Rick Schwartz, aka “The Domain King” is considered a leading expert in the domain industry by many, and doesn’t require an introduction (but I’ll provide one anyway). He has a history of solid accomplishments and his sales make news even today. His blog, RicksBlog.com, is well read and commented on by those that look to him for advice as well as those that criticize his philosophies. Rick Schwartz is the founder of T.R.A.F.F.I.C., and owns and/or has sold some of the most premium domain names you can imagine. Rick took some time to answer my questions and to share his perspective with you.
Mike: You recently posted about “the domain industry expanding, but domainers are shrinking” as related to possibly keeping the 2011 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. for domainers only. There are, as you point out, a limited number of full-time domainers. What are your thoughts around part-time domainers? That is, those with full-time jobs in an unrelated industry that are trying to become full-time domainers. Is it possible for someone to achieve this at this point in the Internet’s cycle? In your experience, do you see part-time domainers come and go or is there growth in this demographic of the industry?
Rick: Every domainer I know started at this part time. Every single one including myself. So I applaud and encourage all that are getting into it. I always say don’t quit your day job until it interferes with your money making abilities in domaining. However there are different types of new folks. You have folks like Tia Wood who get in, learn, understand, marry what she learns with her skills and then is able to contribute to help others. But unfortunately she is the exception not the rule. In the early days we were all Tia’s put together and then bound together. Many made no money but had that desire and passion to learn without peeing over other people in the process. Just classy people with the strong desire to do better for themselves and their families.
Today we have domain bloggers that are not even domainers but blog only for profit. That is fine, but folks that come in today are confused. They certainly don’t have to look up to me, but they can certainly look at who I look up to and respect and applaud because they know what they are doing. They can certainly look at dozens of others and their success stories. No two stories the same. But don’t confuse that with keeping score for success and failure. All the guys I look up to fail a lot and have no shame for it. They embrace failure because that is a stepping-stone to success. Imagine a gold miner that refused to sift thru dirt. Would not find any gold either. So when others laugh at your failure, what they are really doing is excusing and masking their own lack of success. The folks I hang with don’t root for failure or get off when others don’t succeed. They encourage folks and are happy when their friends find success.
The mindset of so many new folks is they want the $$$ first and then they think they are entitled to something. The only thing they are entitled to is to work hard and find a niche that works for them that is profitable. But first you got to be on the right path so simply being a part time domainer does not mean much. You need to have successes along the way. But let me be clear, even the newest domainer can offer something of great value to the conversation. Domainers come from many different backgrounds and cultures. They have info to offer and share. That is what built the industry. Sharing. TRAFFIC is built on sharing. You never know who holds the single most important piece of the puzzle because they are all important pieces.
Mike: You are considered among many to be the leading expert in the industry. What is your opinion of the .CO TLD? Is it the next best thing since .COM or an over-hyped release of yet another ccTLD trying to rebrand right out of the gate?
Rick: It’s nice that many say that but just as many would argue it and I can’t say I blame them. Many have done much better than me and have many more accomplishments. I have just been very outspoken and bullish on something when nobody else was. I figured a smaller piece of a bigger pie was a winning hand. That said I know domain names better than anything I have ever been involved in. It’s as if I was groomed all of my life for this.
As for .CO……Sorry, I am not smart enough to figure any of that out at this point. What determines the success or failure of any extension will not be domainers. It will be determined by end users and advertising budgets, brochures, billboards and all the rest. No ad dollars spent on an extension means RIP. It’s all about the ad dollars. Not the moon, the stars, the registry, the hype. So that is why each new extension is speculative. But that is what domaining is about so you need to do the job and get in or out based on what you believe and not what anyone tells you. But listen to your wallet the most. If it is getting fatter, keep going. If it is getting thinner. STOP and try something different.
.CO is an interesting extension. It will be years before we know if it is truly embraced or not and that is why patience is always a huge piece of the domain game. Meanwhile many domainers will make a lot of money buying and selling to each other and some end users. I have bought about 2000 myself. Time will tell. Right now, it’s a 12 month option and then I will re-evaluate and see. One thing I will say…..every domainer at a pretty equal shot at getting some domains of value. Of course if all folks do is register Pigeon Shit, then they won’t make a dime and they will lose their money. On the other hand the ones that do understand domains will pick a few winners that will pay for their entire investment and more. What do all the whiners say then? Who do they lash out then for keeping them back? Who will even take them seriously again? The answer, newbie’s who don’t know any better. There will always be an endless supply of ignorance and a limited amount of talented domainers that will hit gushers once again. Some that came into the industry 30 days ago will be bigger and more successful than 50% of the folks reading this. Then what do the whiners say? It basically impugned every word they ever uttered and the basis of their every thought. So at that moment they have a choice. Get even more angry and more frustrated or give it up, take a deep breath and give it a fresh shot with a good attitude.
Mike: This next question can apply to both new and experienced domainers. There are many bloggers and forum posters, each with their own and often conflicting opinions. Particularly for those new to the industry, what do you feel are the best sources of quality information to learn from?
Rick: Well, I certainly would focus on blogs where the blogger has enjoyed some level of success. Some bloggers as I suggest above are not even domainers or just regurgitate or plagiarize posts by other domains bloggers or talk without much to back it up. If you want to know what is going on in the domain Industry I look to TheDomains.com, DNJournal.com and then Domaining.com to see who else has something of value to contribute. But I hate blogs that I have no idea who the author is and that takes away a lot of the credibility.
Don’t believe half of what you read and question the other half. Follow the financial motive of folks giving advice. Don’t be lazy. Find the source and verify. Successful domainers as a rule have hearts of gold and are more than willing to help others. Lashing out at folks contributing their time and thoughts and asking nothing in return is just not very classy and whether you succeed or fail folks should have the dignity to treat others with respect. If folks take what I say personally without me naming a single domain name or single domainer’s name then I guess they have indicted themselves. If the shoe fits, they bought the damn store. So my plain spoken words are aimed at failure of the idea, failure of making a profit, failure of a successful plan. Failure to find the success they are looking for. Where is the personal name? But the shadows I talk to speaks back in highly personal and mean spirited ways and I will never make any apologies for not wanting to surround myself with narrow minded lowlife losers like that. When they grow up and get some class, then we can see until then, the nameless will name me without me ever mentioning them and those cheering them on are in the same league. So pretty easy to spot the losers. They call themselves out and it is amusing to those that know the difference. Invisible to those that don’t know.
So to the newbie’s….if you are reading a post or a blog and they spend their time taking pot shots at me…..it’s the definition of a loser. Not for disagreeing, we can do that and debate that all day if the motive is to find the best solution or answer. But for the mean spirited personal pot shots that are uncalled for and unnecessary. For those folks, I registered FuckYou.co and a few other socially negative domains. Like Asshole.co and Morons.co. Come on! This is the most fun profession in the universe and if you are not making money, having a good time doing it, then all I ever suggested was try something new or something different until you find something that does. Those 3 domains were all just registered. Total cost $103. Does anyone reading this seriously question I can’t flip for a nice profit right now regardless of the destiny of .CO?
Mike: I believe you coined the term “Pigeon Shit” when referring to registering domains that are worthless. I confess that I collected a lot of pigeon shit before I started to get a feel for what had some value. In your experience, is this a trap most people fall into when they start to acquire domains? Why do you think that registrars don’t include some advice, even to end users, on how to select a good domain name?
Rick: Yes absolutely. We all own pigeon shit in our portfolios. Some domains pan out, some don’t. Like panning for gold. Knowing the difference is what domaining is all about. There is no guidebook nor could there be as the industry will always change and evolve and that is why there are so many ways to make money.
A registrar could not care less if they sell a premium domain or pigeon shit nor should they. Except for their premium auctions which is a printing press, their job is to register as many domains as possible and that’s that. Anyone saying anything else is not dealing with reality or just not being candid. So never listen to a registrar when it comes to domain names. Two different goals and agendas and they are not wrong. The ones not knowing and understanding the motives of each are wrong for not understanding this.
Mike: Back in May, you posted on your blog about possibly starting up some domain trading based on a small subset of your domains. Have you done anything with that? Received any trade requests? Do you think that, if this develops, it could be an equitable means of strengthening a domainer’s portfolio?
Rick: It basically falls flat every time I bring it up. But someday this will be common place. So now I do the trading 2 step. I sell a domain and then take the proceeds to buy the domain I would have traded for. I seldom go into the funds I have already set aside. I want new funds to buy new domains. My business has always been self-sustaining. That means all the dollars I use to buy domains come from the dollars I made with domains to begin with.
Mike: Do you still actively acquire names? If so, how do you go about purchasing them (private transactions or through brokers)? What criteria do you look for?
Rick: I do nearly every day. Some hand registered, some aftermarket. I buy many at auctions or private emails. But I get domains that fill a need or diversify what I do. The criteria I use is when the domain stands alone, it means something and is easy to spell. I focus on commercial but have a lot of social type domains. Knowing the difference is important. I was the first to even talk about the two classifications. Am I as aggressive as I was back in the 1990’s? No. That was a unique opportunity in time and I have said so many times. But there will be more unique opportunities and the key is recognizing them when they cross your path. I have never seen an industry with so many ways to succeed on a daily basis.
Mike: How about selling names… do you seek out buyers or do they typically come to you for the domains? How do you decide what you feel is a fair price?
Rick: I have never really actively or formally tried to sell a domain name. I emailed Hershey’s twice and have had some domains included in a bulk domain ad. The whois is my best salesmen. As for price, there are so many factors at play and then circumstance is always a huge part. What would I do with the dollars I get? Is there a reason to sell? Is there a reason to keep it? Is there a domain I could buy with those dollars that would make my decision important. Is there a toy I want to buy but don’t want to put out the dollars? Does it make my overall portfolio stronger or weaker? Do I have a plan for the domain? What is the value of that plan? So many factors at play and I am not forced to sell to pay renewal fees. Some registered for fun or a hoot or a one time event.
Mike: What advice do you have for those that are new or less experienced in the field?
Rick: Don’t just run off and buy or register a domain name. Learn the elements that make one domain have value or potential value and one that is something with an extension on the end. Your first buys become your foundation and most important. It is not rocket science. The domain is the centerpiece of every new business. There is still ample opportunity. So many qualified domainers do share their ideas and methods and they are often met with resistance. Some of it pretty ugly. What they do is not working yet they resist what is. So the first piece of advice is to not be so stubborn and defensive that you refuse to question your own decisions when they are not working the way you thought they would. The second would be stop chasing yesterday’s news and events and focus how things will unfold in the future.
In closing let me say that In domaining there is opportunity every day at every corner. Some seize that opportunity and others whine when it passes them by. Black and white to me and I hope what I have said makes it clearer for you as well. My words are designed to sometimes be uncomfortable. Change is never comfortable and IF what you are doing is not working you have a choice, get mad at me for pointing it out or try something different until you find what works. If my delivery style is not to your liking, get over it or don’t read it. That’s like being stuck on something that does not matter. Stuck on stupid. In 20 years they can tell their grand kids how Rick Schwartz held them back from success because of his words and delivery. They won’t even buy that bullshit, why would they think folks are buying it now?
So nobody conveniently twists my words to suit their story line which seems to be in vogue these days, this is what I believe. I believe that Domainers, developers, IT, graphics and SEO folks along with others should be working together with a common purpose and goal. I have believed that since the day I got on the net. Unfortunately there are too many jealousies, prejudices, and Type A personalities to allow that. Together we could build empires, alone, a lot of ugly frustration among each group.
In the real world you might have a landowner, a developer, a general contractor, an architect and hundreds of workers working well together to bring an idea to life. Seems like that blueprint has been in place for a very long time and one day will be common online as well. We are the ones that should be making that happen.
I Thank Rick for his time, contribution and the level of insight he provides on the industury.