As humans, there are many different ways we measure success. For some, success is all about money. For others success is about accomplishment and experience. Still others focus on health, or happiness, or family. In a balanced life, some element of all these things likely contributes to one’s measure of our own personal success.
In business, success is most often measured by numbers. In the nascent “new top level domain name” industry, my industry, so far there has been little to measure. The so called new “gTLD’s” just began to become publicly available in February, and to date around 300 new domain extensions are available, with hundreds more waiting in the wings. Seeking something to measure, so far the industry has gathered around the number of zone files for each new domain extension – i.e. the number of domain names that have been assigned a name server and thus have been “registered.” The zone files are published daily, so it is fairly easy to keep count and use each domain extension’s number of zone files as a measure of success.
Albert Einstein is oft credited with the adage, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” In the age of big data, this is an important concept to grasp, especially for marketers. We are inundated with data and the technical ability to track, measure, and slice and dice data in a thousand different ways. It is exciting. It can be fun. It can also be misleading. As Einstein smartly implies, data alone does not always tell the full story.
Using zone files as a measure of a new domain extension’s success has become a hot topic this week, as one new gTLD launched with more than 80% of its initial registrations coming from a single registrar, the apparent result of an “opt-out” free give away promotion. So, if our only measure of success is the raw number of zone files, this new domain is clearly successful.
The Rest of the Story…
At .CLUB, we too have been counting our zone files and, along with our peers, we have used that number as a success metric. We have invested heavily and marketed aggressively to encourage domain investors, businesses and individual end-users to adopt a .CLUB domain name, and certainly every one of those resulting zone files counted to us (and counts to us). But that number is not all that matters. As proven time and again, from .COM to .CO, the true measure of a domain’s success is real adoption and usage, not domain names parked idly in a user’s account. .COM would not be the monolith it is today, with over 100 million zone files, if businesses and brands had not begun to actively use and promote their websites ending in .COM. Similarly, none of the new domain extensions, .CLUB included, will truly be successful until they too have a vibrant community of businesses and individuals building out, using and promoting websites around their domains.
In the beginning, of course, there is not much to measure but the zone files. It takes time and effort for websites and businesses to be built and launched. For us, while we certainly continue to care very much about the zone file numbers and the “Top 10” charts, now that we are a month into our launch, we care much more about every new .CLUB site that goes live, and every new business that launches built upon a .CLUB name. There are now hundreds of live .CLUB websites all over the world, from personal blogs to established clubs to exciting startups and popular celebrities. The most exciting of these are the ones that pop up organically, and unexpectedly, like MiPay.club, a mobile payment platform just launched in Kenya.
Last week we were surprised and delighted when popular singer and actress Demi Lovato launched her new Fan Club at Lovato.club. We found out about it when our twitter stream lit up with links and mentions of her awesome YouTube Video – a mini infomercial for Lovato.club. We announced a marketing partnership with rapper 50 Cent for his launch of 50inda.club, but the launch of Lovato.club was purely organic and without our involvement, as has been usage from companies such as CrackersComedy.club in Indiana, BattleRap.club in Germany, Bulc.club, MovieMax.club and many, many others. The live sites are the zone files that will ultimately be our best measure of success.
This week’s attention to the zone file numbers has been at times heated and surely frustrating for folks on all sides of the discussion, but it does serve to raise a good issue for a growing (and hopefully maturing) segment of the domain name industry. How do we accurately measure the success of a new domain extension? What are the things that can be counted, and should be counted, because they actually count? Zone files, premium name sales, live sites, aftermarket sales, global reach – these are all things that collectively tell the full story of a new domain extension. Just as we may use many benchmarks to gauge our own personal successes, our industry needs to use a more complete view to accurately state the success of a new gTLD.
The introduction of new domain extensions is a new story that is just unfolding. It is a story that needs to be told completely, and not just “by the numbers.” Ultimately the real success of the gTLD program across the board rests in wide adoption of domain names that are wanted by, matter to, and are actively used by the folks that register them.
-Jeff Sass, CMO
(Photo Credit: © Hayati Kayhan – Fotolia.com)