Blogs about the domain industry and the various players and companies within it.

Part 3 - How A Decline in the Chinese Economy Will Impact Domains

Part 3 - How A Decline in the Chinese Economy Will Impact Domains

This is the third part in a series that examines domains and the Chinese economy. The first two parts can be viewd by clicking on the following links: Part 1      Part 2

The biggest concern with a Chinese economic downturn is the impact that it will have on the rest of the world. As companies reduce spending and hunker down during the economic storm domain valuations will be the recipient of a perfect storm of less demand and massively greater supply courtesy of the new gTLDs.

Escrow.com

If you are considering an offer right now on a domain, then my advice would be to take it, as I believe we will be heading into some rough water over the next couple of years. I’ve never regretted having cash in the bank and if I’m right, then there’s going to be some real bargains available in the not too distant future.

The biggest concern for me is the value of domain traffic in a financial crisis. Users will still have value but I’m concerned whether the value will be fully realised by domain investors in a downturn.

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) taught us that although domain traffic is valuable (businesses need customers) the position of domain investors in the domain ecosystem is currently quite weak. As the dominant advertising partner, Google is likely to try and take a greater share of the reduced volume of advertising dollars in a difficult market.

This strategy worked in the past because there was excess margin between what Google pays out and second tier advertising exchanges. We are seeing that this is not necessarily the case in every market vertical. Domain investors that leave all of their domains with a single company or try and move them manually between monetisation companies will achieve sub-optimal results.

The challenge for domain investors is to diversify revenue sources so that they are not all coming from a single company. A recent article on the “hidden value of optimisation” clearly showed how optimising across multiple revenue sources effectively hedges against turbulent economic times. In the case of the article it illustrated the cross-rate differential between the Euro and $US as an example.

I’m constantly looking at macro-economic factors that may impact ParkLogic clients and then devise ways to help mitigate any downside risk while increasing the benefits from any potential upside opportunities. It’s what keeps the team awake at night as we dive into not just domain data but data that may impact the value that underpins our client’s assets.

To finalise this series, here is a list of actions that you may wish to consider implementing:

  • Finalise all active domain transactions.
  • Review the prices of all of your domains with an eye to reducing them.
  • Ensure all of your domains have buy it now prices on them.
  • Get all of your domains into each of the active market places.
  • Actively reach out to end users of your domains to market them.
  • Setup a webpage with all of your domains listed and their prices. All “for sale” links on parked pages should point to this webpage. If a potential buyer clicks on one of the domains then it may route through to one of the market places to handle the negotiation etc. This will mean that all of the traffic from potential buyers will be routed through to your domain list and not used to potentially sell someone else’s domain.
  • Outsource all of your domain management (especially for traffic) to a company that actively reduces revenue risk.
  • Do not buy any domains unless you can see a clearly defined exit.
  • Close any developmental projects that have a time horizon greater than 2 months.

I hope that you found the series on domaining and China interesting and thought provoking. I'm looking forward to DomainFest in Hong Kong to test out some of my hypothesis.

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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Why I'm Going to Domainers Meet in Dubai

Why I'm Going to Domainers Meet in Dubai

I’m really looking forward to heading off to the Dubai Domainers Meet conference later this week. There’s been quite a bit of scepticism about whether the event will be successful or not and a number of people have asked me why I signed-up so early.

When I look at where the global growth in Internet is going to come from it’s really centred around emerging economies and the third world. For a start, it just so happens that Dubai is positioned as a global hub in the middle of the majority of this region. It's by no means a coincidence that Dubai is hosting the world Expo in 2020.

Escrow.com

When I was traveling to ICANN in Dublin I happened to be on an Emirates flight transiting through Dubai and there was a radio show on the growth of Dubai as a regional economic powerhouse. It was clear to me that this was a part of the world that I really need to get to know, so I snapped up the chance to speak at the first Dubai Domainers Meet.

Likewise, last year when DomainFest Asia was held in Macau I jumped at the opportunity to attend. That single conference opened my eyes up to the significant opportunities and problems that domainers in China face. From the one conference I’ve already made some fantastic contacts and done a lot of business…..I’m hoping I will experience something similar at the Dubai event.

It really excites me that the conference conveners are taking a very different approach to running a typical domainer event. They are really reaching out to end users, wider technical community and government authorities. Their focus has been to bring new blood into the domain industry….and I think they’ll achieve this.

Last week they ran a professional press conference at the Shangri-la Hotel in Dubai for mainstream media outlets and they managed to achieve a lot of press coverage. Click on the links below to view some of the exposure.

Al Bayan
Al lttidhad
Al Kaleej
Al Watan
The Gulf Today (english)

I personally believe that these efforts are really going to pay-off and the Dubai Domainers Meet conference will grow year on year.

I’m really looking forward to sharing on my topic of “Domaining, Past, Present and Future”. It’s caused me to journey both down memory lane and think a lot about where the industry is headed. As normal it will be packed full of anecdotes, data and personal insights into what I believe are significant domain investment opportunities.

If you have been on the fence about going to the Dubai Domainers Meet then I would encourage you to book your ticket…..it’s not too late and there are a LOT of flights in and out of Dubai. Remember that sometimes in business you need to invest into educating yourself, even if it means taking a risk on something new like the Dubai Domainers Meet. I hope to see you there!

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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Part 2 – How China’s Looming Debt Crisis Will Impact Domains

Part 2 – How China’s Looming Debt Crisis Will Impact Domains

This is the second article in the series on China. Click here for part 1.

Off the back of all of the China debt crisis, what’s going on in the domain industry? For the past year many western domain investors have been scratching their heads as they tried to work out why the Chinese were buying up all of the 4 letter/number domains.

Escrow.com

Other than a few reasons which were largely due to mysticism and numerology there was no sustainable underpinning of the value of many of these domains. In short, it was spectulation run mad that rapidly pushed up the prices.

Despite the underlying values being questionable there has been a rush by many western domain speculators to register short character domains. The total goal was to then sell these domains to Chinese investors for inflated prices. While some people have made money, many are in the process of losing their shirt as the giant global ponzi scheme comes crashing down.

I recently spoke with a Chinese investor that has over $50m to invest in domains and she indicated that they are putting just about everything on hold to see what’s happening with the market. The domain industry has just experienced a bubble fuelled by cheap money that was looking for another asset class to invest into. The rule of thumb for bubbles is to get in and get out really fast so if you're holding any of these domains then it may be a long time (if ever) before you see a return.

As an example, a number of months ago I sold a whole lot of 4 letter dotcom domains to a Chinese buyer. I recently checked the market and you couldn’t get half the price for those domains now.

I have been upfront in saying that while the cheap money is available then in my opinion sell. It’s not often that you get opportunities like the one that has just past.

What’s really interesting is that many of the Chinese registrars are the companies that are moving massive numbers of the new gTLDs. As an example, registrar west.cn has sold 27.3% of the .xyz domains (1.13m). Congratulations should be made to Daniel Negari and his team as they really tapped into the Chinese market as a place to sell the .xyz brand in a big way.

Likewise, .CLUB has managed to sell over 60% of its domains to Chinese investors. It’s clear why Collin, Jeff and the team have been clocking up the frequent milers to China and back! Like a number of the other new gTLD registries they seized upon the boom time in China as a way to move their stock. It was a fantastic move!

The question that needs to be addressed is what will happen to the new gTLD market in a Chinese bust? Clearly renewals will evaporate from domain speculators and new registrations will return to much more modest levels. But is this really a bad thing?

What the Chinese boom has done for a number of the new gTLD registries like .CLUB and .XYZ is provide a massive injection of capital at a time when they most needed it. A Chinese bust will not be catastrophic for these companies as they've also been focusing their efforts in other parts of the world and in particular end users.

In the next article in the series I will go through what I think is a good domain strategy in the event of a Chinese economic collapse.

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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mgilmour
That's a really good chart but only shows government debt to GDP as a ratio. China has the majority of its debt is held by state o... Read More
15 April 2016
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Part 1 – How China’s Looming Debt Crisis Will Impact Domains

Part 1 – How China’s Looming Debt Crisis Will Impact Domains

I’ve been concerned about China’s debt levels for quite some time and the impact that a Chinese economic meltdown may have on the domain industry. After returning from a week’s vacation I decided that it was time to start digging into the data and piecing together a number of anecdotal data points.

Escrow.com

It didn’t take long to discover that just about every major investment media source is concerned about China’s debt problems. Back in October 2015, The Economist had a little chart with the title, “Still Bingeing”, that outlined China’s total debt as a % of GDP. The chart can be viewed below

China bingeing on debt

On the 22nd Feb, Bloomberg News had a headline announcing that China’s debt will peak at 283% of GDP in 2019. To put this into perspective, the USA debt to GDP ratio is 104%.

Having a debt ratio of China’s magnitude is scary to say the least and many commentators suggest that this is only sustainable as long as China is able to maintain a GDP growth of greater than 6%. The problem is that the Chinese economy has not been growing as fast as the increase in debt levels.

For example, the country’s banks extended a record $US385 billion of new loans in January. Bloomberg news stated, “The increase in debt could pressure the country’s credit rating, Standard & Poor’s said on Tuesday, less than a week after the cost to insure Chinese bonds against default rose to a four-year high.”

The first problem is the Chinese economy is slowing down and is being propped up by massive injections of capital in the form of debt. So called state-owned “zombie” companies are being constantly bailed out rather than put down. These companies can repay the interest on loans but not the principal which just exacerbates the problems.

The second problem is the Chinese fuelled real-estate bubble collapses. Beijing and Shenzhen are up by more than 700% since 2000 and this has driven Chinese investors to look at high end top coastal cities in English-speaking countries. For example, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Singapore, San Francisco, LA, Vancouver, New York, London….

The Chinese real-estate market has been falling for over a year and investors looked to the stock market, driving it up by over 160% in mid-2015. Dumb money entered the market and within 2.5 months the Shanghai Composite Index fell 42%.

The Shanghai Composite Index

The Chinese government has been trying to prop up the market ever since by buying hundreds of billions of dollars in stocks. This is an artificial way to keep the stock values from collapsing but ultimately the companies will be devalued to their true worth.

Some commentators are suggesting the index should fall by as much as 80% and sit around 1,000. Just watch the fall-out in the international real-estate markets when this happens!

What’s really interesting is the “non-performing loans” have jumped by over 50% between Dec 2014 and Dec 2015. “Non-performing loans” are loans where the borrower is defaulting. It will be interesting to see if the Chinese banking sector is healthy enough to handle waves of defaults. As 2008 proved the USA banks weren’t up to the challenge.

In the next article in this series I will apply this background of information on China to the domain industry.

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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mgilmour
A devaluation in the $US won't be a problem for domain owners in the $US as there isn't a currency change. European domainers, who... Read More
16 April 2016
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Fallout From the DN.com Disaster

Fallout From the DN.com Disaster

One of the most important things that any escrow business needs to do is keep up and running for its customers. The whole essence of being an escrow company is that you are the trusted partner between two or more organisations that don’t really know each other. Providing an escrow service is all about doing trusted transactions.

It just so happens Thursday last week the Chinese escrow company DN.COM was taken off the air by the Chinese government. Clients who were midway through escrow transactions had no way of finding out what was going on and large sums of money were left in limbo.

Eventually, DN.com sent out an email that indicated the problem was caused by a change in the entity of the business.

dn.com email

I must admit that there is a frightening chain of events that really strike at the heart of being an escrow business. For a start, escrow is all about being really careful with other people’s money….and as I said in the opening paragraph, it’s about trust. It’s all about being very detailed, focused and losing sleep over a rounding error in a transaction.

To have the business effectively shutdown by the government shows that it's everything but focused on the details. It makes you wonder what else is being forgotten along the way in any escrow transactions….which brings up another point.

How do you become an escrow agent in some of these jurisdictions? In most western economies, escrow is a serious business that is highly regulated by the government to ensure that all parties are protected, even in the situation where there is a failure of the business.

My understanding (and I could be corrected) is that these types of controls are not in effect in the Chinese market. What this means is that funds transferred to a Chinese escrow agent may be used for working capital, rather than being held in trust. If for any reason the business struggles, then the funds used to pay for goods may also be used to prop it up. The business may choose not to do this but there is no governing body that they are accountable to as an escrow agent. This effectively means the business is actually NOT providing any escrow but IS just a middleman swapping money between parties.

There’s a really good reason why Escrow.com spends an absolute fortune on compliance. As well as being legal, this process provides buyers and sellers with the confidence and trust that their chosen escrow service is looking after their transactions.

Now here’s where the whole DN.com business gets really nasty. It just so happens that a scam website dnd.com created a mirror of the DN.com website (prior to it going down). Google indexed the pages and when it came up in the search listings customers could mistakenly click on dnd.com and think that it was DN.com. They would then enter their username and password into the scam system…..I think you get the rest.

dnd.com scam

So whatever you do right now, if you are a customer of DN.com…..update your password! Also, if you use the same password elsewhere, first of all hit your head on your desk a number of times and repeat, “I’m an idiot” each time. Then go and update all of your passwords at any financial institutions so they are different.

To be very clear....I don't have anything against DN.com and I find that it's terrible that a disreputable organisation decided to take advantage of their predicament. At the same time, DN.com's problems were ultimately of their own making.....hopefully they've learned a few lessons so this doesn't happen in the future.

As a side note, I’m very selective about who I let sponsor my blog. The reason why I’m proud to have Escrow.com as one of my sponsors is because they’ve developed a high level of trust over many years by making sure they are compliant to all governmental authorities. I know who I use for my escrow….

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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mgilmour
Hi Echo/DN.com, I do appreciate your comment. It is valued, respected and more than welcome. It's never a good thing for any busin... Read More
18 March 2016
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