CCTLD aftermarket sales surprisingly strong

January 4th, 2011

I harvest domains predominantly for their PPC revenue. Recently I’ve noticed an interesting thing with the CCTLD portfolios I create by new registrations – suddenly sales are bringing in a “noticeable” part of the portfolio’s revenue. When it comes to the cctld portfolios, this sales element is about 15% of the revenue (the remaining 85% coming from PPC). With my .com portfolios this is probably only about 3%. Interesting, can’t really find a reason to why.

Otherwise when it comes to ccltds I’ve been much more active with them recently. Since I’ve sort of overharvested the .com universe and ROI has been worsening there, I’ve been looking for other TLDs where ROI is better. So last year I did a lot in .nl, .se., .de, .co.uk, .it, .be, .com.mx, .ca, .com.br, .pl etc. Recently I’ve gone so exotic as to play around with .jp or .co.nz. Now I have around 50k CCTLDs but I think I’ve depleted them quite a bit as well :)


It’s official! DomainFest coming to Prague, 6-7. October

March 3rd, 2010
DOMAINSPONSOR® EXPANDS DOMAINFEST® TO EUROPE
--Early October event in Prague will focus on networking, building European business interest in online real estate--

LOS ANGELES, Calif. and FRANKFURT, Germany. DomainSponsor®, the domain monetization business unit of Oversee.net® and organizer of the DOMAINfest® series of conferences, said today that it will expand the highly regarded franchise into Europe with a conference in Prague, Czech Republic.

The two-day event will be held Wednesday and Thursday, October 6 and 7, 2010 at the landmark Hotel Intercontinental located in the heart of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Building on the success of last month’s event in Santa Monica, California, the October meeting will continue DOMAINfest’s focus on increasing the value of Internet real estate and will offer a rich setting for extensive networking involving topics relevant not only to domain investors from Europe, but also from around the world.  

Subject-matter experts will be invited to facilitate the networking sessions on Wednesday, October 6th.  The first day will also include a Moniker® Premium Domain Name Auction powered by SnapNames LiveTM technology.  Day 2 will be focused on social activities in and around Prague designed to provide the kind of shared experiences that can contribute to the building of long-term relationships between DOMAINfest Europe attendees.  Conference details, including the agenda and speakers, will be released in June, 2010.  

“DOMAINfest Europe is an excellent opportunity for European publishers, online marketers, and domain-related service providers to meet and discuss ways to increase the value of domain names, which we like to refer to as Internet real estate, “ said Peter Celeste, Senior Vice President of Oversee.net and General Manger, Monetization Services. “The DomainSponsor team looks forward to becoming more engaged with the European domain investor community, and this forum is the perfect venue to exchange ideas and build relationships.  As with all DOMAINfest events, we will be offering affordable registration rates to encourage maximum participation from a wide range of talented professionals from both inside and outside our industry.”

In January, 2010, DomainSponsor hosted a highly successful DOMAINfest Global® conference in Santa Monica, California that attracted more than 600 professionals from a variety of internet-related industries.  The conference included a variety of sessions over a three day period, including a keynote fireside chat with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com. This recent DOMAINfest conference also featured a first-ever PITCHfest contest, structured networking sessions, and moderated general sessions with experts from the world of investment, advertising, and marketing. Videos of each session, including the keynote fireside chat, can be viewed at http://www.domainfest.com.  

In November 2009, DomainSponsor announced the establishment of its European head office in Frankfurt, Germany with Joerg Schnermann as General Manager. 

Moniker® Auction
Moniker will host a live premium domain name auction on Wednesday, October 6 followed by an extended online-only auction from October 7 to October 14.  Specific start and end times for each auction event will be announced June 1, 2010.  The live auction offers real-time online viewing and bidding from anywhere in the world via a free software download.  Details on how to bid in-person or remotely in any Moniker live auction can be found at http://domainauctions.moniker.com
.
Registration and Sponsorship Opportunities
Registration for DOMAINfest Europe will be open June 1, 2010. The early bird registration rate will be US$395 until July 1st.  A discounted rate of US$495 will then be available until September 1st, at which point the price increases to US$595. Companies interested in sponsorship opportunities can contact sales@domainfest.com
.
About DOMAINfest®
Founded and hosted by DomainSponsor®, the domain monetization division of Oversee.net, the DOMAINfest® conference brings domain industry and Internet professionals together to learn, network, and do business. Attendees include online advertising experts, domain publishers, domain monetization experts, SEO and SEM specialists, website developers, online marketers, ad or affiliate network suppliers, search advertising providers, venture capitalists, bankers and trademark/legal advisors. Visit http://www.domainfest.com for more information.

About Oversee.net
Oversee.net® is the leader in Internet real estate, specializing in monetizing, registering, selling and developing domain names. The company provides an array of managed services to domain investors, corporations, and individuals across more than ten million web sites. Oversee owns one of the largest portfolios of domain names in the world. The company’s unique optimized technology connects consumers and advertisers with highly relevant advertisements. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the company’s core brands include DomainSponsor®, SnapNames®, Moniker® and LowFares.comTM. To learn more, please visit www.oversee.net.

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.


So when is the institutional money going to start flowing?

February 20th, 2010

One thing that has been puzzling me for some time is the lack of institutional money in any structured way in the domain business. More institutional money is clearly a prerequisite for higher domain valuations.

When you look at it today there is only a little bit. Marchex/Fabulous/Tucows are publicly traded. Oversee, Demand Media, Skenzo, Name Media have all taken aboard funding, very decent amounts. Then we also had iReit, which sort of flopped. Various domaining companies managed to take on some debt such as Reinvent. Domain Capital at least brings a little leverage effect into the business (they have $30 million loaned out). But that’s pretty much it.

But why don’t we have more hedge fund-esque operations that would take on investor’s money, maybe even tie in a little leverage to increase ROE and start buying up portfolios? The only exceptions I sort of know of are DomainIvest.LU (they have raised their first 10 million Euro fund, which is now invested I hear), mad.biz runs some kind of private partnerships, where they bring in limited partners. I do a little bit of that as well. Maybe InternetRealEstate does some of that as well.

So what are the main reasons behind this lack of structured institutional capital?

One factor is that the first round of institutional capital that poured in sort of got burnt. This was before Google/Yahoo started heavily cutting payouts via various quality related claims, before the downturn hit etc. To really illustrate this: If you bought a portfolio in 2007, today it would be probably making 60-80% less on PPC than it did at the time of purchase.

Second is transparency. Michael Gilmour sums it up pretty well in his article here, so no need to elaborate further.

Another issue may be size. When you really think about it, the domain industry is pretty small. My estimate is that Google/Yahoo combined probably pay out about $40 million a month to the domain channel now. That’s already not much, again taking the more macro perspective (compare it to say the size of the bond market). Worse, the market is highly fragmented. There is not probably a domain portfolio owner that would own 10% of this market. Probably Oversee, Reinvent etc may be close to the 10%, but more likely in the 5-7% range, when it comes to their owned and operated portfolios. The domain biz may simply be too small to get on the radar of the big various funds.

And lastly, there is the issue of risk. There is the monetization risk (that ppc will further decline or a big upstream ad provider leaving the space and not syndicating its feeds to the domain channel), maybe a degree of type-in traffic fading away (more long term) and then there is the legal risk. I hope eventually somebody smart will find a way how to securitize the cashflow from domains and create domain derivatives that could for example separate the the yield of a portfolio and its risk. The same way that for example in the bond market you have credit default swaps (through which you can basically separate the yield of a bond from the risk of non-repayment). Doing this would be a huge boost for the business and would really help institutional money to flow in in masses.

So will be see an influx of institutional money coming into domains in the next 3 years?

I really think so. PPC is certainly not going to fall as much as it did in the last 2 years – I actually think it may be relatively stable and new monetization techniques (refer to previous post) may actually even bring a little bit of upside. I also think there is going to be a new breed of domainers-turned-domain fund managers that will start bringing in the institutional money – because the industry is so complex it’s rather difficult for an outsider to do that. And lastly, with us getting out the recession I think investors will have a higher appetite in risk again and start exploring more alternative investments again.


The commoditization of parking, the margin squeeze and few other thoughts on parking

February 19th, 2010

The domain business is still about parking. That is still where the money is made and if you haven’t realized this yet, then you are getting something wrong. In many ways a large part of the aftermarket is held up by the parking business as parking earnings are reinvested etc.

In many ways, parking hasn’t really evolved over the last 5 years too much. It’s still quite similar. Parking companies are an entity that acquire an ad feed and are a mediator between domainers and the upstream ad providers such as Google and Yahoo. They ad a little twist with optimization etc but that’s it. Nothing fundamentally has changed over the last 5 years.

What is starting to happen and will continue is a margin squeeze for parking companies, it’s not really an envious spot to be in to be honest. A significant catalyst to that are services like Above.com (great service btw, really recommend it). Plain and simple, they send your traffic to wherever it pays best in an automated fashion. Hence parking is really becoming just a commodity because domainers are going to send their traffic simply where their traffic pays best. This should force parking companies to inovate more but also will force them to cut their margins. At least some good news to domainers!

This is really happening now and will grow even more so in the future (that is if evil Google doesn’t force the ban of redirects). DomainSponsor is now receiving more than 10% of it’s publisher traffic via Above. For namedrive I estimate it’s likely to be more like 20%. That’s a lot of revenue.

Parking companies should quickly realize that they have to start inovating more to be able to get more traffic from domainers. They should look into alternative forms of monetization like zero-click, lead generation, CPA. Or their margins will be squeezed further and eventually the middlemen could be cut out entirely.

As parking is more commoditized it looks obvious that the parking companies that built up/acquired their own portfolios have a decent hedge against this. Owning the traffic is vital. From this point of view the smart parking companies have been Oversee, HitFarm, Parked, NameMedia – they all have very sizeable portfolios of their own. Sedo has something as well of it’s own, not huge though. But for example Namedrive and Trafficz (not completely sure about Skenzo) have very limited portfolios and hence the margin squeeze could effect them much more than the others.

The second thing that will be vital in the future is owning the advertiser relationships if you don’t want to be squeezed. Parking companies should start going more direct to advertisers, it is a necessity for the future. Because in the end we are pretty much reliant on Google. Google can squeeze all of us.


Why I’ve started this blog and what’s it all about

February 19th, 2010

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to my new blog about domaining and other related industries. In many ways this is a coming out for me (I have quite a few gay employees, so I often find myself using their terminology). Since I started in domaining in mid 2007 (started with cctlds, bought my first .com portfolio in December 2007) I have kept a pretty low profile, so most of you probably have not ever heard of me. In the course of the last 2 and a little years I have built one of the top 10 largest domain portfolios in the world. When I was starting, people would tell me that all the good domains have been long gone. Fortunately I didn’t listen…

Anyway, when I look back I’ve had a pretty phenomenal run in last two years since I finished University. Although I’m still just 24, my businenesses now span across domains, lead generation, affiliate marketing, domain monetization, a car insurance broker, search, arbitrage, facebook apps & games, mobile marketing and even a liposuction clinic altogether employing more than 70 people fulltime.

So why have I started blogging. Well there are multiple reasons. One is that the domaining community is simply great and I think it’s time to give back a little. When I was starting I was pretty much addicted to Frank Schilling’s blog (I finally got to meet the guy last month!), it was probably the most valuable resource for me and I would try to reverse engineer many things that Frank would talk about. Now it’s time for me to share some of my tips & tricks! Second reason, connected to the first one slightly, is that there really aren’t many decent domain blogs out there. Pretty much the only ones I find worthwhile of reading are TheDomains.com, DNW.com, DomainNameNews.com and DNJournal.com for the features and sales charts.. All others just seem to have a lack of insight, are limited to publishing recent sales and worst of all, don’t get the game and some are complete attention whores. So I plan on to bring a new interesting resource via my blog, Facing The Absurd. And thirdly, since I am starting quite a few new ventures, I need new channels of promotion, and a blog is a perfect way how to push the message.

I’ll be posting mostly about domains, monetization, acquistion strategies, financing etc. But I will also touch other related businesses such as lead gen, affiliate stuff, online marketing because in many ways these industries will come much closer to domaining in the future.

And lastly I might as well elaborate a little on why this blog is called Facing The Absurd. It’s a reference to my highschool love of absurdist/existentialist thought coming from authors like Camus, Sartre, Dostoevskij, Kafka etc. In many ways I view my life through the absurdist lens and my life is really about facing the absurd state and finding a meaning in a meaningless world.

So, happy reading, I’m off to write a few first meaningful posts…