Interview with Ed Russell, President & CEO of Namedrive - jan. 2008

Could you present Namedrive? Will we have soon a French version of your website? And will you organize domainers events, like you do for other countries?

NameDrive is a premium domain monetization service. Since our launch in August 2005, we have grown very rapidly, becoming Google's fastest-growing advertising partner of all time. We currently control over 2 million domains on our system of which over 900,000 are actively parked with us. Our growth has been based on innovation, very customisable parking pages, great customer service and high payouts to our customers. We concentrate on domain monetization (via domain parking) but also offer brokerage and sales services (Broker Select and Park&Sell).
We have always offered our services in French but are delighted that our page is now available. We are certainly looking at the possibility of hosting events as we have done in England, Australia, the US and Germany, but our relative lack of penetration in the French market means we would have to look at how best to awaken enough interest in such an event for French domainers. We have previously only held events in very mature markets, so we are obviously very interested in expanding this to smaller markets where we are not so well-known.

 

Are you aware of the fact that French webmasters are strongly opposed to domainers in general and domain parking in particular? How can this be changed?

We are aware that the domain industry in France is still somewhat behind that of other countries in Europe and I think that there are several reasons for this. It seems that Afnic has not done as much as some other European registries to promote the value of domain names in France. As a result, a large number of generic .fr domains were registered by non-French people, leading to resentment for the foreign investors in the .fr domain space. Due to the fact that the importance of domain names was not promoted in France, many French companies missed out on the opportunity of registering their domain. As a result, a very large number of companies found that domain prospectors had registered their trademarks. This coupled with an uneducated public and judges who did not understand the nature of the domain industry led to many court battles for domains, further damaging the image of the industry.
Repairing this image is a hard task. To be honest, I’m not sure there’s any country where the domain parking industry has a particularly good image, but most European countries and the US have web communities who realise that domain parking is a very effective way of monetizing domains before building projects on them. The most important commodity on the Internet is Traffic and, if a domain has traffic on it but is not yet built up into a website, domain parking is the most viable way to monetize that traffic. I personally feel that a parked page showing targeted pages serves the Internet community far better than a “404 – Page not found” or a “This domain is under construction” page. As an end user, I would far prefer to see some targeted advertising for what I am looking for than a page which doesn’t help me complete my search in any way. If a webmaster owns traffic domains but doesn’t park them out of principal, he seems to be shooting himself in the foot as domain parking is a viable way to cover your registration costs and earn money while you are developing your projects, as millions of people do around the globe. I remember once a French friend saying to me that most French people would understand “Domain Parking” as parking your car on the place you grow your wine. Until the market becomes more educated, it will be difficult to improve the image of what exactly domain parking achieves for webmasters and domain owners, while giving value to internet users. US research shows that parked domains lead to some of the best advertising conversions out of any online advertising venue.

There's currently a significant rise in the French domain names market, but this market remains very small compared to the importance of the French language? What would we need to catch up a little bit with the Spanish & German markets?

You mention two interesting markets there as there is a fair gap between the Spanish and German markets. In Europe, I’d say Germany and UK are on a similar level with Spain and France as some of the countries in the following group. This is not just in terms of numbers of domains registered, but also maturity and knowledge of the market. France and the UK has almost exactly the same population, but in the UK, there are six times the number of .co.uk domains registered, according to Nominet and Afnic. However, comparing statistics on http://www.webhosting.info/domains/country_stats/, which shows the number of domain registrants in each country, the number of people in France actually registering domains in France is 2 million compared to 3 million in the UK. So, 2/3 of the number of people registering six times fewer domains. This shows that, while the French market is still fairly vibrant in domain registrations, a lot of that energy is not going into registering .fr names. Spain is a perfect example of how to promote .es effectively. They ran a promotion for some time called “Consigue tu .es” whereby they gave away 200,000 free .es domains in November to people who had the same or similar domains with other TLDs. In addition, the Spanish government is very strongly behind the TLD and offers incentives to large companies to operate from the .es instead of the .com, even threatening to withdraw funding in some cases if they don’t move to the .es version. Obviously, the liberalization of the Spanish market in November 2005 also led to a far larger volume or registrations than previously, even though it is only at 800,000 in Spain. You have to take into account that there are 20 million fewer people in Spain than France. Both of these countries are still a long way behind the UK and Germany, but France’s government and registry will really have to embrace the internet and domains to encourage more exposure and understanding of the market. I still find it phenomenal that there is not one dedicated forum to domains in France. Almost every European country we operate in has dedicated forums. It seems that the community in France is not as supportive of each other as elsewhere in the world. Domainers need to start acting together rather than separately to help advance the French market.

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