Jamie Ciocco was Lead Multimedia Programmer at SilverPlatter Education from 1995 – 1999, starting his programming career with interactive medical education CD-ROMs and moving into online multimedia in 1996. He left the corporate world in January 1999, spent several years living and working at Harvard as a dramatic arts tutor while starting up Trendy.com, then began concentrating on the business full-time in 2004. He programs educational interactives for the web and for museum exhibits across the country; creates iPhone applications, custom software, and rich media marketing pieces for corporations; and produces occasional educational videos for Two Chinese Characters and Slow Cookery.
Mike: Can you give a little background on Trendy.com? How long have you been in business?
Jamie: Trendy.com has been online since 1996. I have always made a good living from the business; revenues have been fairly steady up until 2010 when revenues suddenly tripled. I handle the programming myself and partner with other companies or hire contractors to handle design and development.
Mike: Has has owning the specific keyword domain, Trendy.com, impacted your business?
Jamie: I think it has. It gives my business instant credibility. Customers know that my company has been online for a long time or is otherwise well enough established to have a primo domain name.
Mike: Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives?
Jamie: Since I mainly use it as a portfolio site, my main concern is that it be available and responsive for potential clients who have access to my portfolio URL, so I’ve never really paid attention to the site traffic. But since you asked, I checked today’s log file, and was frankly shocked at the volume of random traffic it does receive. For instance, I once wrote a silly Shockwave game called “Heart Attack,” and wrote an equally silly intro song for it, which the MP3-sharing sites started linking to shortly thereafter. My log file shows that the song is still getting around 30 downloads a day, almost five years later. People really will download almost anything if it’s free.
Mike: Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow?
Jamie: My absolute best online marketing strategy was completely nonstrategic, and I didn’t even realize it was marketing. I joined one of the local Adobe user groups and became friends with the person who organized the group at that time, and I also ended up giving a talk at one of the meetings.
It turns out that a lot of people who are looking for specialized programmers will check with the local user groups for that specialty, so the group leader would periodically email me when he heard about projects that he thought might be a good fit for me. It helped that he and I got along really well. Even now I can trace most of my work back to him, with at most one or two degrees of separation.
Mike: Did you have another domain for your site before this one?
Jamie: This was the first domain name I ever bought. I tried to get “jamie.com” but it was already taken. In retrospect, trendy.com was much better; it gives me the flexibility to do whatever I want with my business, as long as it’s cool.
I tried to buy another domain the following year, but that didn’t work out quite as well. When I started working as a resident drama tutor for college undergrads, one of my jobs was to create the printed facebook for the students. I volunteered to set up a web server and put the directory online, and one late night in the fall of 1997 I decided to see if “facebook.com” was available, but it had been registered a few months earlier by some long-forgotten business that made employee directories.
Mike: Did you purchase the name from someone else that owned it? If so, what was the process you went through? Will you share what you paid for the name?
Jamie: Trendy.com was still available when I decided to purchase it in mid-1996. At that time, there was no straightforward way for individuals to buy domain names; I had to sign up with an ISP that bundled the domain registration with dial-up internet access. They charged me $20 for the registration and $25/month for the dial-up access. By 1997 I had broadband and no longer needed the dial-up account, but fortunately by that time it had become easier for individuals to register and transfer domain names.
Mike: Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?
Jamie: Choose punchy. The startup company TaskRabbit.com started out as runMYerrand.com. They probably went through a lot of hassle to change their branding, but they made the right choice. Granted, runMYerrand is a better description of exactly what the company does, but at the same time we do our searches on google.com and not on searchaTONofwebsites.com, and we go to youtube.com and not wasteMYtime.com. if you need to use capitalization or colors in your URL for it to make sense, you probably need a new URL.
Mike: Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point? Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?
Jamie: I don’t ever expect to sell the domain. Typically I’ll get a couple unsolicited emails every month from people who want to purchase the domain. The only specific offer I recall getting was for $35,000; I didn’t reply to that one, but since that time I’ve gotten better about writing back to let people know that the domain isn’t for sale.