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In depth articles on domains, the domain industry and how investors can get the most from their assets.

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Posted by on in Domain Industry
ICANN Los Angeles Wrap Up

At long last I’ve finally returned from attending ICANN Los Angeles. So was the jetlag, long hours and sitting in a flying tin can for a day and half worth it?

I found that the main attraction for me was that there were a lot of domain owners at ICANN that were looking for a solution that ParkLogic provides. This was great news and we ended up doing a lot of business.

I spent the majority of my time either in meetings or hanging out in the lobby waiting for my next meeting. I think that we had about 30 scheduled meetings and many more that were impromptu while passing someone.

As always, I enjoyed catching up with the many, many friends that I’ve made over the years as well as making a bunch of new ones. Both Joe (from ParkLogic) and I have been working with many of the people that we met for years and putting a face to a skype voice was fantastic!

A real highlight for me was when a group of us hung around a fire pit at the Intercontinental hotel until about 2:30am. It was a chance to really get to know the .green team and hear about their passion for the extension. Dirk from .club was also there and it was great to hear his story and journey over the last few years. We sometimes forget that with all of these new gTLDs that there are real people with real lives behind them that have often put everything on the line to see the extension come alive.

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Posted by on in Personal Musings
Flying Across the Pond.....Again

Once again I find myself sitting in the Melbourne airport Qantas club. After a restless night’s sleep that was punctuated by dreams of perpetually trying to catch my flight, I finally groaned awake at about 5:54am.

When I say “groan” I really do mean the word in all its splendid definitions. I really did groan. Some people that are religiously minded say each morning, “Good morning Lord!” When my eyelids finally dragged themselves open I was more of a “Good Lord, its morning.”

So after packing the last of my things I then checked that I hadn’t unpacked anything by mistake. I’m always amazed at the number of times that I find my toothbrush wrested right next to my wife’s when it should be tucked away in my bag. Do you do this sort of thing as well?

In the end I find that I just give up and stop checking everything other than my credit card, passport and phone. If I have those then I’m all set.

Roselyn (my wife) drove me the forty minutes to the airport and for this I’m eternally grateful. Nothing against cabs but when you jump in one and ask the driver to take you to the airport and they respond with “Where’s that?” you know you’ve got a problem. Thankfully, Roselyn has done this journey many times and it wasn’t long before we’d said our good-byes and I find myself in the Qantas club.

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Posted by on in Domain Industry
What was the ICA thinking?

The Internet Commerce Association (ICA) has just altered its membership structure and the way that board members can be elected. I must admit that I applaud the efforts of the incumbent board in trying to juggle the various stakeholders but let’s try and unpack what they’ve actually changed.

There are four classes of membership:
Platinum - $25K/year and an automatic board seat.
Gold - $10 to 24,999/year
Silver - $5,000 to $9,999/year
Bronze - $1,000 to $4,999/year

What’s interesting is the way in which new board seats are awarded. For every $25,000 in revenue a new board seat is created and the gold silver and bronze class members can nominate a member or non-member to the position. There is an election where Gold members have 5 votes, silver members 3 votes and bronze members 1 vote.

From what I see of this structure is that it rewards those with the cash. If you have money then you can effectively buy a board seat at the platinum level. This works well for a commercial organisation that has profit as the motivation but I do not believe that it is healthy for a non-profit association.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Donna Mahony
    Donna Mahony says #
    Not even worth paying attention to any more. The ICA Facebook page is just kudos to those who gave money, this new announcement is
  • Michael Gilmour
    Michael Gilmour says #
    Completely understand your position Donna.....don't blame you really
  • Melissa Dafni
    Melissa Dafni says #
    Ouch. Is it any wonder that it is so difficult to get those in the industry involved?
Buy and Selling Traffic Portfolios - Part 1

I was reading a forum recently and another domain investor was asking about how to price and how to buy traffic domain portfolios. It was a really interesting question that caused me to think about how I price my own portfolios and what I look for when seeking to buy.

It should be stated right up front that everyone has a different risk/return appetite. Some people love to live on the edge and push the limits while others prefer to have a more sedate, stable investment profile. Whatever your risk/return ratio I’m sure that you will appreciate the following pointers.

Traffic domains are typically sold on multiples of months of revenue. So if a domain was earning $10 per month from being “parked” (ie. advertising revenue) then you may pay 24 months revenue for this domain. This would make the purchase price $240. Note that this equation inherently takes into consideration the registration cost of the domain for the two years.

The number of months that you pay for a traffic domain is greatly influenced by a number of factors that I will go through in this series. How much you are willing to pay will ultimately depend upon your risk profile. As a benchmark a domain traffic portfolio typically sells for 24 months revenue but like I said this can be dramatically influenced by your risk profile.

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Personal Musings - My SciFi Novel Sample

As many of you know I've been writing my very first science fiction novel. Writing the book as been one of the most enjoyable, rewarding and stretching things that I've ever done in my life. Over the years I've written a lot on my blog, technical manuals and for a number of different magazines but nothing prepared me for my first book.

It's been quite a journey for me and the characters in the story over the past 18 months. At times, I've found myself typing furiously on my laptop just to find out what was going to happen next. It almost seemed like the story was unfolding before my eyes but I couldn't see the next part until the words were on the page.

The first draft was finished about twelve months ago and then I began the many rewrites. My father is a great science fiction buff and he spent a lot of time reading the book and a lot of his suggestions are embedded in the pages. My wife has read the first hundred pages and added her unique insights in how the story could be improved. So knows nothing about science fiction so it was great getting her thoughts.

When our son Timothy was home recently I shoved a few pages under his nose to read. His comments and suggestions were all about the characters and how they could grow and gain greater depth. That added another 3 months of rewriting....sigh.

So after all the work I'm now relatively happy with the setting, plot and characters. I plan on doing a final clean-up of a few minor issues in my last rewrite before finally publishing.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Michael Gilmour
    Michael Gilmour says #
    You raised some really good points.....I've now updated the story to not show that Ray thinks that his mother is dead. I debated

Posted by on in Asset Management
Revenue Leakage

Two words that you really don’t like to see in the same sentence is “Revenue” and “Leakage”. This is a polite way of saying money that you should have been earning that you really aren’t. I have conversations with people day in and day out that revolves around how to stop the leakage and make more money….so what I have learned over the years.

Revenue leakage comes in many, many forms. It could be that the domains aren’t installed correctly at a parking company or they’ve been moved out of your account at a parking company (this happens a lot). The nameservers aren’t set correctly or cNames aren’t up to date if you are using a rotation service.

The most obvious revenue leakage is forgetting to add your W8/W9 tax form or even your bank details to your parking account. I don’t know how many times I’ve received an email from a person accusing me of taking their money and not paying them. I check their account and they’ve forgotten to provide bank details. Their tone usually changes dramatically at that point.

Escrow.com

Another form of revenue leakage is not actually knowing what you own. The problem with domains is that they’re just so easy to forget about, drop and then lose. We had a client that had their domains littered across about fifty registrars and they had no idea what was going on. They asked for our help and over the next year we aggregated the domains into a single registrar, locked them down and saved them a fortune.

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Saturday Musings – You’re not going to believe what happened…

Just over a week ago I’d published an article, went to bed and enjoyed the peace that only comes when everything seems to be good. The next morning I awoke to discover that two things had happened in a perfect storm.

The first was that my personal server had been hacked and with laser precision all of my websites, backups, configuration files and system had been eradicated. Trust me when I say that I had a LOT of protections in place but seriously, this was like a guided missile.

Escrow

The second thing that happened was that the primary hard drive in my server began to fail. I say began to because sometimes it was there and sometimes it wasn’t. I have a second physical hard disk in my server that I keep all my backups on and that was working just fine except this was hit by the hackers.

Some people have asked me about offsite backups and I answer this in two ways. It’s a personal server….and have you ever had to restore a 500 Gig backup over the wire from your home? It will take about 3 weeks just to transmit the data. Needless to say, I’m exploring “other options”.

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Tagged in: whizzbangsblog
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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Emil
    Emil says #
    Hi Michael, I hope you catch up soon. Cheers, Emil
  • Michael Gilmour
    Michael Gilmour says #
    I imagine that you're feeling my pain Joe.....it's never a good thing to have happen.
  • Patricia Kaehler
    Patricia Kaehler says #
    Suggestion... Each time you write an article -- eMail it to yourself on an outside eMail service such as Yahoo.com that way even
  • Michael Gilmour
    Michael Gilmour says #
    Hi Patricia, As well as having an offline copy of my articles I'm also doing exactly what you suggested. Great minds must think al
  • Felipe B
    Felipe B says #
    I enjoy reading your site. It'd be a lie to say I do it daily, but I often go there and visit. I am sorry to read about this cri
  • Michael Gilmour
    Michael Gilmour says #
    Hi Filipe, Completely agree with you about your comments on PHP. That's why we use Java in ParkLogic for about 99% of the coding.

Posted by on in Domain Industry

I had an interesting question in one of the forums about the topic of a domain industry association. The question was, 'Why is Michael doing this?' This question really caused me to think why I was spending time thinking about a domain association and it justified an answer.

I looked at the two associations (thedna.org and ICA) and it was clear to me that they really didn't represent the interests of the typical domain owner in any way. For a start I have a real problem with any association where board seats can effectively be purchased. This is fine for companies where profit is the motive but in my opinion it is not OK for an association.

If an association is to truly represent members then EVERYONE needs to have an opportunity for a board seat....hence the concept of classes of members and an allocation of board seats per class that individuals could potentially win via an election in their class.

There also needed to be different fees per class (hence the financially modelling at the end of the presentation). The great majority of domain investors aren't able to afford $5K/year but many would put up their hand for $250/year.

Given the challenges I saw with the current associations I wanted to push the discussion forward in such a manner that it at least reached the two associations and a dialogue established at the domain investor level. So where am I at with my goals?

 

1. The ICA was represented by Andee Hill in the webinar (she is not a director of the ICA). The other directors of the ICA are trying to work out when they are able to jump on a call with me.....I think that many of them have been on vacation.
2. I have been contacted by the chairman of thedna.org and he is connecting me with the CEO. They are completely open to everything to embracing domain investors. This includes changing their constitution to ensure that domain investors have representation at the board level. It was actually a refreshing conversation with the chairman.

I find that the bigger challenge is to engage the domain investment community themselves. What has surprised me is the general apathy towards both associations and the discussion itself. There appears to be a disconnect in the VALUE provided by either association for domain investors. This could be a function of us tending to be "lone wolves" but I actually don't believe this is the cas e as domain communities do exist. Fundamentally I believe that both associations have failed to prove their value.....and more importantly for me.......I've failed in someway to proactively engage the community as well.

For example, out of the whole industry about 9 people said they would attend the webinar.....6 turned up. I've run webinars before on topics such as selling domains and had 18 people say they would turn up and 18 did. Just for the record I think that anything over about 15 people can become quite unwieldy. What's interesting is that over 500 people have read each of the articles in the series on "A domain association". This tells me that the topic is important to people but they aren't willing to engage as yet.

I would be interested to know if I am interpreting this correctly. I would also like any ideas on how we, as a community, can engage more effectively on the topic. Or, maybe we shouldn't and just let the chips fall where they fall . Should I run another webinar? Is the time wrong etc. Any feedback would be well received.....can't promise that I can do something but I would like to do my best and try.

I liked the picture of the key for this article as it has two sides to it. If only one side was present then the key wouldn't work. What we really need is for domain investors to speak to complete their side of the key and get their point of view across to the associations.......and myself for that matter. It's through an engaging dialogue that a better outcome for us all can be achieved.

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Posted by on in Domain Industry

The reason why most people do not join an association is that they don’t clearly perceive what the benefits are for them. We could leave it as, “I feel all good about myself being part of an association” but that doesn’t really cut it from a business perspective.

So why would anyone join a domain industry association?

  1. An association can fight the fights that you just can’t fight yourself.For example, let’s imagine that a domainer found that a registrar was jumping the gun and changing the nameservers on domains prior to them expiring.  The risk for the domainer is that could be “punished” by the registrar if they kick up a fuss…..while if the association had a code of conduct for registrar’s then this issue could be addressed.
  2. There are many fights that you just don’t know about.Whether it be price increases on domains, changes to the UDRP process or net neutrality and liability. There are many issues that actually impact the domain investment industry that as individual domain owners we have little to no say over while as an association we could have a voice.
  3. More confidence in dealing with people of at least some integrity.If there is a “seal” of approval that can be applied to businesses and individuals that agree to abide by a code of conduct then it would provide external buyers/sellers with more confidence that they are working with “good” businesses. Anyone that knowingly transgresses the code could be “punished” by have the right to use the “seal” taken away from them.

    I personally believe that the fastest way that we can all increase the value of our domain portfolios is to behave in a transparent and ethical manner. If an investment firm is wanting to invest $100m in the domain industry then they need to have confidence that they are dealing with people of good standing. Having a “seal” doesn’t solve the problem but it heads us all in the right direction.

There are many other reasons why joining a domain industry association would be beneficial to your businesses. I’m sure that as it expanded there could be deals cut with conferences, parking companies and registrars for association members that would largely offset the cost of any fees…..but that is a little ways down the track.

I’ve had a number of people say that if a person they didn’t like was in the association then they wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Just consider where this line of thinking leads. If everyone thought this way then no one would be in the association because there is ALWAYS someone that has offended you in the past.

On the other hand, if a person is in the association and they agree to abide by a code then their behaviour will need to change or they are evicted. One is backward looking (I was hurt in the past by them) and the other is forward looking (give them a second chance but they must change).

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Posted by on in Domain Industry

Funding the Association

To be effective the association must have both a representative membership base and also the funds to fulfil the vision and direction provided by the board. There is little point in running an association that either prices itself out of its market or does not have the buy-in of the wider industry at large.

The proposed fee structure is to be based upon the Class and category of membership. Annual membership fees range from as low as $250 for a small individual domain owner doing less than $10K in sales per year up to $25K for a large company doing in excess of $5m in revenue.

By having the annual fees linked to a Class and category (eg. A, B or C) of membership means that the association is affordable to the broad spectrum of the industry. From the previous article I indicated that the members within each of the categories can also nominate for board election to represent their constituency.

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