner Alliance Program. The company said this allows best of breed online marketing and technology providers to integrate with the Chamber’s technology platform. Current technology partners include Google, Yahoo, Bing, CitySearch, Yelp, Localeze & Acxiom.

In addition to the ChamberOfCommerce.com project, Hoagland said he is rolling out a new and improved Domains New Media LLC Global Network, built on the solid foundation provided by sites he has developed on some of his world class geodomains including Atlanta.com, Baltimore.com, Honolulu.com, BuenosAires.com and Cuba.com to name just a few. Hoagland's portolio also includes some top notch sporting domains including Fishing.com, FlyFishing.com and Shooting.com

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Domainer Mardi Gras Posts the Initial Agenda for their February 2010 Show in New Orleans and Offers Free External Hard Drives for Early Bird Registrants

The Executive Director of the 2010 Domainer Mardi Gras Conference (DMG), Michael Ward, is in New Orleans this week doing some advance work for the highly anticipated show 

coming up February 11-13, 2010 in the Big Easy - smack dab in the middle of the world famous Mardi Gras festival. Ward announced that the preliminary show agenda has also been posted on the conference website. Highlights include an opening night Crawfish Boil and Parade Viewing on Thursday, Feb. 11th. Friday and Saturday sessions will cover everything from domain investing to developing and there will be balcony parties on Bourbon Street both Friday and Saturday nights. 

After a successful debut event this past February, the Domainer Mardi Gras team plans to pull put all of the stops to make the 2010 show even better. The conference is moving to the New Orleans Marriott which will put attendees even closer to the Mardi Gras parades and 

Michael Ward, Executive Director
2010 Domainer Mardi Gras

around the clock celebrations the French Quarter is famous for. As soon as you leave the hotel you are on Canal Street, the primary parade route. Turn the corner and you are on Bourbon Street where show goers will again get a birds eye view of all of the action from DMG's private balcony.

Scene from a 2009 Domainer Mardi Gras balcony party on Bourbon Street last February.

Several 2010 attendees will be getting a free Flip video camera to record their memories on - a special reward for taking advantage of a three-day early bird registration special that DMG ran in September. Now organizers are offering another cool premium to store your photos and videos on -  a 500GB Iomega Prestige external hard drive that will go to everyone who registers for

the 2010 Domainer Mardi Gras and books a room at the conference hotel by midnight Friday, November 13th, 2009. With registration rates as low $595 DMG is already one of the best conference deals in industry. Toss in this extra bonus for signing up early and it is an attractive proposition indeed.  

(Posted Nov. 10, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
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First Class Action Suit Filed in the SnapNames Shill Bidding Scandal and Customers Get Access to Bidding Records

The first trickle in what observers expect to be a flood of lawsuits was filed today as the insider shill bidding scandal at SnapNames.com continues to dominate news in the domain industry. A class action suit was filed in Florida's Miami-Dade County Circuit Court by the

Cueto Law Group on behalf of lead Plaintiff Carlos A. Cueto and others who participated in online domain auctions conducted by Oversee.net subsidiary SnapNames. In the lawsuit Mr. Cueto alleges that an executive of the company conducting the auctions acted as a shill bidder to manipulate bids. Though not named in the Cueto press release announcing the suit, that executive has been identified as former SnapNames VP of Engineering Nelson Brady

The number of people who may join class auctions lawsuits of this nature will depend in part on how many customers that were defrauded accept cash (or credit) settlements currently being offered by SnapNames. Over the weekend the company responded to customer requests and made all of their historical bidding records available online. The most recent two years worth of records had been available but Brady's alleged actions reportedly began much earlier, starting in 2005. Prior to gaining access to all of their records customers couldn't determine if the settlements being offered covered all of the auctions they were victimized in. 

Nelson Brady
Former SnapNames VP accused of shill 
bidding in as many as 50,000 online auctions.

Customers are also weighing other issues with one of the biggest being accountability for the crimes that have been committed, beyond just a refunding of money they lost on the scheme. In the hundreds of comments that have been left on industry blogs and forums over the past few days, a recurring question is whether or not SnapNames is pressing charges against Brady in a fraud that looks like it will run well into seven figures. Thus far, the company has said it cannot comment on that at this point. One way or another, with the scope of the scandal being so large, it is hard to envision the case escaping the purview of law enforcement before all is said and done.

Brady has remained silent since Oversee announced they had discovered the fraud and were moving to reimburse SnapNames customers. His version of events is the proverbial "other shoe" that everyone is 

waiting to drop. If he does surface, will he accept the blame that has been leveled at him or will he paint a different picture of what occurred in an incident that had rocked the entire industry?

One other note today. We have just published our comprehensive review of the recently concluded T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York domain conference. The article includes dozens of previously unreleased photos and details on conference events that we did not have time to cover in our daily Lowdown highlights from the show. This conference marked the end of an era as show co-founders Rick Schwartz and Howard Neu have now turned the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. reins over to Rick Latona, effective with the next event in the series, T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West, coming up in Las Vegas January 21-23

Latona intends to put his own stamp on the show. He took a move in that direction today announcing that he has secured 

T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Co-Founders Howard Neu 
(at podium) and Rick Schwartz welcome 
attendees to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York.

the services of Canadian domain investor/developer Rick Silver (N49.com) to moderate the five  T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conferences that Latona will stage next year. Silver caught Latona's attention when he spoke at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. ccTLDs conference that Latona staged in Amsterdam this past June. In addition to being an excellent speaker with an impressive track record in domain development, Silver is a very personable guy who conference attendees will enjoy being around.

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Companies in the News: Sedo, Moniker, Neustar, Pool.com and eBusinessDomains.com

Yesterday's news about the shill bidding scandal at SnapNames.com overshadowed everything else in the domain industry over the past 24 hours but, while work begins on sorting out that mess, life goes on other corners of the domain industry. We have news from a variety of companies to tell you about today. 

Let's start with Sedo's release of their latest quarterly Domain Market Study, this one covering 3Q-2009. In some of the report's highlights Sedo reported that domain sales at their online marketplace jumped 5.5% over the previous quarter with 9,928 domains changing hands for a total of just under $23 million

Sedo said the average sales price for a domain name soared 37% from $1,691 to $2,316. That average was helped by some high profile sales that Sedo closed in the 3rd quarter, including Call.com ($1.1 million), Server.com ($770,000), Christian.com ($600,000) and Brazil.com ($500,000).

.Com remains the most popular extension on the Sedo platform accounting for 80% of gTLD sales and 45% of sales overall.  ccTLD sales also remained strong, led by Germany's .de extension that accounted for 56% of country code sales. Sedo said the .fr (France), .es (Spain) and .eu (European Union) extensions showed some of the highest price increases.

COO and General Counsel Jeremiah Johnston said "Sedo's impressive results this quarter demonstrate the strength and stability of the domain market, despite the slow economy. We anticipate continued momentum in the fourth quarter and in 2010, as the demand for premium domains continues to increase." 

Next up...Moniker's extended online auction conducted in association with the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York conference closed Wednesday with just over $278,000 in sales led by OneOfAKind.com at $26,000, LoanOfficer.com at $16,000 and FDA.net at $11,550. A total of 139 domains were sold and Michael Berkens listed all of the results on his blog today. 

Coupled with the approximately $412,000 Moniker took in at their live auction in New York, total sales for their T.R.A.F.F.I.C. live and online events came in at about $690,000.

The .BIZ registry, Neustar, today announced they will team up with Pool.com to auction off more than 1,000 two-character .BIZ domains in a phased release that will start November 30th and continue through February 2010. Neustar previously teamed up with Sedo and Moniker to offer a limited number of one and two character .BIZ domains, but this will be the first time that a gTLD registry has released such a large number of two-character domains. 

Tim Switzer, Vice President, Registry Services for Neustar, said “There are many companies with long company names, and others who have names that are difficult to spell or remember. We are very pleased to be working with Pool.com to make a short, memorable alternative available.”

The complete list of two-character .BIZ domain names that will be available for auction at Pool.com, including the auction date for each name, can be found at www.twodotbiz.biz.

Finally today, eBusinessDomains.com announced that they have partnered with Dark Blue Sea's  Domain Distribution Network (DDN) in a move that will make 

500,000 aftermarket domains available to eBusinessDomains customers who conduct searches on the company's site. If a search turns up a DDN domain the client would like to buy, they can simply click a link that will take them to FabulousDomains.com (Dark Blue Sea’s domain marketplace) to complete a fully automated transaction that features instant transfer of the domain name through the Fabulous.com registrar.

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Photos of Alleged SnapNames Shill Bidder Nelson Brady and Our Thoughts on a Scandal That is Rocking the Domain Industry

At the 2007 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West conference in Las Vegas I was scheduled to speak about the domain aftermarket at a closing day luncheon sponsored by SnapNames.com. Two of the 

company's Vice Presidents, Mason Cole and Nelson Brady, spoke to the crowd just before I went to podium and I took the opportunity  to snap some photos of them for our files. At the time SnapNames was riding high and less than six months later the company would be scooped up by  Oversee.net in a deal reportedly worth $25 million

On that Wednesday in March 2007 I met Brady for the first time and he came across as a very personable and intelligent guy. No one could have guessed that, if company allegations released today are true, Brady, under the user name Halvarez, had already been been involved in rigging SnapNames auctions for two years, behavior they say continued for two more years before SnapNames finally discovered the fraud and made it public in a letter to their customers today. 

Brady was fired a week ago Monday, but 

Nelson Brady
Former SnapNames VP of Engineering 
who is accused of shill bidding in thousands
of domain auctions dating back to 2005.
(Photo copyright - DNJournal.com)

the fallout from the scandal will be felt for a long time to come and, like a dirty bomb going off in a metropolitan area, the radiation will contaminate innocent people as well as the guilty. Bidders are now asking if they can trust anyone. While SnapNames obviously faces the biggest hurdle, other companies will also have to reassure skeptical customers that they provide a level playing field. That started just hours after the SnapNames news broke when one of their chief competitors, NameJet, sent a letter to their customers saying they had systems in place to prevent the same thing from happening there.

A quick read of commentary on blogs and in domain forums shows that the distrust is spreading beyond auction houses to all kinds of industry service providers, including PPC companies and affiliate programs. The incident has also given the industry's critics fresh ammunition that they are using to try to taint everyone involved in the domain business. For one man, Brady is causing an incredible amount of collateral damage beyond the millions he could cost his former employer in legal fees and settlements with customers who were shortchanged.

 

Nelson Brady speaking at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. West in Las Vegas in March 2007
(Photo copyright - DNJournal.com)


Brady reportedly drove prices up with fraudulent bids in as many as 50,000 auctions. SnapNames announced a plan to compensate their customers, saying "in every auction where the employee’s fictitious account submitted a bid which resulted in a higher price being paid by the winning bidder, SnapNames will offer a rebate, with 5.22% interest (the highest applicable federal rate during the affected time period), to affected customers for the difference between the prices they actually paid and the prices they would have paid, had the employee not bid in the auctions.  The rebate will be available in cash or in credit on the SnapNames platform, at your discretion.

It was wise for SnapNames to lay their cards on the table and declare their intention to make things right, but this remains a nightmare situation for everyone. In addition to SnapNames' financial liability to customers, anticipated legal fees and the hit to their reputation, bidders have lost untold thousands of dollars as well as domains they should have won. As for Brady his career is obviously in tatters. One can only imagine why someone with his background would go down this path. A brief bio on Brady's at ICANNWiki says "Nelson is the VP of Engineering at SnapNames.com and also manages TelID's technical operation. He has 20 years experience in the design and implementation of complex software systems. Nelson's experience includes key technical positions at Dynamics Research Corporation, Mentor Graphics, OrCAD and Tektronix. Nelson has been a member of the Portland Venture Group, advising early stage companies on software application development." If the charges against him are true - and no one has heard his side of the story yet - where will he be welcome now?

\

(All photos on this site copyrighted by DNJournal.com 
and may not be copied or reproduced without written permission)

The primary question being thrown at SnapNames now is how did Brady get away with this for four years, especially when many domainers say they spotted the fraudulent bidding patterns in the Halvarez account and repeatedly alerted the company. I spoke with Oversee VP of Communications Mason Cole this evening and he said Brady held a position of trust, covered his tracks well and was the last person anyone expected this from. "We all feel wounded here," Cole said. 

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Sedo's First Ever Two-Character .Com and .Net Domain Auction Gets Underway Thursday

If you are looking for an ultra-short domain name Sedo.com will have a lot of them to choose from in their first ever Two-Character Auction event that gets underway at 1pm (U.S. Eastern time) on Thursday (November 5). The week-long auction of rare .com and .net 

domains will end at the same time on November 12. The domains scheduled to go on the block include NL.com, RO.com, KH.com, 64.com, 81.com, 91.com, CD.net and GD.net to name just a few. Sedo is still accepting top two-character domains for this auction. 

If you have domains that qualify you can email Sedo Broker Matt Rosebrook at Matt.Rosebrook@sedo.com. Qualifying sellers can also apply directly through their Sedo accounts.

In other auction news, two extended online auction events tied to last week's T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York conference are entering their final hours. The Moniker.com/SnapNames auction will end tomorrow (Wednesday, Nov. 4) at 3:15pm (U.S. Eastern time). You can review their catalog of approximately 2,000 domains here and follow the bidding action here

The Rick Latona auction will be ending Thursday (November 5) at 1:30pm (U.S. Eastern time) and they have lowered many reserve prices to entice more buyers. You can review their sales list here

Speaking of T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York, we are currently working on our comprehensive conference review article and will be publishing it this weekend.

One other note today, Francois Carillo, who operates the popular domain news aggregation site, Domaining.com, has rolled out two more free domain-related sites that you may also find useful; ClosingAuctions.com and  Valuate.com. ClosingAuctions.com does just what it says, keeping track of auctions that are about to close at the industry's top venues. But it also adds value with color coded bars for each domain indicating whether, in the site's view, the name at its current price represents a good deal, is at least interesting of should be regarded with caution.

Value is also at the heart of the Valuate.com offering. Enter your domain names and this site will return a variety of statistics for each name as well as their appraisal value for each domain. As I have said many times in the past, I put very little stock in domain appraisals - regardless of whether they are generated automatically or manually by human beings. However, it is still entertaining to check out the stats and values returned by Valuate.com to see how closely they mirror your own guesstimates.

(Posted Nov. 3, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091103.htm

Ten Finalists Named in the 2009 .INFO Awards Contest - Top Three in Public Voting This Week Will Split $15,500 in Prize Money

.INFO registry operator Afilias opened its 2009 .INFO Awards to public voting today. Anyone can now vote for their favorite .INFO site among 10 finalists selected by a panel of judges from a field of more than 50 original entrants. The finalists are:

 

You can cast your vote at www.info-award.info from now until voting ends at 11:59pm (US Eastern time), Friday, November 6. The Public votes will be combined with the judges scores to select the top three sites. 

$7,500 will go to the winner, $5,000 to the runner up and $3,000 to the site placing third.  The winners of the .INFO Awards will be announced on November 9.  

Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Afilias, said “The .INFO domain is the global home for anyone with information to share. The submissions for this year’s awards program reflect .INFO’s global appeal and the inherent usefulness of an Internet domain entirely devoted to information."

The most popular categories for site submissions included special interest web sites (28%), private web sites (23%) and business/corporate web sites (17%). You can see the complete breakdown in the chart below.

Afilias said that interest in the .INFO Awards was truly global with submissions being entered from 18 countries. 31% of submissions came from Germany, followed by the United States at 19% and Russia at 12%. The UK accounted for 6% of submissions, while India and France each had 4%

The 2009 panel of judges included: Dominik Grollman – Editor in Chief of Internet World Business (Germany), Peter Prestipino - Editor in Chief of Website Magazine , Gautam Chatur – Senior Director at Qorvis Communications , Michael Stephanblome – Managing Director AdJug UK , Katy Tafoya – Editor ConstantChatter.com , and Philipp Grabensee – Chairman of the Afilias Board of Directors. 

(Posted Nov. 2, 2009) To refer others to the post above only you can use this URL:
http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2009/dailyposts/20091102.htm


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