DNForum Interview with Lars
I want to say it was Garmin running shamer, pro-blogger, and green-thumber Shane Cultra who first dropped the news about the new owners of DNForum. Shortly after there was a mixed buzz on social media and blog comments reflecting the reaction of the domain community. Some were delighted that some hope was being infused back into the once unparalleled forum while others were less optimistic about its future or even returning to visit the forum under new management.
Lars gave me a little insight into the reason behind the acquisition and the direction the forum plans to take. I can appreciate his realistic view on what it will take to change course and his optimism that he and his partners, along with the help of the domain community, can make it happen.
Mike: I have not been an an active part of the forum in the past, but what can be expected as the forum continues on?
Lars: In the past DNForum.com was the go-to place for professional domain investors to talk and trade domain names. Our goal is to expand and develop on that past and to provide a safe and filtered forum experience focused on quality content.
Mike: Taking on a forum in any industry is a huge responsibility. What made the three of you decide to tackle this?
Lars: Each of us have been paid members of the board for a great many years and carry a lot of affection for the place. As such it was a pain to follow its downward slope into oblivion and its turbulent changes in management in recent years. When the chance offered itself to purchase the place we could not let it go and jumped on it. Further we believe in the potential for righting the ship and that DNForum.com can be a healthy business again.
Mike: There has been a little bit of a mixed buzz around the forum. Blogger surveys, post comments, etc. Some folks wishing you good luck and suggesting this is the right move while others not as pleased. How do you react to the domaining public on this? Do you have some PR barriers to overcome with perception and how do you plan to do that?
Lars: Realistically speaking the image of the forum is at an all time low. The interest, traffic and content was allowed to leave and certain events in the past also rubbed off a bit of the previous shine. But the good news is that its hard to go much lower from here. To go into a head to head argument with detractors would be counterproductive and frankly we don’t want to begin our fresh start with an argument. Further we are firm believers in showing by doing, so we will be trying our best to prove them wrong by holding true to our plans for the site. Luckily the buzz also included a great many DNForum.com veterans and supporters which has helped us getting business back to the site almost from day one of the takeover.
Mike: It sounds like some people “grew up” on DNForum and learned much of what they know about domaining there. What do you see in the forum that others might not? What is it that makes sense about “saving” this forum as opposed to walking away or trying to create a new one from scratch?
Lars: It is exactly that. It has a history of being the place to talk and trade domains in the professional sphere of the industry. A place where, if you were willing to listen, you could pick up a lot of great knowledge and in the marketplace; actual great domain deals. The site has a lot of cache amongst industry veterans even with its recent turbulent history and still has a lot of business potential from a branding stand point.
Further in our industry it does not hurt us to operate under the category killer domain name of our niche.
Mike: You have listed several short and longer term goals in your initial announcement. Are these thoughts that the three of you came up with based on what you feel needs to be done or was there any user input involved?
Lars: I have to take responsibility for the currently proposed strategy. I have a clear vision of where I think we need to take DNForum.com to re-establish it as a staple of our industry. Going forward we will be asking our community for input on what they would like to see happen and we will be open for community suggestions. If we find them viable and they fit into the plans we have for the forum.
Mike: What is your measurement for success? How will you know if you are succeeding and how long do you anticipate it will take to see results?
Lars: Naturally we look at financial profitability as one of the chief measurements of our success. We hope to get DNForum.com in the green within 3 months of the takeover. But to achieve that we need to reinvigorate our user base and bring them back to table to deliver the quality content it needs to flourish. So we really look at user activity as a key performance indicator, we want to bring back our investor crowd to create a working marketplace with no fees for domain name resellers.
Mike: What do you to critics of the paid membership model? Are their other alternatives to generating income on a forum?
Lars: Well for us its not the revenue aspect that is interesting. If we wanted to focus on membership revenue we would go the subscription route instead and not offer lifetime memberships for a one time payment. If we are very lucky the paid memberships will almost cover the server costs. It will never do much more than pay the base bill.
The reason we need a paid membership model is because it allows the more serious voices better access to promoting their content. We think that by limiting the noise that free access to markets often create, we create a higher quality offering.
Mike: Anything you would like to add?:
Lars: We would love to see you back at DNForum.com or come for your first visit. In the upcoming weeks and months we will be; fixing old stuff that was broke or missing, sprucing up the design to create a fresh feel, introducing a number of new partnerships and benefits for our paid members and down the line also introducing new functionalities to our board. To make it happen we need all the help we can get and hope you will be a part of it.