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The Lowdown



November 12, 2007 Post

Here's the The Lowdown from DNJournal.com! Updated daily to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry!

Compiled by Ron Jackson (Editor/Publisher)

 

Three major domain industry players got into a serious dust up Sunday that will likely reverberate for some time to come. It started when Jay Westerdal posted an item on his DomainTools.com blog calling into question the legitimacy of some .mobi sales at 

Moniker.com’s live auction last month at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East conference. Westerdal also stated that T.R.A.F.F.I.C. co-founder Rick Schwartz was the winning bidder on one of the domains in question but had reneged on payment. Those are extremely serious charges to make so if you make them you have to be absolutely certain your facts are right. As it turned out Jay’s facts were wrong leaving him with quite a mess on his hands. The fact that he directly competes with both Moniker (in the live auction space) and T.R.A.F.F.I.C. (as producer of the Domain Roundtable conference) made a bad situation worse as it opened him to charges that he was deliberately trying to harm their businesses by publicly posting false information.  

Jay Westerdal

Details of the donnybrook are too lengthy to recount here but you can review what has been said on all sides through these links; Jay’s original post (since revised) that started the 

brouhaha and his retraction later in the day after he learned his statements were not true, Rick Schwartz’s comments on his personal blog (scroll down to the Update section and the comments that follow) and Moniker CEO Monte Cahn's comments made in a thread about the situation at the DomainState.com forum. 

I don’t think anyone will ever convince Cahn and Schwartz that this was anything but a deliberate attempt by a competitor to boost his own business at their expense. However, having seen this kind of mistake happen several times in my decades as a journalist I don’t think it was deliberate as no writer in their right mind would post such charges unless they were convinced they were right. Otherwise, they are begging to be sued into oblivion. I do however think Westerdal was too quick to believe the worst about Moniker and T.R.A.F.F.I.C., largely because they are competitors. 

Having said that, even professional journalists are human and do make mistakes - including the best and most experienced of them (Dan Rather of CBS-TV being among the many examples). When they are wrong they will, normally, print a very prominent retraction – but depending on the severity of their mistake that may not be enough.  

Rather’s mistake ended his network career (though he has resurfaced on a seldom seen cable channel). When I was a TV reporter our weekend news anchorman got a tip that a local law firm was involved in some illegal activity and had gotten busted. Since it was the weekend, the law office in 

Moniker CEO Monte Cahn

Rick Schwartz

question was closed, but he took a video crew to the firm's building, stood in front of a door with attorney's names emblazoned on it and proceeded to tick off a list of crimes the people in that office were accused of. It wasn’t until after he aired the video that evening that he found out he had shot his on-location expose in front of the wrong attorney’s office! That did not go over well. He and the station apologized profusely on the air and somehow managed to avoid a law suit but my colleague was finished there.  

Whether this will have a long term impact on Westerdal and his many domain business interests remains to be seen. I personally think he will weather the storm because he is smart and will learn from this mistake, knows the industry inside out and wants to see it continue to flourish just as Cahn and Schwartz do. As the injured parties my sympathies in this instance lie primarily with the latter two men who have both done a Herculean job in helping build this industry into what it is today. However knowing how Westerdal must feel this morning I can’t help but feel a sense of regret on his behalf as well (that kind of mistake is a journalist's worst nightmare).

For many people who get their news from the Internet, bloggers like Westerdal  and Schwartz are starting to replace traditional media outlets. Since even trained journalists from the old school can make this kind of mistake, its not surprising that the new wave of untrained 

reporters/observers are  even more susceptible to such grievous errors. It’s one reason traditional outlets say they are still relevant. They would argue that a professional reporter or his editor would have stopped this kind of mistake from happening and most  of the time they would – but even as a product of that system, the endless variety of unfiltered views found in the blogosphere are an improvement in my eyes. However, incidents like this underscore the fact that even though blogs give everyone a platform that wants one, shooting from the hip can have serious consequences

This business has undergone some dramatic changes over the past five years. When I came in it was mostly composed of a small, tight-knit group of individual entrepreneurs that just about all got along well. Competitors hung out together, shared drinks and stories and worked together to expand the industry for everyone’s benefit. Over the last couple of years, with far more money at stake and new win-at-all-cost players entering the space, I am seeing more flare ups between competitors. It is not a welcome change and, at this stage of the game, I don’t think it does anyone any good. Fortunately there is still more of what Cahn calls “coopetition” (competitors co-operating to advance the entire industry) in this business than corporate world knife-in-the-back tactics and I hope that philosophy remains in place for at least a little while longer. 
Posted Nov. 12, 2007


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