.cancerresearch – Can a new TLD beat a global disease?

Published on February 4th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

I wish cancer research didn’t exist.

Imagine a world without cancer, where a cure existed to eradicate this disease.

Today, the best way for us to achieve this is through cancer research, and extremely bold goals like this require game-changing innovation.

Fittingly, the .cancerresearch Top Level Domain will launch on World Cancer Day (February 4) and use this fantastic new digital platform to show that cancer, its treatments and its cures, are not beyond us. You can see the promotional campaign at theone.cancerresearch – and express your support.

The .cancerresearch Top Level Domain is unique and something I’m extremely proud to be involved with. Like many people around the world, cancer has had devastating impact on my family and I’m extremely passionate about the potential that .cancerresearch represents.

It is the first Top Level Domain in the world to be launched with a network of websites that provide reliable and trusted information to the global community. And, as the name suggests, its sole purpose is to find a cure for cancer through research.

From today, the internet-using public can type domains such as home.cancerresearch and news.cancerresearch into the URL bar to find information that helps people affected by cancer, and also provides information on world-class cancer research that is aiming to beat this disease.

In addition, the launch will include a series of sites such as lung.cancerresearch or breast.cancerresearch which will provide detailed information related to these specific diseases.

The information is free and available to everyone across the world – and its intention is to build awareness and education around cancer itself and the amazing progress that has been made in relation to its cure, and to provide hope for those who are ever affected by this horrible disease.

How did we get here?

ARI Registry Services has been working alongside the applicant (the Australian Cancer Research Foundation), since the idea was first conceived in 2011. In addition to writing the application during the ICANN application period and being the backend technical partner, we’ve been intimately involved in the development of the strategy and a range of implementation and policy elements. Personally, I’m extremely proud of this project, and it’s a wonderful achievement for our organisation, the TLD industry as a whole, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and a significant opportunity for the Not-for-Profit sector.

In designing the strategy, ARI and ACRF wanted to achieve a method by which we could promote the amazing work being done by the researchers that dedicate their lives to finding cures for cancer. Additionally, we wanted to find a way to provide reliable information – and importantly, hope – to the global community.

During the strategy development, it was apparent that demand existed for this type of information through sources such as Wikipedia, but we wanted to link the TLD strategy to a higher purpose; something that could genuinely disrupt the status quo, something that is necessary to beat a disease that has impacted the lives of so many.

With over a billion websites in existence today, there is already so much content available online, and as a result, internet users are really looking for beacons of relevant, targeted information from sources they can trust.

The .cancerresearch Top Level Domain provided the platform to design a solution that utilises a unique series of websites which will increase awareness and visibility of cancer research. These sites will facilitate communication and spread the message that, through the support of the cancer research community, we can all work together to help beat cancer.

At ARI Registry Services, we really believe the internet-using public will embrace the simplicity of visiting the series of .cancerresearch sites, such as home.cancerresearch, news.cancerresearch, and even donate.cancerresearch, for those who would like to contribute towards the fight.

After all, simplicity and relevant navigation is really what new TLDs are all about.

Industry Perspective

The industry has made significant inroads since the first delegation in late 2013. Yet despite having delegated almost 500 TLDs, and over 4 million domains registered to date, there is still a long way to go before we can confidently say we have achieved end-user awareness and buy-in.

What the industry is really waiting for is a great marketing campaign by one of the more prominent .brand applicants and frankly, I think that one of the bigger players such as Google have a responsibility to help the program by taking the lead on this.

The reality is that most others are taking a wait-and-see approach – but I strongly believe that in addition to our ultimate vision of curing cancer, .cancerresearch can truly help other TLD applicants by providing a real-world example of how a TLD can be implemented, launched, and used. Ultimately we want this to help all new TLD applicants, in particular those that have applied for a .brand and are struggling with the internal appetite for launching their TLD.

I wish cancer research didn’t exist. I wish we didn’t need it. But we do.

And through engagement with the .cancerresearch experience, we can all help to make big inroads into changing people’s lives.

To get involved, please visit theone.cancerresearch and see the wonderful marketing campaign that has been developed by M&C Saatchi in collaboration with ACRF and ARI Registry Services, or feel free to contact me directly at tony.kirsch@ariservices.com if you’d like to know more about the process of developing the TLD strategy and launch plans.

Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

.brands – Nobody said it was easy

Published on January 13th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

I’ve got enormous respect and admiration for the passionate individuals who are still championing .brands for their organisations in the new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program.

I have the pleasure of assisting quite a few of these on a daily basis and I’m sure their experiences aren’t isolated with other applicants across the globe.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Delays, some stupid process called Digital Archery, GAC Advice, names collisions and negative media – just to name a few of the confidence-sapping issues destabilising the program for applicants. This is without mentioning the difficulties of confidently influencing such an enormous change with their key stakeholders.

Sure, they knew there would be challenges at the forefront of digital innovation in online brand strategy. However, in the words of Coldplay’s Chris Martin in The Scientist: “Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard.” (If you’re at NamesCon this week and can provide a guitar and a little liquid courage, I’d be happy to do a very ordinary rendition for you!!).

I’m sure the recent reports about the high costs of switching to a .brand had some applicants thinking their new TLD plans are a car crash waiting to happen.

That said, there are still rewards at the end of the new TLD tunnel for those applicants that have the intestinal fortitude to persist with the rigmarole. It’s not all gloom and doom and with the right strategy you can be singing Queen’s We Are The Champions with your shiny new TLD in your hands. (No, there isn’t enough liquid courage in the world to have me attempting a Freddie Mercury ballad).

Why make the switch

It’s naïve and short-sighted to think switching to a .brand will be anything but expensive and complicated. Attaining any form of real differentiation is difficult and takes immense effort. But what’s your key advantage? Isn’t it simply because YOU CAN (and others can’t)?

You’ve all heard the benefits of a new TLD, from improvements to SEO, message recall, domain name asset management and trademark protection. But how does a new TLD set you apart from the competition?

We know that organisations across the globe spend their entire lives competing on pure product and service improvements to get ahead. Yet despite how far we’ve come in a globalised digital world, it’s hard to differentiate yourself in today’s highly competitive market – and when you do get a half a percentage point gain, it’s only days later when your competitors catch up and copy your innovation, eroding any advantage you may have attained.

Products and services are prone to replication. Differentiation at the brand level is where the most significant gains can be made.

And this is where a new TLD provides an unmatched competitive advantage for the savvy brand.

New TLDs and brand differentiation

The ability to do something that the majority of your competitors can’t do is the holy grail of business success.

If you look at the long-term impact of a new TLD for a brand, it’s one of the ultimate differentiators of all time.

We know that first round applicants are likely to have a huge leg up on their competitors for anywhere from two to five years, which is a competitive advantage luxury you will never get anywhere else.

The only problem is; how do you get there?

Examples

While there are no previous .brand examples to demonstrate as case studies, we can look at brands which have performed more traditional digital asset rebrands as examples.

Take www.carloans.com.au for example. In June 2013 the company rebranded (moving away from beep.com.au) and the business saw an immediate increase in website traffic and customers, a decrease in marketing spend, 40% reduction in AdWord spend, and overall growth of 60% to generate turnover in excess of $100 million.

The company’s Director Shaun McGowan said of the rebrand: “Our business is not unique and we have many competitors. In this marketplace, you need a competitive advantage.”

Clearly they found their competitive advantage and achieved it through a successfully deployed transition strategy.

The strategy to switch

You need to have a long-term and a short-term return on investment strategy for your .brand asset.

Obviously, the end goal for your long-term strategy is where you completely deploy your TLD across the organisation and achieve full brand differentiation.

But what can you do now that achieves success whilst building towards your end goal?

My advice is that you launch your .brand around a project that has its own ROI and in doing so, also try to launch it so that it’s working in alignment with either a new product or project. Importantly, in the short-term it must be launched to be complementary to the existing core brand.

Too many people have the misguided mindset that a successful .brand strategy involves turning your .brand on and your brand.com off. It’s simply not the case because it would be too expensive, with a high degree of risk and cause terrible confusion for customers and stakeholders.

Success is about how you launch a .brand in parallel with your existing digital brand that will be complementary to your current operations, but with the ability to achieve long-term goals without the need for drastic corrections.

The question is; what do you do between now and then? Do you sit on the fence and do nothing, or do you take a strong leadership position to become one of the organisations that embraces new TLDs and reaps the rewards of changing the face of digital?

The decisions you make today will ultimately dictate how you get to your long-term goal.

Strategy to success

Mark my words. It might be tricky, but someone is going to get this right. In fact, I know they will because they’re working on it as you read this.

The brands that get it right will be positioned as the leaders in their space because it is one of the few differentiators you can ever achieve that is not easily replicable.

It’s worth remembering that (almost) all applicants applied for a new TLD because they recognised the opportunity presented, even if they didn’t have a strategy for actually achieving it.

Much like the film clip to The Scientist, the new TLD process starts off happy and ends happy. It’s just a bitch in between.

Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

P.S: You could be forgiven for thinking the words to Coldplay’s The Scientist were actually written as an anthem for all new TLD applicants. Give it a listen for a laugh and tweet me your thoughts: @TonyKirsch_ARI.

What’s the ROI on a $20m TLD auction?

Published on October 20th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

Ryan Baker, ARI Registry Services’ Industry Consultant, offers insights into valuing a TLD and crafting a winning auction strategy to help applicants in contention sets secure their highly prized TLDs.

ICANN have taken a solid stance in regards to contention sets, with those yet to be resolved soon to be forced into auctions of last resort in the coming months. As expected, this has increased the velocity of private settlements between applicants, either via deals or private auctions.

It seems like most applicants (wisely) don’t want to see their funds going into ICANN coffers unnecessarily.

While the prices paid for TLDs at private auction are a closely guarded secret, talk abounds in industry circles of prices approaching US$20 million for some contention sets.

Are these prices an outstanding investment or sheer lunacy?

The answer lies in being able to implement a strategy that generates solid revenues, whilst understanding the true costs of running a TLD.

Take for example the .sex TLD which was recently reported as having sold for USD 3 million. Intuitively this could appear to be a bargain for perpetual ownership of such a strong keyword TLD, considering the size of the industry, and the fact that directly comparable but much less flexible assets sex.com and sex.xxx sold for $13 million and $3 million respectively.

Or was the price tempered given potential concerns of ‘unexpected’ delays or political concerns such as those that impacted the .xxx TLD or queries over the competitive impacts of .xxx, .adult, .porn etc.?

While domain industry hyperbole over auction prices may be no more than scuttlebutt, there can be no denying that there have been some exceptionally high auction prices through the transparent ICANN auction of last resort process, such as .vip ($3M), .buy ($4.5M) and .tech ($6.7M).

What price is too high to pay?

At some point, without an amazingly viral marketing campaign and a magically cheap operating plan, the operations of your TLD can send you broke within a short matter of time.

Having being tasked by some applicants to assist in this very issue, I’d like to share the first two questions I am generally asked when sitting down with customers to define a TLD auction strategy:

1. How do you appropriately value the asset to gain enough capital to win at auction?; and
2. At what price does this TLD become unsustainable in terms of ROI?

The answer to both of these questions can only be divined after comprehensive analysis of both sides of the ledger; the potential revenues AND the real-world costs. Each has their own significant considerations.

Revenue

Calculating forecasted registrations from Sunrise and ten years of operating is relatively simple.

However, smart applicants are thinking beyond just x% of the total target market * wholesale price and realizing that the real benefit of operating a TLD is in finding the hidden value of these complex assets.

The value in the key partnerships, spinoff properties, premium domain name sales and associated businesses (just to name a few) which will make far more revenue than just domain name sales.

Costs

The second part of any good analysis is costs.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and in the case of a TLD, you’ve got the obvious costs such as your registry, marketing and registrar management, and the not so obvious including managing ICANN compliance and dealing with an increasingly volatile regulatory environment.

Each of these has the potential to send your business spiraling backwards if not managed correctly.

Understanding and predicting all of these cost centres is one of the most important elements of working out your TLD’s potential ROI. To effectively complete this task, you really need the insight of folks that have been managing TLDs for many years.

Next steps?

Firstly, you’re not alone here. If all of this applies to you, you can rest assured that it’s impacting your competitors too.

However, it is time for you to get serious. If your auction strategy can achieve more ROI than your competitors, then you’ll enter the auction with a strategic advantage that could prove the difference in your one shot at securing your TLD

A good auction strategy relies on two fundamental principles:.

1. Knowing what value the TLD represents to you
2. Knowing what value the TLD represents to your competitors

If you aren’t absolutely certain you know the answer to the two elements above, you might be blowing your one and only chance.

Having a clear vision, a strong auction strategy and some help from those with experience in the process will ultimately decide whether you walk away on auction day with big frown or a profitable TLD.

By Ryan Baker
Industry Consultant
ARI Registry Services

Grand Final marketing dominated by .com.au domain names

Published on October 8th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

This year’s AFL and NRL Grand Finals set viewership records for the number of people who tuned in to watch the matches.

A whopping 4.6 million people watched the Rabbitohs beat the Bulldogs on Sunday night, making it the highest rating television program this year. Meanwhile, the AFL Grand Final saw 4.2 million people tune in, which is no mean feat either.

Clearly, our footy finals represent the premier stage for high-reach, large-impact television advertising in Australia.

As I do every year, I wanted to see how advertisers in Australia use the AFL and NRL Grand Finals to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found:

The stats

Like in previous years, .com.au domain names were the primary call to action seen in the ads for both Grand Finals. Out of the 55 ads aired during the games, 41% included a .com.au domain name while only 12% referred to a .com domain name.

Domain names were clearly the best on ground in terms of advertising call to actions. While social media holds a prominent place in advertising nowadays, it was left on the bench during the Grand Finals, with less than 10% of ads referencing either Twitter or Facebook.

This is remarkably consistent with what we saw in 2013 and 2012.

Telephone numbers, mobile apps and search were the remaining calls to actions seen, while a quarter of ads chose to run with no call to action.

Implications

As I’ve reported over a number of years now, domain names – and in particular .com.au domain names – remain the mainstay of marketing calls to action.

The most interesting observation is the decline in use of social media in advertising. Despite all the hype around social, it appears marketers have reverted back to the tried and tested formula of domain names. Social has its place, it’s just not in Grand Final TV advertising.

To me, this suggests that marketers still believe that the website remains a foundation of any direct response lead marketing strategy, especially when a 15- or 30-second ad slot costs upwards of $100,000.

Social as a call to action

It seems the novelty of social has abated and Australian marketers are now integrating social as part of a wider digital strategy, instead of splashing it around in every advertising campaign.

On almost all occasions, social was introduced in conjunction with the domain name and not instead of it. This shows that marketers now have a greater appreciation of the role domain names and websites play in generating awareness and education, and the role social media plays in encouraging engagement and conversations.

Social has a place; it just isn’t the only place for a brand to exist.

Search as a call to action

One trend I have been following closely this year is the emergence of search-based calls to action. I was pleased to see that there was a stark drop in search calls to action in the advertisements at this year’s Grand Finals.

Brands such as Holden, ANZ, BMW, Harvey Norman and many others are increasingly ditching domain names in favour of directing viewers to use a search engine like Google to find their website.

I’ve been a vocal critic of search-based calls to action (as you can read here in my blog) because I think they’re ineffective, unnecessary and provide competitors an opportunity to steal your customers.

For instance, in the NRL Grand Final, Holden directed viewers to search for ‘VF Changes Minds”. This is difficult for viewers to remember during an ad break and if they do get a chance to search for the term (as I did), they’ll also be exposed to a competitive environment and view search results from news stories, Holden dealers and automotive forums.

There’s no guarantee that searching for “VF Changes Minds” will result in someone visiting the Holden website and I think the practice is a wasted opportunity for customer engagement.

2015 Grand Finals

It is clear that domain names will continue their dominance and I don’t expect any changes here come 2015.

.com.au is Australia’s home on the Internet and it will remain the authoritative source of truth for Australian businesses online. When given the chance to engage with more than 4 million Australian TV viewers, a .com.au domain name is the perfect call to action.

What will change by 2015 is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .melbourne, .sydney and .afl are being launched, offering marketers an additional option in their ‘.menu’ of calls to action.

Only last week we launched the .melbourne Top-Level Domain and savvy brands such as the Bank of Melbourne, Melbourne Festival, Flower Drum Restaurant and The Marriner Group have become some of the first businesses to adopt a .melbourne web address. Check out www.live.melbourne for more information.

Come Grand Final time 2015, we expect many more major brands to be sporting a .melbourne, .sydney or any other type of new domain name alongside their .com.au web address.

There are many benefits for adopting one of these new domains, from potential improvements to SEO and message recall, to being able to get the exact match name you always wanted.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact of new Top-Level Domains next year and I hope to see a .melbourne or .sydney domain featured next in year’s Grand Finals.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Insights from ARI’s new TLD workshop

Published on September 2nd, 2014

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

Never let it be said that group therapy isn’t effective.

Prior to hosting a new Top-Level Domain (TLD) workshop for a group of Australian applicants last week, the only therapy I would have advised for new TLD applicants was electroshock therapy – given the confidence-sapping delays and the catastrophic impact of constant changes to the program such as Digital Archery, Name Collisions and GAC Advice.

Fortunately, most applicants have been able to prevail in spite of the issues – to their immense credit – and that’s probably why I’m a new TLD strategy consultant and not a psychiatrist!

Last Wednesday, approximately 25 attendees came to Melbourne for a community-building session to give them the opportunity to share success stories, challenges, discuss launch strategies and learn about the latest developments within the new TLD program.

While the content of the various presentations was helpful, the key take away for many applicants was one simple fact; you’re not alone! There is no comparison to hearing a fellow applicant discuss their challenges and what worked for them.

All attendees left with the feeling that it’s not all doom and gloom, and it was also flattering to hear the generous feedback our clients provided about relying on a trusted partner like ARI Registry Services for both their technology and advisory needs.

ARI's new TLD workshop

Presentations

We were treated to thought-provoking presentations from applicants who generously offered a rare glimpse into the strategies they employed (or will employ) to launch their TLDs.

For instance, Glenn Ruscoe, the applicant for .physio, spoke of his passion for the profession and how through the use of a robust TLD strategy and focused efforts for his target audiences he hopes to create a digital asset that will underpin the entire physiotherapy community around the world.

We also heard from Monash University’s Andrew Norman about the marketing and PR success they received around the launch of the world’s first .brand – .monash – and their new www.destination.monash promotional website.

Finally, Bob Turner from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation spoke with passion as he described their innovative approach to positioning .cancerresearch as a global education tool capable of raising research funds for the fight against cancer.

Personally, it’s an absolute privilege for me to contribute to the development of these TLDs via our strategic consulting program and I feel honoured every day to work with these inspirational digital thought-leaders.

Also on the day, ARI Registry Services’ subject matter experts provided helpful advice to attendees on the topics of ICANN compliance, TLD strategy, the contracting process and navigating the ICANN ecosystem.

Interestingly, the topic applicants seemed most interested in was when they heard ARI Registry Services’ compliance expert Yasmin Omer speak about ICANN compliance and the audit process. Yasmin went into detail about how dotShabaka Registry recently responded to the audit regime and what applicants needed to do to prepare for this.

The event was an unquestionable success, driven by a willingness of all attendees to share their thoughts and experiences to generate insightful discussions. We will certainly be doing more of these events, both domestically and internationally via webinars and online forums in the coming months.

The key message, in the words of Michael Jackson – you are not alone.

By Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

Is racing.com a half-million dollar mistake for Racing Victoria?

Published on August 15th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

What’s a domain name? What business function do they serve? Can a domain name generate ROI?

I imagine these were the questions the Board of Racing Victoria asked before signing off on the purchase of racing.com to support a Victorian racing industry joint initiative to establish a digital media and content platform similar to that of the AFL.

My industry sources suggest the domain name cost them at least half a million dollars, if not higher. Allow me, from a marketing perspective, to explain why the purchase of racing.com is tantamount to flogging a dead horse.

Vision and execution

A domain name is the digital asset that underpins your entire web presence and acts as a universal signpost to help guide an audience to your website.

In many ways, they’re the mainstay execution tool of nearly every marketing strategy you create.

Marketers constantly push the innovation envelope in search of more visionary methods to engage stakeholders. However, a vision without effective execution is merely an hallucination.

For me, effective execution is creating a signpost that let’s your audience know exactly what your proposition is even before they land on your website.

And with the rise of search-based call to actions and QR codes in marketing, I’m inclined to think some marketers are completely missing this point.

In the case of racing.com, the vision to establish an industry leading content platform is worthy of praise. It’s let down though by an ineffective signpost.

What is racing.com?

The problem with underpinning a $15 million digital media business under racing.com is that it fails the signpost test.

Let’s think about it for a second. What is racing? Is the word synonymous with horse racing? Not really. What about car racing, boat racing or bike racing? Perhaps you’re talking about pigeon racing!

When I Googled the word racing, the first result was a news item about American NASCAR racing.

Also, what inference does the .com add? Where is .com located? What does it stand for? Does it tell your target audience that your business is focused on Victoria? Certainly not.

The domain name racing.com is not a very useful signpost to direct people to a website about horse racing in Victoria, Australia. It’s too generic, won’t be assisted by search and is a poor execution of a good vision.

Recall

Now let’s try the radio recall test.

Imagine you heard an ad on the radio for Victoria’s new digital horse racing news platform and there was a call to action at the end of the ad for racing.com. What do you think most people would remember about the ad and how would they act upon it?

I think the theme of horse racing in Victoria would be the strongest key message. Whilst you might remember a mention of a .com web address, my intuitive reaction would be to visit horseracing.com or Racing Victoria’s corporate website.

Interestingly, our research shows Australians have been conditioned to visit websites ending in .au when looking for locally-based content. This is because .au is Australia’s home online.

My experience tells me that an ad for racing.com in Australia will leak a lot of traffic to racing.com.au, which is unfortunately owned by betting company Tabcorp. That’s a nice win for Tabcorp!

The problem is that racing.com does not have an intrinsic connection with Victorian horse racing that would lend itself to intuitive navigation and recall.

.com .gone

The most unfortunate aspect about the decision to pay a high-end, six-figure sum for racing.com is the fact domain names are now radically transforming.

Hundreds of new domain name suffixes such as .menu, .monash and .sydney are being added to the Internet alongside the familiar .com, offering individuals and businesses like Racing Victoria greater domain name availability, choice and innovation.

Unlike the meaningless and unintuitive .com, these new domain names allow for a clear and descriptive signpost that lets your audience know exactly what your business is about even before they land on your website. They provide an affinity to a geographic location or market vertical that .com is unable to do.

Take for instance .racing which is set to launch soon. It would offer a more creative and relevant domain name such as horses.racing, victorian.racing or vichorses.racing.

Another option would be .melbourne. Country-level geographic locators such as .au, .nz and .uk have helped organise the Internet and now we have the option to take this to the city-level. I’m not saying racing.melbourne or horses.melbourne is appropriate, but it would be somewhat more specific.

There is also a .horse Top-Level Domain and almost 1,400 other options that will become available over the next year.

The fact is, the launch and use of these new domain names will soon make the purchase of half-million dollar .com domain names look silly.

It’s all about connecting your vision with an intuitive, memorable and efficient signpost.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

The World Cup of new Top-Level Domains

Published on June 13th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Tony Kirsch

In celebration of O Jogo Bonito (the beautiful game), we thought it was timely to do a World Cup themed wrap-up this week and showcase the new Top-Level Domains (TLD) of the football world.

Let’s start with which countries are winning in the World Cup of new TLDs.

While Brazil might be favourites for the FIFA World Cup, the United States smashed the field with the most number of new TLD applications (883 or 46% all applications).

Now that new TLDs have launched, where are the most registrations coming from? Again, the United States leads the way with 275,602 domain names (or 25.8% of the 1.1 million combined names). This is followed by Germany (12.5%), the United Kingdom (6.8%), Cayman Islands (4.6%) and Canada (3.8%).

What about .football? While .soccer (four applicants) and .football (two applicants) are stuck in contention sets, we did see .futbol (Spanish for Football) enter its first day of general availability yesterday with 1,628 registrations.

We can’t forget to mention World Cup cities too. Brazil’s famous Rio de Janeiro had their .rio city TLD delegated on 22 May. Rio will host the final World Cup match on 13 July and let’s hope we see some .rio domain names live in time for this match.

The 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia and we’ll no doubt see the world’s major brands using their new TLDs by then. Eight new TLDs were applied for from Russia, with two for their capital city, .moscow and their IDN .москва.

I can’t wait until I’ll be able to navigate the Internet intuitively by browsing to websites such as WorldCup.moscow, or Football.nike and Campaign.sony. I predict that in four years time we’ll look back at this moment as the dawn of the modern Internet and vaguely remember a web without new TLDs.

By Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

Still think .brands might be a waste of time? Google doesn’t!

Published on May 7th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.

The new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program was designed from the outset to enhance competition and foster innovation.

It was a great result for the wider industry to see approximately one-third of the applications received by ICANN submitted by some of the world’s largest companies seeking to own and operate their own .brand TLD.

Even with organisations such as Apple, Citibank and IBM applying for their respective TLDs, scepticism remained on the potential for .brands to succeed.

Where would the utility come from? How would customers embrace such a change? How would large organisations be able to incorporate this into their marketing mix?

Finally perhaps most ominous, what will it mean for search and will there be any advantages for .brand applicants?

While it’s still very early in the process, a few trailblazing true innovators have given us some preliminary answers and the news is extremely positive.

Evidence of real success

French insurance giant AXA recently launched their .axa TLD to the world and offer the best evidence to date that .brand TLDs have a definite future in the digital marketing landscape.

Less than two weeks after registering annualreport.axa and rapportannuel.axa in their .brand TLD, AXA now appear on the first page of Google search results. When searching for “axa annual report”, the .axa domain is the third result in English and “axa annuel rapport” appears in the fourth position for French searches.

Beyond just Google, Bing shows the result at number two and Yahoo at number eight.

This is a truly impressive result given the number of applicable web properties for this topic and the short amount of time the domain has existed. Yes, this has a lot to do with the relevance of the content – as it has been and will continue to be.

However, the domain is clearly reinforcing some level of credibility here and despite being new, hasn’t negatively impacted the rankings of the page.

The AXA annual report example also illustrates other key benefits of .brand TLD ownership. Using differing language versions of the same domain, they have been able to provide customised content for differing user bases.

With these included, the list of tangible benefits .brand TLD operators can realise immediately from their new asset are compelling:

1. Control

Being completely in control of domain name allocation within their TLD. No more competition for domain names in the open market, as well as the ability to define intuitive parameters for users to find content (eg. annualreport.axa for English, rapportannuel.axa for French).

2. SEO

Globally applicable search benefits. While the sample size is admittedly small, the reality that Google, Bing and Yahoo are actively embracing .brand TLDs for their authenticity and showing strong search results has the potential to be a huge boon to brands and end users.

3. Messaging

Guaranteed authenticity for messaging from the channel. Customers can rest easy knowing with 100% certainty that the content on annualreport.axa is sanctioned by AXA, since no one outside the corporation can register an .axa domain name. Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible for bad actors to register domains in competing TLDs with the aim of confusing end users, and a .brand is a new and extremely strong tool to combat this confusion.

AXAdomain

AXA’s .brand strategy actively combats bad actors.

While we’ve already seen three new .brand applicants sign registry agreements (.sharp and Google’s .gmail and .youtube) this month, the last several months have seen 256 total TLDs delegated, with only a handful (five total, or less that 2%) being .brands.

This is in addition to the world’s first .brand TLD, .monash for the Australian University and the recently signed .bmw and .samsung TLDs which are soon to join the digital landscape.

All in all, it’s really positive news for those innovators that took the plunge by applying in 2012.

So why wait?

There is no denying that ICANN has made the path through contracting and delegation complicated with various hoops to jump through.

The good news for .brand applicants is that there is help available should they require it. The upside is that the carrot is very real and very attainable.

Delegating and realising the benefits of a .brand TLD as soon as possible should be the goal of every brand marketer worth their salt, as .brand applicants push to delegate their TLDs and non-applicants clamour to apply to ICANN in the second round.

By Ryan Baker
Domain Name Industry Consultant
ARI Registry Services

Registration numbers not the only success measure for new TLDs

Published on March 19th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.

Since the delegation of شبكة. back in October, we’ve seen all sorts of TLDs launched – from brands like .monash to generics like .build.

There has been intense scrutiny within our industry on the zone file registration numbers of these delegated TLDs to measure whether or not they are successful.

To be fair, this is not a surprise. We’ve been conditioned by past generic TLD launches to focus on registration numbers. Whether it was .mobi, .travel, .info or.co, all previous TLDs have been measured on registration volume – and more worryingly against the benchmark of .com.

Despite being the new TLD program, many in our industry are still persisting with their old TLD ways of thinking.

How will these same people measure the success of .brands and .geos? Remember, it’s a whole new ball game which requires a different way of thinking because the goal posts have moved.

Early numbers mean nothing

The fact that .guru has 40,000 domain name registrations and .graphics only has 4000 means nothing. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Outlandish claims like those seen by .CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell that .club will overtake .guru in week one are symptomatic of our industry’s naive focus on raw numbers over qualitative results.

Even my own marketing team is guilty of getting caught up in the hype of zone file number reporting. I had to remind them via Twitter recently that there are many ways of determining a top performing new TLD.

The fact of the matter is, raw numbers mean nothing and a focus on use, engagement, purpose and sustainable revenues are far better measures of success.

What is success?

New TLD operators should be judged on their whole-of-business operational performance to take account of stakeholder engagement, customer satisfaction, strategy planning and financial modeling.

Don’t get me wrong, domain name registration numbers matter. It’s just that you can’t determine the success or failure of a new TLD by comparing it to other TLDs. You can only judge a TLD against its intended purpose and strategy.

Think about .brand TLDs for a second. Registration numbers mean nothing and their entire model is based on how their TLD is integrated into the organisation’s digital strategy. Geographics and IDNs also have a very different proposition than traditional generics.

In attempting to measure success, I’d suggest onlookers focus on:

1. Use: Is the namespace being used in a meaningful way and is there evidence of usage and development with the domain names? Are registrants building businesses and content within the namespace?
2. Sustainable revenues: Who is registering domain names and what is the prospect for renewals? Will the TLD retain registrations or do registrants see it as a fad?
3. Trust: Will end users come to trust the namespace and the content hosted within it? Are these registrants helping to establish trust in the namespace?
4. Purpose: What’s the mission and purpose of the namespace (question 18) and are the registration numbers and content living up to these aspirations?
5. Audience: Is the registry operator targeting a clearly defined audience? Is that audience responsive to the product being offered?

Ask yourself, in the first month of general availability for a generic TLD, would you rather have 10,000 parked domain names registered by domainers with little likelihood of long-term renewal, or would you opt for 100 domain name registrations by major global brands in your target audience who use your namespace to host their entire website?

A strategy reliant on defensive registrations and parked domains is doomed to fail – and is completely ignorant of the new market dynamics within the industry.

In any case, it’s still far too early to accurately measure the long-term viability of any new TLD. But a focus away from registration numbers and an emphasis on use and purpose would be more appropriate.

TLDs like شبكة. haven’t even started their marketing and awareness campaigns yet and the impact of name collisions is holding back many operators from fully implementing their strategic plan to deliver their mission and purpose.

Remember, the game has changed and so have the goal posts.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

Super Bowl 2014 advertisers target hashtags for customer engagement

Published on February 5th, 2014

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says Super Bowl 2014 was the year of the hashtag as marketers directed their consumers to Twitter to continue the brand conversation online.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 4 February 2014, direct from New York

This week, I had the fortune of crossing off a major item on my bucket list – attending Super Bowl. In spite of my team’s absence from the game, it was still a huge – albeit early – highlight of 2014 for me.

Super Bowl is the ultimate merging of my passion for sports and marketing. It brings together people from all walks, catering to the millions of people who tune in to be entranced by the game or the ads, or like me, both.

For three hours on Sunday night, marketers globally tuned into the excitement that emanated out of New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium for NFL Super Bowl XLVIII 2014.

Neither the brilliance of the Seattle Seahawks nor the creative genius of the marketers let me down.

Let’s not underestimate the significance of the occasion.

With more than 100 million viewers tuning in, this year’s Super Bowl was one of the highest rating programs in the US, making the advertising slots some of the most valuable in the world. Advertisers coughed up $4 million on average for each 30-second slot, translating to $133,000 per second!

As I do every year, I investigated how advertisers used this prime marketing opportunity to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found.

#Dominate

Just like the Seattle Seahawks, hashtags and Twitter handles absolutely dominated the calls to action seen in the 85 ads aired from the 44 different advertisers.

More than half of all ads (64%) included a Twitter hashtag or handle as their call to action, compared to only 41% which referred to a domain name to direct viewers to a website.

These results are markedly different from what we saw in previous years.

Yearly change

Looking back over the past few years, we can clearly see an upward trend in marketers directing viewers to Twitter to encourage brand engagement and interaction.

In last year’s Super Bowl, domain names were the preferred call to action, with 40% of ads containing a traditional web address. We only saw 34% of ads featuring a Twitter handle or hashtag.

This gap was even larger in 2012, with 49% of ads containing a domain name and only 9% a Twitter handle or hashtag.

Facebook Dis-Like

Perhaps the most significant observation was that Facebook was seemingly left on the bench for Super Bowl 2014, with only 9% of ads directing viewers to a Facebook page.

Google+ didn’t even make it out of the locker room, with not a single mention. Shazam was the surprise dark horse of the pack, picking up two ads, while YouTube was seen in a total of three ads.

What does this mean?

Clearly, generating a social conversation about your brand or product online via the use of a hashtag dominated the strategic thinking of marketers in this year’s Super Bowl.

I suspect this is a reflection of the fact that a Super Bowl ad offers marketers a chance to extend the reach of a compelling thirty-second TV spot well beyond the night it airs. Hashtags keep the conversation going beyond the little blue bird, used to generate trending topics across Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and of course Twitter.

However, I still firmly believe that the mainstay of any direct response marketing strategy should always be a domain name and website. We still saw 41% of ads containing a domain name and that’s because these marketers recognised that a call to action which directs consumers to your website is a proven method to generated return on investment.

While encouraging a conversation on a hashtag has its place, I believe the most successful ads were the ones where marketers also used a domain name call to action to complement their social media efforts.

Super Bowl 2015

It’s my prediction that the upward trend with hashtags will carry on and next year marketers will continue to use the combination of domain names and hashtags for their calls to action.

However, what will change will be the domain names themselves!

Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .menu, .build and .luxury are being launched offering marketers an additional option in their arsenal of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

Major brands such as Hyundai, Microsoft, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford are leading the way with these new domains and have applied for their own .brand suffixes. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Super Bowl, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as product.microsoft or promotion.ford on our TV screens.

These new domains will give marketers a new level of creativity with their calls to action. They’ll enable advertisers to deliver a highly personal experience and allow viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to become mainstream over the next few months. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I’m anticipating some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for Super Bowl 2015.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services