Challenges for .brands – launching your .brand

Published on September 3rd, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
3 September 2015

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously I discussed how to transition your agreed strategy into an implementation plan, which you can read here.

One of the consistent themes of this blog series is that despite similarities across .brand TLDs, no two brands will settle on the exact same strategy and process for moving their TLD to launch.

As I discussed last week, an implementation plan ensures that each required action is documented, responsibility for it is assigned and a more detailed project plan can be developed to take this process further.

Then comes what is arguably the most exciting part of the process: introducing your .brand TLD to the world – “The Launch”.

So how do you make this easy and exciting for the most important person in this whole exercise – your customer?

There are  five key principles that we believe are key to a successful .brand launch:

1. Put the customer first in everything you do

2. Use pre-launch messaging to avoid shocking or confusing the customer

3. Conduct consumer testing

4. Reward the behaviour of your pioneers

5. Prepare customer-facing staff

1. Put the customer first in everything you do

Think about the questions that pop into your customer’s mind when they see your fabulous promotional material for the new .brand TLD for the first time:

– What happened to <company>.com?

– Is this actually <company> doing the advertisement?

– Am I being tricked?

– Is the internet broken?

Thinking about how they will react and anticipating what action they will take are important components in planning the launch. Even members of your own team can quickly forget that they only learned about new TLDs a short time ago.

2. Use pre-launch messaging to avoid shocking or confusing the customer

For most launches, we recommend a gentle introduction of the new domain format, rather than just thrusting it in the customer’s face – for example, a range of teaser campaigns.

Customers are usually smarter than we give them credit for, but they might need to see the URL written as
www.promo.<brand> to help them understand they can type it into their browser. Acknowledge that there is a new domain format being used, highlighting it without making it a ‘big deal’.

3. Consumer testing

Testing promotional material with consumers prior to the actual launch brings two major benefits:

1. Helps the marketing team identify the best messaging for influencing the customer and driving user behaviour

2. Assists the technical team with understanding how end-users navigate and whether the site structure stands up to real-world use.

Since the TLD is new to your marketing team as well as your customers, the .brand TLD launch warrants consumer testing more than an average campaign. This cross-functional activity once again highlights how broadly the project will impact your organisation, requiring strong project leadership and stakeholder support.

4. Reward the behaviour of your pioneers

If a customer sees a new domain in a promotion and types it into their browser, reward them.  You want them to do it again, and tell others as well.

Obviously a good experience is one type of reward, but an active acknowledgement of their behaviour and a token of your appreciation are even better. If you have the technology to identify the customer, offer them an incentive of sorts. It’s also worth considering whether your marketing communications should include an incentive to encourage customers to type in the domain. This draws attention to the domain while associating a positive experience with its use.

5. Prepare customer-facing staff

It’s no use having an award-winning campaign if your customer-facing staff – at all levels of the business – can’t handle enquiries concerning the .brand TLD. The simple remedy to this situation is to ensure they are trained and ready.

This exercise also presents opportunity. Your customer-facing staff are a valuable resource who know how customers are likely to react to the campaign involving new domains and can validate their experience. Involve them in the planning and testing phases to save yourself time and money.

 

In a campaign, finding the right balance between promoting a new product/service and introducing a .brand TLD is tricky. Be sure to factor in more time than usual for the communications team to prepare for the launch, so the added complexity can be managed properly.

Once your .brand TLD has been launched, there comes the important and often complex task of keeping it protected and in line with compliance requirements. I’ll discuss the ongoing maintenance in my last post of this series next week.

Corey is part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia. Corey previously worked for ARI Registry Services – part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015.

Challenges for .brands – from strategy to implementation planning

Published on August 27th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
27 August 2015

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously I discussed how to turn your ideas into a .brand TLD strategy, which you can read here.

While your strategy and objectives speak more broadly to why you’re launching a .brand TLD, your implementation plan covers the all-important ‘how’.

Once you complete your strategy workshop session to agree upon objectives and approach, how do you actually launch a .brand TLD?

You need an implementation plan to guide you from strategy to launch, and beyond. At its core, the implementation plan is a checklist; just like a pilot landing a plane, you need to run through your checklist to ensure you don’t miss any crucial elements. It only takes overlooking one small step to lead to disaster.

While developing your implementation plan is far from the most exciting step in launching a .brand TLD, the project planning work done here will lay the necessary foundation for the creative promotion and engagement activities to come. It will also provide confidence to internal stakeholders that their needs have been considered.

What is an implementation plan?

An implementation plan considers the broad range of internal departments and external participants involved in the launch and operation of a .brand TLD.

One way to think about the implementation plan is to treat it as a risk prevention and mitigation tool. Because of this, several factors contribute to its complexity.

One is the very nature of the complex ICANN ecosystem and intricacies of the domain name industry. Another is the involvement of such wide-ranging areas of the organisation, making it easy to overlook items from areas outside the control of the project owner, if the items are not identified and listed in the implementation plan.

The internal project owner should take the implementation plan and develop it into a fully detailed project plan with timelines and assignments that fit in with all participating resources.

How do you create an implementation plan?

Building upon Neustar’s experience in launching major .brand TLDs around the world, we have built a proprietary implementation plan to help .brand TLD owners navigate the launch process. Outputs typically include a RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) and a Gantt chart.

The intention of the implementation plan is to ensure every deliverable of the strategy is accounted for. This means getting into the minutia of tasks required of internal and external stakeholders.

For example, here are four common topics the Neustar TLD consulting team has covered in the past with clients in our implementation plan:

1. Reserved names – Creating a list of reserved names which need specific sign-off to register. Reserving these names reduces the likelihood of the names being accidentally released to an ineligible internal applicant.

2. Call centre readiness – Ensure the public-facing call centre is trained on upcoming domain name launches. It is no use promoting the .brand TLD only to have a call centre operator direct a caller to a legacy TLD website.

3. Test third-party software – E.g. payment gateways. There may be certain systems which currently rely on connecting to a legacy domain. A plan with IT needs to be developed.

4. PR strategy for analysts – For publicly-listed companies, analysts are likely to pick up on any news surrounding the launch. Be sure there is an educational document so analysts can understand what the company is trying to achieve with the initial use of the .brand TLD.

The implementation plan is an excellent tool to support the broad cross-functional nature of launching a .brand TLD. Your implementation plan lowers your risk and keeps you on track.

What we’ve learnt is that after developing a strategic plan and looking towards the launch of your .brand TLD, the implementation plan brings structure and confidence to the project. For the project owner, it also helps disperse the not-insignificant load of delivering on the strategy.

If you combine a great strategy with a seamless implementation plan, the launch of your .brand TLD will provide your organisation with an asset which will become the foundation of your future digital brand.

Corey is part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia. Corey previously worked for ARI Registry Services – part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015.

Challenges for .brands – Transforming ideas into strategy

Published on August 19th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
19 August 2015

This is the fourth post in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously we discussed the importance of engaging stakeholders in the decision-making process around operating your TLD, which you can read here.

The importance of engaging with all the necessary stakeholders in your .brand TLD and ensuring you have company-wide buy-in cannot be understated. But once you have all these players in a room together, what’s next?

Every brand launching its own TLD will move through the process differently. Unfortunately for those managing this project, there is no single, ‘off-the-rack’ strategy that will suit every .brand TLD’s individual requirements. Most importantly, the strategy for launching a .brand needs to be tied to what your goals are as an organisation, as well as reflecting your culture and the brand itself.

Once you’ve engaged the right senior stakeholders, your next vital step is to develop a high-level strategy which you can all agree on and allow the project to progress.

The three main benefits of holding a strategy workshop are:

1. Buy-in. The .brand TLD project will require support across the organisation. If senior stakeholders participate, they are much more likely to buy-in to the strategy.

2. Risks and opportunities identified. Only when ideas are explored and challenged, do the risks and opportunities reveal themselves.

3. Shared load. This project is too big for one person, or even one department. The strategy workshop will enable tasks and deliverables to be shared fairly.

In the past, we have conducted a number of workshops with .brands that have involved two or three days’ worth of brainstorming and extraction sessions. This might sound like a large commitment of time, and it is, but spending the time up-front is the best investment that can be made in the .brand TLD project.

One consistent factor is that while our formula for running the strategy workshop remains the same, each one evolves very differently depending on the brand and the people involved. A strategy workshop is a challenging exercise, so bringing in a qualified external facilitator is recommended.

By getting all the major stakeholders involved in a strategy workshop, you are educating and motivating them, as well as building a strategy. You ensure that no major stakeholder is taken by surprise and most importantly, you demonstrate a genuine desire to get their input and have a great opportunity to learn how the project will impact their department.

This participation up-front will mitigate disagreement later down the track, by allowing all those involved to get all the information they need, have their say and be a part of the decision.

Once this is completed, you’re ready to begin developing your implementation plan. This is a far-reaching process which I will delve into further in the coming weeks.

Corey is part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia. Corey previously worked for ARI Registry Services – part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015. 

Challenges for .brands – How to engage internal stakeholders

Published on August 12th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
12 August 2015

This is the third in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously we discussed the delegation process, which you can read here.

Developing a .brand TLD strategy requires resources and input from almost every function in your organisation.

Unfortunately, most organisations that applied for a .brand TLD have successfully de-prioritised the project to the point where even the executives who signed off on the project in 2011/2012 may need to be reminded what it is.

Funding allocation may or may not still exist. Your digital brand roadmap may or may not include reference to the TLD. You’re essentially starting an internal awareness campaign from scratch.

Yet the stakes couldn’t be higher. Think about the importance of your .brand TLD. To achieve its potential, it will eventually become the backbone for your digital brand. And in today’s business landscape, you can replace ‘digital brand’ with simply ‘brand’.

To add to this challenge, the project won’t succeed without support from across your organisation. Just try to think of an area that will NOT be impacted in some way by your .brand TLD.

To develop a strategy for your .brand TLD, you’ll need to spend considerable time with senior stakeholders in a workshop environment in order to explore options and agree on a strategic direction.

There is one guiding principle that rises above all others when organising your strategy workshop; the need to engage every facet of the organisation. You will need to bring together senior people from all functions – preferably at the executive level.

Why? Three reasons:

1. There is never a shortage of good ideas, but the real challenge is in prioritising them. Opportunity must be balanced against risk, which requires all impacted functions to be represented.
2. Even if senior stakeholders don’t love the final strategy agreed in the workshop, at least they were involved in its creation. This means they will (almost!) never shoot it down later, and are much more likely to actively support it with time and resources.
3. You can’t do this on your own. In order to share the workload of launching and operating the .brand TLD, you need to start distributing the responsibility.

How to bring senior stakeholders together

We’ve held a number of workshops with major brand clients on developing their .brand TLD strategies. Achieving the right mix of participants in the room is always a challenge.

To understand why they should attend, people first need to understand what the .brand TLD is and how it impacts both their department and the whole organisation.

You’ll need a presentation that can capture that story. Remember that you’ll have an audience with differing priorities – what appeals to the marketing team will be different to what appeals to the IT folks. Communicate verbally wherever you can – with so many new concepts the message can easily become lost or confused.

Wherever possible, have the executive of your function raise awareness and gain buy-in from other executives. This will save you time and effort and greatly improve your chances of success.

Who needs to attend?

You need to involve senior stakeholders from all functions of the organisation. This will ensure risks are addressed and there is much less chance of internal roadblocks as you progress.

This doesn’t mean that you need the same level of representation from each function. As a general rule, the three areas which will need to be heavily involved in the strategy workshop are:

1. Marketing (digital, agency, brand)
2. Legal (risk, contracts, governance)
3. IT (web, infrastructure, security)

Plan your approach

We know that change can create fear and uncertainty, and the prospect of launching a .brand TLD will likely be incredibly intimidating for some stakeholders. It’s understandable that some executives might intuitively seek to block the launch of a .brand TLD if it’s something that is being forced upon them, especially if they already have a heavy workload.

That’s why it’s important to engage these internal stakeholders early and seek their input and co-ownership of the .brand TLD project. If your internal stakeholders feel as though they’re included in the change and can influence the outcome, they will be more likely to support the cause.

Your strategy workshop for your .brand TLD is a critically important event. It is worth putting the effort in to bring together the most senior, influential stakeholders you possibly can.

ARI Registry Services is part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015. Corey is now part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia.

Navigating the .brand delegation process

Published on July 29th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
29 July 2015

This is the second post in a series from Corey Grant, Senior Industry Consultant at ARI Registry Services, about how .brand TLDs can get started and make the most of their TLDs. You can read the first part here.

Today marks a major milestone for .brand Top-Level Domain applicants, as we pass the deadline set by ICANN for them to sign their Registry Agreement (RA).

For those who have knuckled down over the last few weeks and months to meet this deadline, congratulations – for many, this was no mean feat and the effort should be acknowledged.

At the same time, organisations that have reached this point need to remember that putting pen to paper is the first step of many; in order to get your TLD to a stage where it can be used, there is a process that now begins that can be complex, at best.

So what’s involved in getting a TLD delegated – and how long will it reasonably be before brands can start using their new TLDs?

The path from RA signing to delegation

At ARI, we were the first Registry to navigate the complex path to TLD delegation, when we launched شبكة. (‘web’ in Arabic and pronounced “dot shabaka”) in October 2013 as the world’s first new TLD.

In many respects, we were helping write the delegation process for all applicants as شبكة. traversed the process. In fact, our progress was recorded through a journal on Domain Incite which allowed other TLD applicants to learn from our experiences.

Since then we’ve spent almost two years gaining more experience and partnering with other Registry Operators to help them through the delegation process. Based on our experiences as a Registry Services Provider over the last few years, we’ve drawn up a timeline of the typical delegation process as a guide, which you can view below.

No matter what your plans are for your .brand TLD, it makes sense to move through the delegation process as efficiently as possible. That way you will have the ability to use your TLD, whether you currently plan to or not. Plans change, and I’ve seen clients have commercial opportunities to use the TLD at short notice, but were unable to do so because they did not prioritise moving through stages of the delegation process.

In the table below, the ‘typical timeframe’ we’ve estimated is based on our own client experiences. The process can sound complicated, but your Registry Services Provider should assist you in moving through these requirements and be able to execute steps such as pre-delegation testing and delegation on your behalf.

Also bear in mind that ICANN will now have a significant workload to manage, with approximately 170 .brand TLDs likely to begin the delegation process following today’s deadline. Given this, there is the possibility of a backlog being created that could cause further delays for some applicants.

Delegation is only one part of the process. Running parallel to the delegation timeline is another, arguably more daunting timeline for the commercial steps that must be considered to get a TLD ready for operation.

While time pressure means the delegation process is the most urgent step right now, once this is set in motion it should proceed with little effort required. For .brand TLD owners, the bigger focus should be on beginning the commercial steps to launching and using your .brand TLD such as stakeholder engagement and developing an implementation plan – elements of which I’ll examine further in the coming weeks.

DelegationProcessTimeline

A new boom to come? Re-evaluating the success of the new TLD program

Published on July 28th, 2015

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker
28 July 2015

I think it’s fair to say that quite a few people – both within the domain name industry and beyond – have an opinion on whether the new TLD program is succeeding or struggling.

But are things really all that bad? Are we forecasting doom before it has really had a chance to run?

Crunching the numbers

Let’s consider the (relatively short) history to this point and take a look at some statistics. In 2012, 1,930 applications were received by ICANN for new TLDs – however accounting for multiple contending string applications, withdrawals and so on, the eventual number of new TLDs to enter the digital ecosystem is likely to be closer to 1,300.

Opponents of the new TLD program are quick to point out the “slow” registration numbers seen across the program; however I’m not so sure this is true when we take a more ‘birds-eye’ view of the wider industry in two important areas – comparative registration volumes and target market awareness.

Registration Volumes

It’s been just 18 months since the introduction of the very first new TLDs to the root zone, over which time we have seen more than 700 TLDs delegated.

In that short time, businesses and individuals in all shapes and sizes across the world have registered over 6.5 million domains.

To put it another way, new TLDs have total registrations equalling nearly 5.5 percent of the incumbent powerhouse TLD, .com in just 18 months.

This alone is an impressive effort, but it may be even more positive if we dig just a little deeper:

• The average new TLD has been delegated for just 11 months.
• 50% of new TLDs have been delegated for 6 months or less.
• 25% of new TLDs have been delegated for 3 months or less.

To summarise, of the 1,300 or so expected new TLDs, only 25% have reached a point where they can realistically sell domain names to their intended target markets (taking into account mandatory name collisions). Yet just this fraction of the expected total of new TLDs have reached 5.5% of the registrations that .com has been able to achieve in more than 30 years.

Furthermore, these figures have occurred without some of the TLDs that are likely to be the most popular (for example .music and .shop), which are still to launch due to the sheer number of people vying for ownership.

Awareness

In addition to the industry-wide registration growth numbers, awareness in the target market continues to grow in a similarly impressive manner.

ARI Registry Services conducted a study in 2011 which highlighted that only 15% of respondents were aware of the increasing options for domain names. When that is compared to the recently conducted ICANN/Neilsen survey which showed 46% of people were aware of the same metric, it’s clear that awareness is growing significantly.

As momentum grows and more TLDs are delegated the awareness level should increase exponentially. This will also be helped in large part by .brand TLDs, many of whom are up and running, with the remainder expected to sign Registry Agreements by the ICANN imposed 29 July deadline.

Vital to end user awareness of new TLDs, we are seeing major global brands transition to usage scenarios with their .brand TLDs (Barclays Bank to www.home.barclays, BNP Paribas to www.mabanque.bnpparibas) and each high-profile launch helps people to become aware of the significant opportunity these TLDs present.

Practicality vs positivity: a balancing act

The highly-competitive, ever-changing environment of the technology sector and the domain name industry in particular mean that new products and developments such as new TLDs are under constant scrutiny.

This isn’t about putting our fingers in our ears and yelling to avoid hearing the criticism. No one is denying that new TLD operators face some challenges and that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

However it’s also important to recognise the achievements and successes that have been reached by the wider industry so far and the positive signs for continued growth that are already emerging.

The new TLD world is dynamic, diverse and full of innovators. Let’s not forget to acknowledge that – and maintain a justifiably optimistic outlook on the changes to come.

What does the July 29 deadline mean for .brand TLDs?

Published on July 20th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
20 July 2015

This is the first post in a series from Corey Grant, Senior Industry Consultant at ARI Registry Services, on what .brand TLDs need to do to get started and make the most of their TLDs.

If you are a .brand Top Level Domain (TLD) and have a Registry Agreement from ICANN which you have not yet signed, you need to sign it by July 29, 2015.

You’re not alone; there are many others in the same boat – all staring at their Registry Agreement trying to figure out what to do next.

The bad news? The biggest challenge will be getting everything signed off quickly. It will take a significant amount of time and energy in the lead up to July 29.
The good news? This is achievable, and there are people who can help.

How did we get here? When ICANN created a specific category for brands with Specification 13, they also provided a path for .brands to request a nine month extension to the deadline for signing the ICANN Registry Agreement. The majority of .brands elected to take this path, moving their deadline out to July 29, 2015.

Most .brands used that deadline extension to carefully consider their launch plans and take their time launching. We are starting to see some movement from big players now, such as Barclays Bank, BMW, Samsung, and more.

What needs to happen: legal

In short, your legal department needs to agree that the ICANN Registry Agreement can be signed.

There will be multiple people listed as eligible signatories from the original ICANN application (this list may or may not have been updated). Identifying the best two or three people on this list to sign the document, and ensuring that these people are available in the coming days will help meet the tight timeframe and avoid the unnecessary difficulty of chasing your CEO down the corridor.

For legal teams who have not yet reviewed the Registry Agreement, it is important they start as soon as possible. To help ease the process, ensure they understand the following:

1. Negotiation really isn’t a valid option. Unless there are laws in your jurisdiction which prevent you from signing, ICANN has demonstrated a consistently rigid approach to ensuring Registry Agreements are signed without major change. Given the time delays, if it hasn’t been signed yet brands are almost certainly going to need to sign it ‘as is’.

2. There tends to be a large amount of technical and domain industry jargon in Registry Agreements which won’t be familiar to many of the legal counsel within your organisation. Try to get ahead of this situation by lining up support from someone in the industry that can help explain the jargon.

What needs to happen: financial

Unless you’re lucky enough to have sign-off for the whole project, most executive committees or similar parties will require a summary of costs. It typically makes sense to structure the financials in relation to year one (higher due to launch costs), then years two onward (these won’t vary as much).

A quick breakdown of typical costs:

1. ICANN costs: USD 5,000 set-up for Trademark Clearinghouse, then USD 25,000 per year payable quarterly.

2. Registry costs: Set-up, then annual fees. Most contracts are fixed up to a specified number of domains, which should cover your needs. See your Registry Services Provider contract for details.

3. Compliance requirements: Once launched, ICANN compliance obligations and anti-abuse obligations must continue to be met. For .brands, this is often outsourced as it can be an unnecessary additional cost to hire or train suitable resources.

4. Industry participation: Engaging with the industry and with ICANN will be a valuable ongoing investment. The Domain Name Association (DNA) and Brand Registry Group (BRG) are worth investigating, and both have fees associated.

5. External assistance (industry expertise): The new TLD world is new to everybody. Don’t be afraid to seek help for critical steps such as strategy, creating an implementation plan, and launch execution. Creating an ROI for a .brand is complex and requires an understanding of many different elements.

6. Internal costs: Internal resources to support the project and any required branding or technical transition (may include existing external digital agency).

7. Promotional costs: Although promotion of your .brand TLD should benefit from some existing campaign funds, there will likely need to be some specific promotional funds assigned.

Bringing it all together

Applications for new TLDs closed early 2012, so there is a possibility that some in your organisation have lost track of the project over the last three years. In addition to the financial and legal hurdles, a significant challenge might be convincing your executive committee in such a short timeframe. Here are some angles that might help:

Joining an exclusive community: Remind everyone of the rarified company .brands keep, which includes Apple, Google, IBM, Amazon, Nike, GE, Toyota, American Express, UPS, and about 600 others. If your competitor doesn’t have their .brand TLD, it will likely be at least a few years before they can get one. When was the last time someone handed your organisation a competitive advantage like that – especially in the digital brand space?

Calculating brand value: The ROI on a .brand TLD needs to be demonstrable, and relies on people understanding and embracing the valuation of brands, and how they contribute to the bottom line. Look for ways to incorporate your .brand into launches of new products, territories or strategic initiatives.

Part of a wider strategy: Outline how the .brand TLD project fits into and supports the organisation’s goals for the coming years. Most organisations have at least one digital branding goal – work with those most closely tied to that goal and help them become evangelists.

Easy, right?

For .brand TLDs that have not yet signed the ICANN Registry Agreement, everything points to taking action right now.

Whether internal challenges are with legal, finance or executive buy-in, now is the time to ensure there is a plan in place to address them quickly. Look to superiors and other advocates for support.

If there is a chance that even one step in the path to getting your ICANN Registry Agreement signed is at risk, reach out now to a trusted industry advisor and ask for help. No brand wants to be the one that let their .brand TLD slip away.

The TLD Operator Webinar transitions to the DNA University

Published on July 20th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
20 July 2015

Readers of my posts will have noticed that we’ve been working over the last two months to launch the TLD Operator Webinar which was held recently. Its purpose was to unite all new TLD applicants and collectively share our experiences in order to build momentum in the industry and support each other in our pursuits.

With more than 300 registrations and 40 percent of all new TLDs attending, we were humbled and overjoyed with the success – validating our ‘educated guess’ that there was a global appetite for information to assist new TLD applicants.

Following the TLD Operator Webinar, we surveyed attendees and received responses from more than 200 participants who all expressed a desire for more opportunities to learn from other operators. When asked about their views on the state of the industry, most respondents indicated that it “needs some work” and “still has a long way to go”. By far the biggest challenge identified by respondents was the “lack of public awareness of new TLDs”.

Interestingly, the survey data showed broad interest for topics across all TLD categories, while respondents preferred a monthly or bi-monthly frequency for webinars.

Last week, the Domain Name Association (DNA) announced the launch of the DNA University to provide a platform for the industry to exchange ideas and learn best practices. So, based on the success of the TLD Operator Webinar, and our passion for the Domain Name Association, we have agreed to merge these two concepts and continue the approach under the banner of the DNA University.

On a more personal note, I am honoured that the DNA has selected me as the inaugural “Dean” of the DNA University where I can continue the work that I’m so passionate about.

In this role, it’s my ambition that the DNA University will be able to service the large (and growing) demand for education in the domain name industry as it is clear that this is one of the most crucial times in the history of the Internet.

As an industry, we have a responsibility to work together to ensure our shared success for years to come and I am passionate about making the DNA University a unique, collaborative forum that drives this.

The first DNA University Webinar, Premium Domain Name Planning, will be held on 28 July at 15:00 UTC and is open to all Registry operators, domain name Registrars and new gTLD applicants who can register here. It is free of charge.

This topic was chosen for the inaugural session because carefully-planned premium name selection and marketing efforts are crucial for success as a domain name registry. In this webinar, attendees will gain a 360 degree view of premium names – including the key experiences of seasoned TLD operators, strategies in developing premium name lists and customer and sales insights from some of the world’s most prominent Registrars.

Future webinars are planned to address a wide range of industry topics – with insights being provided by some of the most successful folks within the industry and beyond.

We need the support of the industry to make the DNA University and webinar series a success. I encourage you all to get behind us, participate and support this brilliant initiative.

One year in: lessons from .rocks

Published on July 13th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
14 July 2015

An excerpt of this interview first appeared in the Domain Name Association’s (DNA) ‘State of the Domains’ Report, Edition 3 – June 2015. Access the full report on the DNA’s website.

This is the third in a series of interviews I conducted with notable TLD applicants approaching one year of operations. In this article, I spoke with Statton Hammock of Rightside about how the .rocks TLD is finding its place in the market. You can also read my interviews with .luxury and .photography.

What have been some of the highlights of the process so far?

Statton Hammock, V.P. Business and Legal Affairs, Rightside: Without a doubt, the highlight has been seeing consumers embrace and use our TLDs in fun innovative ways, such as the Rolling Stones running a tour campaign on justakissaway.rocks. Seeing all of the exciting and creative ways people identify and brand themselves online with our TLDs has been thoroughly rewarding for everyone at Rightside.  We had anticipated that consumers would register and use our domain offerings and it’s wonderful to watch this happen, week after week.

What was one of the key challenges you faced and how did you overcome this?

Statton: A key challenge for Rightside was trying to build its new Registry business while being subject to constant ICANN delays and policy changes.  Hiring personnel, managing accounts, and making technical changes to a platform is difficult enough under regular circumstances, but with repeated delays in the new gTLD program being thrown at us, it made the work that much more challenging. When there’s uncertainty around when you can launch your business, it’s extremely difficult to make hiring decisions and execute on your company’s strategic plans.

Statton Hammock

Was there a moment when things ‘clicked’ for you?

Statton: I think everything ‘clicked’ when we saw Guy Kawasaki tweet about “not.com” when he announced his new book on artof.social. Or perhaps when young rockers, V-Squared, gave a live red carpet interview in which they referred the interviewer to their website on vsquared.rocks, saying “Not.com”. The V-Squared boys’ adoption of .rocks was an illustration of how the younger generation, one without a .combias, would choose a more meaningful TLD like a .rocks to showcase their musical talent.

What is one thing you wish you had known going into the process?

Statton: I think everyone in the domain name industry wishes they had known how long the gTLD process was going to take – from filing the application, to final launch. It’s been a long and challenging path but we are nearing the end of it and the real fun is beginning. There is no more exciting time for the domain name industry than right now, and Rightside is committed to making every one of its TLDs a success.

What will be the main challenges and areas of focus for the next year of your TLD?

Statton: The main focus of Rightside for the remainder of this year will be to resolve our remaining contention sets and complete our portfolio of domain names (we are currently at 39).  But another challenge will be raising consumer awareness about new gTLDs and developing creative marketing efforts so that people will learn that they can now get a more memorable and descriptive domain name. The domain name industry as a whole also needs to do a better job at driving awareness and education.

One year in: lessons from .photography

Published on July 8th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
8 July 2015

An excerpt of this interview first appeared in the Domain Name Association’s (DNA) ‘State of the Domains’ Report, Edition 3 – June 2015. Access the full report on the DNA’s website.

In the second of our series of TLD applicant interviews, I spoke to Richard Tindal from Donuts about the .photography TLD and how to build a strategy for a single namespace among a portfolio of over 180 others. You can also read my previous interview with .luxury.

How is .photography tracking at this stage of the TLD’s lifespan?

Richard Tindal, Co-Founder and COO, Donuts Inc.: .photography has been on the market 15 months and we’re very happy.  It has 50,000 names under management, an average retail price of US$20, and a healthy, 72% renewal rate (on the first three months of renewals). As the TLD matures and grows we expect that rate to reach 80%.  Currently, 55% of our registrants are from outside the United States.

We certainly had some unanswered questions when we launched .photography. In a portfolio of 180 Donuts TLDs, it was an interesting test-case of two principles: firstly, can TLDs specific to an industry or activity (eg. .photography, .clothing, .pizza) do well, or will users prefer more generic TLDs that still offer choice (eg. .today, .tips, .solutions)? And secondly, are 11 characters too many for a TLD?

Richard Tindal

What has been your impression of the registrations and use of .photography?

Richard: The marketplace roll-out of .photography has been largely as we expected. Because it can be harder to get a business with an existing web presence to change its URL, our focus is more on businesses that are creating a new Internet presence for their company, product or campaign. One of the reasons .photography is doing well is that a lot of new entities join the photography industry each year, as well as the fact that it is a digital industry.

The use of these names – meaning that they contain good website content – has already reached half the levels seen in legacy TLDs such as .com, which is great news given .photography has been out such a short time. We measure website content on the domains every month, and every month proportionally more of them have good content, so it’s headed in the right direction. We should catch the legacy TLDs within 24 months.

What is your outlook for the coming year?

Richard: The challenge for .photography and all new TLDs now is to increase Internet user awareness about the product set. Awareness is currently low but we have reasons to be upbeat about changing that. Surveys show that people respond to TLD advertising quickly and positively, younger people are getting the message the quickest and new vendors and new technologies have made it easy and affordable to put up good content. Nothing reinforces our marketing message more powerfully than .photography registrants who use and advertise their sites. We think .photography will continue to be a success, as will 95% of all new TLDs.