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August 27, 2012

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Domain Owners Who Have Gone Down the Development Path Report Continuing Expansion of Their Enterprises

More and more domain owners are taking the plunge into website development, a path that offers a chance to end dependence on Google and Yahoo (for PPC revenue) and gain control of their own financial destinies. Development (like any other business strategy) certainly comes with no guarantee of success, but with a good domain name, hard work and the right niche, it is possible to earn a return that dwarfs any other monetization option currently available to domain owners. 

A number of domain portfolio owners have been on the development path for some time now and it is encouraging to get reports back from them as their websites gain traction and make major advances.  For example, Warren Royal (who was the subject of our December 2008 Cover Story) just scored a major coup for RoyalBobbles.com (an offshoot of his flagship development - Bobbleheads.com) that focuses on manufacturing premium bobblehead dolls that are sold through dealers, museums, gift shops, and online web stores. 

The estate of Dr. Martin Luther King has given Royal Bobbles LLC the right to produce and sell an officially licensed Bobblehead commemorating the late civil rights leader.  Royal said this oversized, limited-edition model will be of the highest possible quality and will be sold at the King Center in Atlanta, as well as in museums, gift shops, and through online web stores, like Bobbleheads.com. The target date for release is Dr. King's next birthday - January 18, 2010

Warren Royal

The licensing agreement also provides Royal Bobbles with permission to use copyrighted material owned by the estate, such as images, speeches, and recordings, in the packaging, promotion, and advertising of the product. 

Bruce Marler is another domain portfolio owner who is continuing to expand his development efforts. After making a splash with his statewide network at Missouri.me, Marler will officially launch Oklahoma.me this week. The new site will follow the successful strategy Marler has employed with Missouri.me (see our July 30 Lowdown post for more on that). 

A lot of domain owners focus their development efforts on websites that serve the domain industry. Mike Cohen just debuted a new service over the weekend at DomainStryker.com that 

falls into that category. The site says "There are millions of domains expiring each month, however only a tiny fraction of them are valuable and worth re-registering. We monitor tens of thousands of those auctioned off domains daily, analyzing 60+ variables for each and every domain and then re-publish an exclusive filtered list." The site, currently in beta, adds that lists from SnapNames, NameJet and GoDaddy will be available free until DomainStryker competes beta testing and moves to a membership model.

Of course the biggest conundrum that owners of large scale portfolios face is how to economically develop hundreds or even thousands of domains at once. A successful method for

doing that remains something of a "holy grail" for the industry and many companies are actively involved in finding a solution. The CEO of  a major industry conglomerate told me they will be announcing a new service aimed at filling that need at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. New York conference next week. 

Rob Monster's Epik.com is another company that believes it could be on the verge of solving the puzzle. Monster has made several acquisitions in the process of building his model - the most recent being drop catching service JustDropped.com. Over the weekend, Monster published a very interesting post on his blog describing how JustDropped fits into Epik's strategy. He went on to detail how the company is going about the task of making capital-efficient domain development a reality at a time when the general economy is struggling to escape a debilitating recession. 

Rob Monster

On other note today, Luxembourg-based Domain Invest (DI SA) announced that it has successfully closed a €10.2 million financing round.  BIP Investment Partners and Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (SNCI) participated for an amount of €2.5 million each. Businessmen from the European media and finance industries also significantly contributed to the financing of the company, investing another €5.2 million. Markus Schnermann, Co-Managing Director of Domain Invest said “Thanks to this fundraising, we are becoming the major European player in domain name monetization and our main priority is to keep expanding and offering our services on a larger scale." 

The business model for the company chaired by Xavier Buck is based on the acquisition, monetization and resale of domain names. Co-Managing Director Frederick Schiwek said, “In 

less than one year of operativity, we have acquired great portfolios already performing an EBITDA more than 30% the net revenues; we are expecting to increase this result significantly in the coming years."

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