Domainer Shrinkage: Is your universe collapsing?

A few months ago I implored Rick Schwartz to consider making TRAFFIC an invitation-only event, once again.

That conversation generated quite a bit of feedback and obviously invited opinions for and against the argument.

In today’s blog post, Rick stated that his intention of getting domainers together at a TRAFFIC conference without sponsors and “outsiders” has one extra reason: the number of domainers is shrinking, all while the industry itself expands.

This celestial paradox of a universe that expands and contracts at the same time requires some analysis.

The very definition of a domainer is not clear and thus, the numbers can deceive – intentionally or unintentionally.

A domainer – according to Rick – is a full time investor in domain names, who reaps his or her livelihood solely from the returns of a domain portfolio.

Using that logic, I am not a domainer, as my primary business is graphic design and web development. If you’re doing any type of creative, marketing or advertising work while delving in domains – whether you are successful at it or not – then, by Rick’s definition, you are not a domainer.

I will admit it then; I am not a domainer and I never was. In fact, I will go one step further and I will say that I don’t want to be a domainer.

Rick’s argument of “domainer shrinkage” reminds me of that Seinfeld episode, where George is caught with his pants off after coming back from the shower. Elaine witnesses a “scared turtle” of a manhood and George is forever scarred by the excuses he has to come up with.

In today’s domaining world there is no such shrinkage, simply because domainers are not what they used to be – gold-digging cowboys of the far west. Domainers of today are graphic artists, musicians, poker players, stay at home mothers, basketball players, lawyers and judges.

Some domainers live in Madison Street penthouses or Boca Raton mansions, others share apartments with their family in Spain, India or Kazakhstan. Some are 17 years old and still at school while others are 78 and still going strong. Some have budgets of $10 per year and some spend $1 million in every new TLD landrush.

I see an ever-expanding domainer universe, forever leaving the center of the domainer Bing Bang and forever refusing to look back to the core. But then again, I am not a pure core domainer.

Comments

  1. This line IS the story:

    The very definition of a domainer is not clear and thus, the numbers can deceive โ€“ intentionally or unintentionally

    You can’t have a discussion nor can anyone be more right or wrong unless you have an absolute involved.

    To be clear domainer needs to be broken down into categories. Something as seemingly simple as carpentry could be further dissected into specific categories such as :

    Rough carpenter
    Finish Carpenter
    Cabinet maker

    ergo domainers could be
    Domain investors
    Domain developers
    Domain flippers
    domain speculators
    domain monetizers

    Then there are full and part time domainers so you can see how convoluted the discussion can quickly become.

    When you dedicate your self solely to a niche you then uniquely identify yourself as one type of domainer.

    In Ricks case I would certainly classify him as a domain investor and monetizer but not a domain flipper and certainly not IMO a domain developer.

    Regarding Ricks comment about other entities that deal with domains as part of their business and their right to be called domainers. I would not classify them as domainers but rather whatever niche business they involve themselves in i.e. registrar, parking company etc first and then add that they are involved with domains only to the extent that it is a part of their business.

    Great post, great discussion and I am sure it will bring some emotions and hopefully clarity of thought to domain industry participants of all types and at all levels.

    One thing that I would add to this conversation is how all of us could help each other and the industry in general by continuing to engage in our business activities ethically, not being greedy or selfish with our valuations and for those of us who focus on end user sales most importantly learning to become more creative as any good salesperson to find ways to get our domains into the hands of individuals and businesses that need and can use them to increase traffic, sales and profits in their business.

    Regarding shrinkage: With each new domain sale to end user (not domainer to domainer) comes increased value and hope for all who rely on end user sales.

    Conversely when domain owners get greedy and miss sales the value of our industry and total sales figures as well as the image of the world about our industry shrinks.

    In short … we, all of us hold our future in fact the future of the domain industry in our own hands and if we work and pull together and follow a basic set of ethical business policies regarding the positioning and sales of domain names I think we could grow the industry that much quicker.

  2. @Acro
    Good Post

    @Scott
    Great comment. My feelings EXACTLY. Domainers can be individuals or even corporations, but NOT those who feed off of Domainers like Parking Companies, SEO Optimizers, and Developers.

  3. “A domainer – according to Rick – is a full time investor in domain names, who reaps his or her livelihood solely from the returns of a domain portfolio.”

    Excuse me, can you point me to where I said that? I never did because that is NOT MY DEFINITION it is the definition you decided to put in my mouth. Save that for the fiction blog.

    First of all, I don’t know a single domainer that reaps their entire livelihood in domains. Not a one. So the thing you made up does not reflect what I believe.

    Somebody that got hired at Godaddy 20 minutes ago and is now your rep is not a domainer and knowing the difference is a big part of the job. That was the point I was trying to make.

  4. Rick – I understand that you were trying to make a point about people that are supplemental to the domain industry, e.g. GoDaddy reps or Skenzo employees, as someone commented.

    Your blog post refers to “…200, 300, 500 maybe even 1000 full time domainers, there are so many more working at the edges in allied industries that domainers are the minority ”

    and also:

    “So maybe there are 500 full time domainers. Next year there will be 480 as some sell or go other directions and who knows if those 20 will be replaced.”

    Somehow I get the notion that those numbers encompass the select few that are domainers 24/7 – which indeed are both a small AND a shrinking minority, as opposed to the full spectrum of domainers that come from all social-economical strata. In that respect, these numbers aren’t indicative of what the domaining industry truly is.

    And that’s the point I wanted to make, without necessitating anything else.

    Howard – what about “hybrid” professionals: developers-domainers, SEO specialist-domainers etc. These are not exactly “feeding off domainers”, they are an integral part of “domaining”.

    Scott – Great points, we “domainers” need more options, better understanding of the industry and the ability to educate those that are “outsiders”.

  5. @acro

    I was referring to the business of catering to domainers. I guess that a person can do both, but they are few and far between. People like Kevin Ham, Ammar Kubba, Sahar Sarid I consider to be both Domainers and persons with other interests. You CAN be both as Rick pointed out.

  6. Howard, that’s exactly the case; domainers come in every color and grade and thus there’s no pure definition of a “domainer” ๐Ÿ™‚ We are all in touch with some other industry – far or close by – to what constitutes domaining.

    As an attorney, you are a fine example of a “hybrid” domainer and I am sure you feel that the industry has a lot of growth potential.

  7. “Somehow I get the notion that those numbers encompass the select few that are domainers 24/7 โ€“ which indeed are both a small AND a shrinking minority, as opposed to the full spectrum of domainers that come from all social-economical strata. In that respect, these numbers arenโ€™t indicative of what the domaining industry truly is.

    And thatโ€™s the point I wanted to make, without necessitating anything else.”

    And that is why you can’t be all things to all people because what you state. So we want to focus on those 480 plus anyone that is growing and has the passion and desire and is constructive. Somebody from the outside can easily bring in the next idea that will become the turning point, but it is about who we actually target and cater to. We don’t ask how much you make in the domain industry nor even the amount of time, but that is also why we don’t do $99. There has to be some barrier and monetary always seems to cut right to it.

    And let’s be honest, the $799 EB admission we offered that includes all your food and drink etc is not exactly out of reach for most business people whether domainers or not.

  8. Rick – As a fan of TRAFFIC I do enjoy the substance it provides. If anything else, I’d say that the ticket price needs an increase and the gates should be raised to admit those that do offer to the domain industry, versus by-passers that simply want a “whiff” of what is going on.

    Perhaps we are saying the same thing in different words, after all: I want to ensure that the domain industry expands, that domainers receive support and education and that it all moves forward. I believe in constructing alliances that aren’t based on pure, elemental domain-related business. It’s how you forged the Candy.com deal, it’s how others build web sites and do SEO or create domain discussion communities etc. We are not islands in an archipelago ๐Ÿ˜€

    Now, I know you are not a fan of DomainGang but I also know that Howard tries hard to let you see the light side of domaining – at least as defined by some of us. ๐Ÿ˜€ Yes, poking fun at certain public figures is a gesture of appreciation and looking up to; it’s a stimulant to the ways we approach the domain industry.

    DomainGang.com is not fiction – not in its entirety at least – and there’s a “100%” graphic nowadays indicating the reality status of every post.

  9. The value of Traffic to me is having several people I’d like to meet all in one place. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met at Traffic and how many people contact me to set these meetings up in advance. Many are sponsors but they’d still be there even if they weren’t. Much business is done on the sidelines and it’s that opportunity to close business and get attention you can never get through email, phone calls and expensive out of town sales calls, because the targets are always distracted by something else around them. At Traffic those distractions are muted and the spirit, passion and enthusiasm is contagious. Rob Monster commented on our recent program that he met what was to become his biggest customer (thousands of sites) and his best friend at Traffic. I hear these stories all the time.

    It’s not about the sponsors or even the panels, for me it’s “you never know who you are going to meet at Traffic.”

    As for other conferences, the bigger the conference and the more distractions (parties , booths etc) you are competing for attention with too many people. That’s why I think the DomainFest local day events will deliver more business ROI than the bigger conference.

  10. Howard’s quote is funny

    “Domainers can be individuals or even corporations, but NOT those who feed off of Domainers like Parking Companies, SEO Optimizers, and Developers”

    Strangely Domainers(in what seems to be Rick and Howard’s Definition) here are the people who are the ones who actually FEED off the service providers and NOT the other way around.

    When did a group of “domainers” in this definition ever create a value added asset to the real world?

    or a service of any value that you can make money from with your domains?

    Google and Yahoo create the advertising feed – surely not domainers.

    No – these pure domainers as you like to define have made very little difference in the world of domaining.

    It is those people who are not “domainers” that create the tools so you can earn money from your domains.

    Without parking companies none of your assets would be worth a whole lot now would they?

    As Acro said, I’m not a domainer and never want to be just that. Some of us have actually have higher ambitions in live however do not be fooled by thinking domainers as defined in the comments here are anything but salesman of assets.

    This is why the group Rick defines will be smaller and smaller and less relevant as time goes by.

  11. Theo I like you using the term hybrid domainer, I am starting a blog under the name HybridDomainer.com, I think the defining of who is what is very interesting. Nice comment Alan.

  12. @ Acro

    It takes balls for you to say you’re “not a domainer” by definition. I respect that.

    For me, I am a pure domainer. I’ve been one for at least six years, working on nothing but domain interests, including appraising, development, consulting, buying and selling. All of my income come is from “independent” involvement in domain investing, analysis and buy/sell at every level.

    That said, Rick could be called a “pure domainer”, because the majority of his income (he has us believe) is from providing domain valuation information, promoting domaining, and buying/selling domains. No, he’s not a developer, but that doesn’t make him any less a true domainer.

    Additionally, you have to figure if someone makes more than 50% of their non-salary independent income from domains (at some level) then they’re probably a domainer.

    Would you call Ammar Kubba a “domainer”? No, with all due respect, he doesn’t make his money from domain sales/revenue as a privately owned company. Would Frank Schilling be a “domainer”? We all know the answer to that one.

    So, really, a domainer is someone who learns about domain values, how to buy/sell domains for profit, and doesn’t do it from a public domain service company as a salaried employee. Is Ron Sheridan a domainer? How about Monte Cahn?

    For me, a domainer is an independent investor in domains, focusing their work specifically on domain investing, buying and selling domains, and at least 50% of their annual income is based on domaining THEY specifically created and worked on as individuals (regardless of hired hands).

    I work with some pretty smart guys who know about domaining inside and out, yet don’t even own 200 domains themselves. I wouldn’t call them domainers, but I respect them the same.

    @ Acro — dangit, this article better not be a “farce”!!!

    Thx for letting me post here.

  13. Owen – Personally, I find TRAFFIC to be a very “human” conference and I enjoyed both Orlando and Vegas.

    Alan – I appreciate your points, I think to go forward we need to discuss the things that hold us down and find a way to get rid of these shackles.

    Raymond – I had *no idea* the domain was taken ๐Ÿ˜€ Congratulations on the idea, I’ll check it out once you start the blog.

    Stephen – Thanks for taking the time to add some very interesting points to the discussion. It seems that the answer to the question about one’s domainer status or “purity” should come from each person individually. It would make an interesting statistical analysis.

  14. @Alan — awesome, truly insightful comment! Thank you!

  15. Hi,

    All I have know since my 1st domain conference…which was the first “DomainFest” in Hollywood Ca.

    Is this: (IMHO)

    These conference…always cost a decent amount …and prices to attend have gone almost through the roof in the last 2 years, shortly to be 3 years….In a HUGE Recession.

    Now for many who attend…Price point is not a problem…1k, 2k 3k 4k 5k…pretty much just the cost of “hooking up” and “BSing” for a few days with…like mined people.

    I get it..

    That is NOT my biggest problem.

    The whole ‘focus is and has been all wrong.

    It is always”

    #1. Seminars…some good some “so-so”…this is OK..BUT most are or have been about “Parking”

    I thought 3 years ago it should be about “development”…and I think you will start to see this.

    #2. ‘Domainers’ selling domains to other “domainers is fine I guess…but that was and always has been the wrong focus of having a “domain auction”

    #3. How about “Inviting” guys & gals in the “Madison Ave Advertising World”…and EDUCATING them for FREE!

    #4. How about inviting people who are using “Generic Domain Name Assets” to a HUGE advantage for their Company’s…(J&J)comes to mind. ( baby.com & hundreds more.

    Have them give a “Presentation.” NOT TO A ROOM FULL OF “DOMAINER’s”….

    BUT,

    A room full of Madison Ave Ad executives and Marketing &adverting people from the whole Forunate 500 & 200…etc.

    #5. If we have to get every “active”.. Generic Domain Asset Holder”….to make donation(s) for say 6 months or so…so we can reach out and get these people all in the SAME PLACE for a couple days….EVERYTHING WOULD CHANGE.

    CUT OUT THE “SELF INTEREST” Domain Parking & Domain Action “BS”….

    We have always been just ‘cannibalizing’ our selfs…

    NO WONDER,

    In almost 2011..98% of the whole world does not know what “cybersquatting” is…

    I know most writers in Tech or Business publications… write articles everyday, that are full of miss-reputations, miss guided “BS”, Lies etc….

    It is getting a bit better..as everyone has notice a lot more “generic Domain names” being used seriously.

    BUT,

    It is NOT because of OUR GREAT DOMAIN CONFERENCES ~ “PARTIES”!

    Is their anyone READING THIS “THINK”…

    That if say:

    Frank Shilling Or Rick Schwartz Or Acro Or “almost anyone” that has made a post in this thread would have spent 12 minutes with Mr. Jerry Jones back when these morons thought they where buying Cowboys.com…

    That these guys would have had no problem in making “Jerry” see…even if he paid a Million dollars or more…he was still getting a “deal of a lifetime.

    $275k…he could have made that back in less than 6 months by just “redirecting” the domain to: dallascowyboys .com

    **SIDE BAR**: Frank Shilling could have convinced “Jerry” in less than 2 minutes.

    My main point I guess…Domain Conferance(s) main FOCUSES…have been 75% wrong the last 4+ years…

    AND ONLY THE LEADERS OF THIS INDUSTRY CAN HELP TURN THIS AROUND….we ALL need to do our share..

    But for the “Good of everyone on the ship”…

    We need the leaders of “domain name conferences…

    To change their “MINDSET”!

    “Parking” company’s can also…prosper in a much better and larger way also.

    “GENERIC DOMAIN ASSETS ~ FOR END USERS”

    GOAL #1 For everyone for the next 100+years.

    Especially at “domain conferences”

    Goal #2. Everyone always listen to two people..

    John Berryhill
    Frank Shilling

    Again…IMHO as always…lol

    Thanks for taking a look at my “Rant” it has been a long time…2008 when “frank” shut down his blog…lol

    ____

    Bit Of Trivia:

    Not Proud of this, but at that first “Domain Fest”

    I was in one of the conferences (legal) John Berryhill “MC” It….

    The top domain Attorney for Microsoft got up and did about a 30 minute “Power Point” show.

    To my complete SHOCK…I was a good 5 minutes of it…the room was “standing room only”…LOL

    I sank down in my seat”sweating”…LOL

    Luckily he just referred to me through a company name…and no one really has ever known the true story of: Me VS. MS

    Anyway…

    Something I would avoid at all cost…LOL

    Everything work out MUCH BETTER than I could have ever expected… ALL do to a person we all know or have heard of.

    _______

    Peace To All…

    “GENERIC DOMAIN ASSETS ~ FOR END USERS”

    Buy them ~ Sell Them ~ Trade Them ~ Develop Them

    For Yourself and/Or a “End User”!

    May all your domains be profitable..one way or another.

    *****FIVE STARS ~ To getting to domain conference “educating the ‘RIGHT PEOPLE’ On “GENERIC DOMAIN ASSETS” and their many proper values and uses.

    Domainers are NOT The “RIGHT PEOPLE”

    ____

    Best,
    Dan Brown
    (‘companyone’ on the major domain forum(s).

    __

    http://makingfreevideos.com/

  16. Hi everyone,

    My Apologizes to everyone for my fine use of the English Language…in the post above this.

    I hope you where able to get buy my awful spelling etc… and my point(s)were somewhat clear.

    I did not spell check, I live in So.Cal…and we have not had the Sun out before 1:00pm almost everyday for 3 months. And “FS” beat me to the registration of 3dconcerts.com by months…lol

    Oh…among other things I wanted to clarify of the point(s) I tried to make.

    I meant to write, that the Cowboys backed out of the deal…when they thought they where buying the domain: Cowboys .com for $275.00…not $275K.

    For God sakes the Cowboys alone are worth 1.7+ Billion dollars.

    Now that is just way to big of a “Disconnect”

    And only one example of thousands & thousands of company’s out there…that just do not “Get It”

    Peace!
    Dan

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