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New Year’s tip: a drop monetization solution

January 1st, 2011

Happy New Year’s everyone! Hope 2011 will be a great year for you!

Anyway, just wanted to share an idea I have had for some time now. Never really got a chance to do it myself initially, then I decided that the business opportunity isn’t that huge and I have to focus on bigger niches. It’s basically an aftermarket play exploiting the drop game, a domain flea market if you will.

The idea is simple – all of us domainers drop domains sometimes, we choose to let them expire. The idea is that somebody would build a service where you could push these domains, say 2 weeks before they expire, and offer them for $10 a piece + renewal fee. If two or more people would be interested in the same domain, a standard namejet style auction would follow. The service operator and the domainer would then split the proceeds 50/50.

The service would just need to create accounts at all the main registrars where domainers would push the domains and do some simple programming of the marketplace, not much work imho.

This idea is based on a simple premise: some people can find gems (in their perception) in your garbage.

I personally drop a couple hundred thousand domains a year. The thing is that my only criteria for renewal is if the domains make reg fee. If they don’t, I simply let the domain drop and there are definitely gems in these drops that other people can discover but I don’t have time for.

I hope I created a new buzzword “drop monetization”:). Hope somebody picks this idea up. Good luck with it!


WhyPark looking promising

March 4th, 2010

I am generally cautious with new monetization platforms. So I’m generally not the first to jump on the bandwagon for tests. I prefer other friends to test out first and if I get a decent recomendation I start thinking about it. That was the case with WhyPark. I heard a lot of positives about it during DomainFest in January.

I’ve known Craig for some time, so I finally decided to run a test. Two weeks ago I pushed over a couple thousand domains onto their system that were making zero – we tested them on pretty much every parking company, so these were domains relegated to being dropped. From day one they started making about $20/day on WhyPark and about 7k uniques/day. Today it’s two weeks later and they are getting 11k uniques/day, so search engines are starting to pick them up. The amount of searches and clicks are going up as well, as the WhyPark team optimizes the domains. Yesterday they made $80, which is a great result if you look at it that previously they were making zero and were ready to be dropped. Seems like the earnings still have potential to go higher.

The test has been successful, so I’ve decided to put much more domains on WhyPark very soon. Well done WhyPark boys, looking forward to doing more business! Your platform has proved itself to me.


Protecting your property is vital (and sometimes even makes you money)

March 1st, 2010

About two months ago we picked up a nice little generic domain domain – leyton.com – on the drop for $1k. Our plan was to do a little development and we didn’t even bother parking it. Few days later we got an offer from a company which had Leyton in it’s name offering us 10k euro for it. We rejected the offer and made a higher counter-offer. The company’s response was to file an UDRP against us. Our lawyer on this, Stevan Liebermann, advised us that it is very likely we will lose the UDRP, so we were ready to take it to court if we lose. Fortunately Stevan wrote an amazing response to the UDRP and against all odds we won it. The story even had a happy end for us – we ended selling the domain for $50k to the company.

This is just a little story to illustrate how important it is to protect your property. It also is a big favour to the domaining community. Since the IP lobby is so strong, we as whole have to try to counterbalance it as much as we can.


The niche in the aftermarket just waiting to be carved out by somebody smart

February 25th, 2010

Some things are irrational or absurd, without explanation. One of these things seems to be a complete lack of revenue data about domains on the various aftermarket platforms. Even though a domain’s parking revenue would strongly influence the selling price of a domain, nobody is even bothered with communicating this information to potential buyers who may be interested in bidding and revenue is a key factor for them. For some unknown reason potential buyers are forced to estimate and their accuracy determines their success. Buyers focused on traffic/revenue names on the various dropcatching platforms can strongly support this argument.

Domains that generate a constant stream of parking revenue are the most liquid part of the domain universe because most smart domain investors buy on yield, not on potential development potential, end-user resale value etc since these values are just hypothetical and speculative whereas yield=cashflow. There is always somebody who wants to buy yield. The people who have had the biggest success in this business focused on yield.

Cashflow domains generally sell in bulk portfolios for a given revenue multiple. Say you buy a portfolio o 1000 domains making $10k/month for a 5 year revenue multiple, so you pay $600k for it. You are buying/selling the revenue of the entire portfolio, you are not really looking at the individual domains.

This is where the opportunity in the aftermarket lies – If you would unbundle the portfolio and sell it by individual names, you might get a total of 7 years revenue, for example, for the entire portfolio. The reason being that certain people might see more value in certain names for which they are willing to pay more (because for example they have a better way to monetize the traffic). So somebody may be willing to pay a higher multiple for your travel traffic names, somebody for finance traffic names etc. Somebody may see development potential in the name. Somebody might assess the risk of the domain differently etc.

Somebody smart can quickly carve out this niche in the aftermarket and start focusing on revenue names and include detailed parking stats with every domain for sale. Buyers will then simply be bidding based on what revenue multiple they are willing to pay for the name, ideally in an auction format.

In a previous post about Bido, I said that I think Bido will have to fundamentally change its model to start making money. This is the direction I think it should go, because this is where potentially the money is and it is an unoccupied niche. Instead of focusing on names with predominantly speculative value that usually catch the eye of 1 or 2 bidders (as hard as you try), why not focus on revenue names where you are likely to get interest from tens of different bidders if you can create a liquid marketplace.


A real existential life story of a domainer

February 24th, 2010

I really enjoy reading the feature stories on DNJournal, they bring a lot of inspiration. What usually most of the profiled people share in common is a pretty comfortable middle to upper class upbringing (I’m no different) which to a large extent helped them to be successful in their future business careers.

Today I want to tell you part of the life story of a huge domainer (easily over $200k in revenue per month), because it is one of the most breathtaking and fascinating stories I have ever heard and really differs from all of us. This person comes from Eastern Europe just like me and I have got to know him pretty well in the last two years, although we have met in person only a few times. This guy is completely under the radar, so obviously I will keep his name private. Let’s just call him Igor for the purpose of this story.

Igor spent most of his teenager years still behind the iron curtain, growing up under the communist regime of the time. The times were tough then, shops were undersupplied, there was a lack of freedom, you couldn’t travel etc. Igor dropped out of school early, never finishing high school. His first major encounter with life was when his father committed suicide when he was a teenager, to be found by Igor’s brother. Igor would later attempt to committ suicide himself through a rohypnol overdose, which he fortunately survived (he woke up 48 hours later). With the revolution in 1989, Igor discovered he had an entrepreneural spirit and decided to go into business, opening a newsstand at a train station. Unfortunately he ended bancrupt with no money, he had to find a new way how to provide himself with a living quickly. During his time working at the newsstand he got acquainted with some of the homosexual prostitutes residing there, which would tell him about their “business” and the potential of making decent money from it. Because of the situation he was in, he opted for this option and moved to Germany, where he would prostitute himself for over a year (although being straight himself). He also had a stint in Switzerland, only to be banned from the country for 10 years. As his financial situation improved, he came back and went back into business, starting a book wholesale operation. This career was brought to a halt though as he got involved in a serious car accident for which he was sentenced to two years in prison. After being released from prison he again started a new business, this time in import-export, where he finally found some success. The internet was becoming integral to this business and Igor stumbled upon the relatively new Google Adsense programme, which he implemented on his export related websites. After making 50 cents in the first day, he saw potential in this and was looking at ways to scale this and was quickly drawn to domains, which he would acquire through drops. Even though he had a demon called alcohol haunting him (he would go through two bottles of vodka a night working), he would put immense amounts of work into his new passion of domains and would observe his portfolio and parking revenue grow every month, mainly through re-investing all his income back into domains. Today, his portfolio numbers tens of thousands of domains and is still growing every day.I really admire this guy because he is one of the smartest people in the business, has a huge drive to move forward and has an unbelievable sense of humour. This guy is the biggest charater in the biz and is 100% pure. I hope a movie is made out of his life one day.


Looking at Bido, it seems pretty damn hard to build a new viable aftermarket platform

February 21st, 2010

I was just looking through Bido at the recent sales page. Since Bido get’s so much PR and buzz, I was really surprised about the miniscule amount of volume in dollar terms. Looks like on a typical day maybe $1,000-$1,500 of sales go through. That’s $100-150 of margin for Bido a day. And a hell of a lot of effort is put into that from Sahar’s team with no doubt to even get that result. I don’t really want to show off or anything, but just to put that number in context, I make that kind of money in less than 10 minutes, 24 hours a day, just from parking.

What the example of Bido clearly shows us is how difficult it really is to create a new viable aftermarket platform and especially get the model right. I think Sahar&co will really have to fundamentally change Bido’s model and I sincerely wish them a lot of luck, because any efforts like this help increase liquidity, which is always positive for all of us.

Overall, if you look  at the various aftermarket platform models, I think only some work very well, some moderately and some don’t at all.

Somebody who I think got the aftermarket model working really well is Namemedia with BuyDomains etc. Why it is so nicely profitable is that to a large degree, Namemedia is what I call in the business of proprietary domain trading. They own the inventory (or most of it) that they sell, hence their margins are really thick. Whereas others just rely on their 10% cut, Namemedia takes almost 100%. That’s why they can market their names proactively. Dark Blue Sea has been trying to do something similar to that with it’s Domain Distribution Network, but they are clearly not even close to as good as NameMedia is on this.

Another aftermarket model that I think makes a lot of sense is the dropcatching-to-auction model of Namejet, Snapnames and Pool. If you create liquidity in the marketplace, you can snap up domains for $7 and sell them for $79 or even thousands of dollars. Obviously most of the inventory comes from preferred registrar partnerships so the margins are not that high (as they have to give a big chunk to the registrars), but these dropcatching services definitely take a bigger cut than 10% that for example Bido or Sedo rely on.

Rick Latona gets it right as well through his whole aftermarket package (newsletter, auctions, active brokering). He also engages in what I call a lot of proprietary trading, a lot of the inventory he sells is his.

To a lesser degree I don’t think the whole marketplace model of Sedo (on a standalone basis) is that awesome and profitable. On a typical month, Sedo sells something like $6 million in inventory, with a 10% margin of $600k roughly. However Sedo has a HUGE overhead to keep this operation running, spends significant amounts on marketing etc. There’s probably very little left of the $600k a month after all the costs. However why this model seems to work is the marketplace’s impact on Sedo’s parking business. Because of the marketplace, Sedo gets a lot of parking business, where it can make thicker margins. Pretty much all the small guys making $50 a month on parking park with Sedo now, but they probably have thousands or maybe even tens of thousands of them so it adds up. The impact of the marketplace on the parking side of the business is exactly why Namedrive went into this business with its NDX Market. Overall clearly, on a standalone basis, the marketplace model is nothing very profitable.

So bottom line is that if you want the marketplace model to work, you really need some kind of upsell to make it work – to parking, a registrar or something like that.