Renowned for his insights and expertise in the domain name industry, Ron Jackson has long been a respected figure among industry professionals. As the founder and editor of DNJournal.com, Jackson has made an indelible impact on the industry, continuously offering up-to-date information on domain sales and providing a platform for professionals to learn and connect. His work extends beyond DNJournal, as he also serves as the President of Internet Edge, Inc., a web publishing company he founded back in 2000. This multifaceted involvement in the industry truly sets him apart.
Today, I have the immense pleasure of hosting Ron Jackson on Sullysblog.com. Known for his candor and knowledge, Jackson’s appearance promises an engaging and informative discussion that will delve into his unique buy-it-now pricing strategy, the current market trends he’s observing, and the fascinating journey behind his accomplishment-laden career. Whether you’re a seasoned domain professional or a newcomer eager to learn, this interview will surely provide valuable insights from one of the industry’s leading figures.
Mike: How did you first get involved in the domain name industry?
Ron: My previous business, a chain of record & CD stores, folded in 2000 after Napster and the arrival of CD burners killed almost every record store in America. Customers could buy one disc and copy it for all of their friends or go online and download a lot of it for free.
I knew that whatever I did next would have to be centered on the Internet because the web was disrupting businesses in almost every field. It was clear that was where the best opportunities were going to be in the decades ahead. At the time I owned one domain name, registered in 1997, which was the name of the business, MusicParadise.com. When I closed the last store, I started thinking about what I might be interested in doing next and registered a few names related to fields that came to mind. In the course, of looking for domains I somehow stumbled upon DNForum.com where these people were talking about buying and selling domain names alone. This was a revelation to me. I assumed the only value in a domain would be the need to have one to build your website on. I assumed any value would come from what was created on the domain, not the domain itself. Have been a journalist (newspaper, radio and TV) for 20 years before opening the record stores) and discovering that words, in the form of domain names, have intrinsic value (sometimes to an astounding degree), I thought, ”Wow! If there was ever a business made for me, this is it!”
Mike: Can you tell us about the origin story of DNJournal?
Ron: After joining DNForum in 2002, I was hungry to learn more about how the business worked and what made specific domains valuable. The veterans of the game weren’t eager to share their knowledge at that time because they knew they would be creating competition for the best domain names. So, I started looking around for other resources. In the other fields I had been in, we had trade magazines that served that purpose. In broadcasting, we had Broadcasting Magazine, in the music retail business we had Billboard Magazine. I domain investing I could find nothing back then. So, I thought – I spent most of my life as a professional journalist, and with a $10 domain name and a $10 a month hosting account, I could create a domain trade magazine myself and the Internet would give me a global audience for it. So, I took that idea and ran with it, launching DNJournal.com on New Year’s Day 2003. I am stunned that more than 20 years have passed since then, but grateful I was able to find this industry and spend those two decades of phenomenal growth in it.
Mike: Over the years, how have you seen the domain name industry evolve?
Ron: The primary thing has been corporatization and consolidation. As word spread about the revenue opportunities with domains spread, bigger companies got involved and the big fish started swallowing the smaller fish. The competition became tougher but only the strong survived, so that forced a lot of people and companies to improve what their processes to stay ahead of the game. Fortunately, the opportunity was so large there has been room for many people to thrive and that is still the case today. It is a long way from the solo gunslinger days of our original version of the Wild West though!
Mike: What has been the most surprising trend or development in the industry, in your opinion?
Ron: I think the biggest surprise is that, after all of these years, the domain industry is still a relatively unknown player on the mainstream business stage. The importance of having a good domain name is now a critical factor in getting a business off the ground. It is an almost universal need in the global business world – and not just a need – an extraordinarily valuable asset that in some cases ends up the MOST valuable asset a company has. Domain names should be getting talked about regularly in the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, etc. We are seeing more important corporations coming to this realization but it has become a surprisingly slow process.
Mike: Having such vast experience tracking and reporting on domain sales, how do you approach the valuation of domain names?
Like most newcomers, it took me a year or two to develop a good understanding of what made various domain names valuable. You have to look at each one and think “Would this name be of commercial value to a significant number of businesses” (or be a name that represents something positive for individuals or organizations that want to attract an audience and go good in the world on a non-profit basis). If it doesn’t meet a basic standard like this, the odds are it won’t have much resale value. Over time, when you study sales results patterns emerge with respect to what kinds of names sell at various price levels (including the value differences from one TLD to another).
Mike: What are some common mistakes you see new domain investors making?
Ron: I think #1 has always been the one I made. You stumble upon the business and think, “Oh, this looks easy enough!” It’s not – but you don’t know that and start registering or buying all manner of fool’s gold. Before you spend (and waste) any significant money, you should spend significant time learning the basics and there is a lot to learn. Today there are even formal training programs that are worth signing up for if you are serious about the business like the DNAcademy that Michael Cyger established that is now owned and operated by GoDaddy.
Mike: What are some of your favorite tools or resources for domain investors?
Ron: Anything that gives you historical pricing information (DNJournal and NameBio are the most well-known examples) and any site that gives you advice from people who have been there and done that. Fortunately, there a ton of those today, great blogs, podcasts, X.com feeds, Clubhouse groups, etc. Then there are the conferences with the expert panels to learn from. The educational environment with respect to domains is so much richer today than when I started.
Mike: How important do you think domain conferences are for networking and learning?
Ron: Invaluable. You can obviously learn from the panel discussions, fireside chats, presentations, and talking with the people you meet at the shows. Most, including me, will tell you that networking is even more important. Most of the important business relationships and personal friendships in my life have been made at conferences. People like to do business with people they know and trust and the best way to do that, by far, is to meet them in person and get to know them. If you dive in and take advantage of the opportunity you have from being there, the dividends will far outweigh the cost of going.
Mike: What are your predictions for the domain name industry over the next five years?
Ron: We’ve seen a tremendous amount of change in the industry over the past 20 years. One of the biggest was the produced by the Covid pandemic arriving in early 2020 and forcing businesses all over the world to build or strengthen their online presence. While the pandemic has receded I have not seen that surge slow down with a business creation boom still going strong 3 years later. I don’t see as many blockbuster sales, partially because I think fewer are being reported by the high buyers who prefer confidentiality, but the action, particularly in the four and five-figure price ranges where the SMBs reside, has been steady as a rock. I’ve personally sold an average of one domain to an end user a week for the past 3 years and the vast majority of those have been at the full “Buy It Now” asking price with no negotiations involved. Looking five years out – anything could happen but I think the business world learned a lesson from Covid that they won’t soon forget – you MUST have a solid online presence to ensure you can do business regardless of what happens in the physical world, because of that. I remain optimistic about the domain business going forward.
Mike: How do you manage to stay updated with all the changes and trends in the industry?
Ron: Well, I read DNJournal, of course! Many others too. A lot of news is sent directly to me as you would expect but I also take advantage of the resources I cited earlier. Domaining.com provides a nice constantly updated list of headlines from most of the popular blogs so that is very helpful too. The banquet of domain information is literally overflowing and it is all out there for everyone to enjoy and learn from. That’s one of the things that make this one of the great times to get into this industry! Best of luck to all!