I’ve Learned From the TRAFFIC Auction and I Wasn’t Even There

Oct 19 2011

In hindsight it seems a little silly. Michael Berkens even said itI think the lack of online bidding hurt the overall sales figures“.   Yesterday’s auction never had a chance.  Our domains’ value is built on people using the Internet to visit them.  The scope and the range of the Internet is what makes them so valuable.  The ability of billions of people to easily access our assets from anywhere in the world.  But then we hold a closed door auction and say, “If you are a real player you’ll be here and bid on these names”

I fell for it.  I had been talked into believing that I wasn’t a real domainer because I wasn’t at the TRAFFIC auction. I felt guilty not being there and wanted to see what all the hype was about. I thought for sure there would be enough money in person at the show to drive a good auction.  There wasn’t.  For all the fraud and problems involved with having an online auction there is also the positive of giving everyone a chance to join in.   The same security that the Net gives to the fraudsters is the security that lets people sit at home and spend big money on domains. Yes I realize people could easily have easily called in so maybe my whole idea is thrown out the window and the quality of the names or the pricing was wrong.  I don’t have the answer, but I learned yesterday that even the King of Domains doesn’t either.  And for some reason that makes me feel better. Not because bringing people down makes me feel better.  It’s because it shows that everyone has challenges that take several tries to overcome.  Even Rick Schwartz.  He did everything possible to have a good auction.  It wasn’t for lack of knowledge, planning, or hard work.  He did it all right.  Yet our industry has had yet another auctions with less than success.

What has been successful is the conference itself. Everyone I’ve talked to has said it’s been great. Bad weather aside,  the sessions have been entertaining and informative and overall first class.  It’s as professionally run and organized as any conference in the world.  Take out the auction and the bad luck of bad weather and there aren’t any problems.  So it’s a shame that any negative light has to be shined.  BUT when someone tells you they are going to amaze then they better amaze.

Speaking of amazing.  These statements were amazing

The main buzz at the show is to distinguish ourselves between professional domainsers that take this business  seriously and all the clowns and time wasters that don’t. PERIOD! So a $600 price point allows those that want to JOIN pros and become PROS to access the program.

The final roll out will be in late December. We will be adding all types of goodies to what is already a powerful way for PROFESSIONAL domainers to stay in touch, buy and sell domains and interact in ways they were not able to do before.

Here’s another thing I learned at TRAFFIC yesterday.  I’ve met many of the people in this industry and $600 isn’t going to weed out the unprofessional.  As a matter of fact some of the scum in our industry have plenty of money.  While I’m not saying that the app is not a great app nor am I saying that the $600 isn’t well worth the price.  What I’m saying is that most of our industry makes money by selling stuff to others in our industry.  I get tired of people saying if I don’t pay my memberships to this I am not a real domainer.  You don’t need to be listed on a website or have access to the pros to be successful.  If you achieve success those things they will be given to you.  Successful people don’t pay others.  They pay you.

So kudos to Rick and everyone that put on the show.  They did what they thought was necessary to put on a good conference.  I think the only flaw of the entire production was assuming that a show catering to the top of the industry is the way to go.  I think this is the wrong approach. The enthusiasm that we see on a daily basis is built on the average domain investor dreaming of becoming those top domainers.  We make money by selling that dream.  By excluding them and pricing them out of a conference you don’t make it more prestigious, you are taking the fire and passion away.  I think this is why DomainFest continues to be a success.  They do a good job making big and small feel welcome.  TRAFFIC on the other hand promotes exclusivity.  While there is nothing wrong with branding something as “the best of the best”, I think the better strategy for our industry is promoting the blending of types of domainers. The success of “dining with a celebrity domainer” at DomainFest was defining.  The lunches and breakfasts filled up quickly. People absolutely loved having dinner with Berkens and Frank.  A few people were even giddy.  Small and big domainers were encouraged to talk and share and it worked.  Our industry is small, a tight circle, and can be intimidating.  The more we can do to encourage more people to attend the better. It doesn’t have to be a charity to the small domain investor, make them pay for the privilege of sharing information.  Just make sure they feel comfortable as they blow their hard earned money.  Make them have the time of their life. Ammar Kubba doesn’t even know it but one of my favorite moments of my first conference was having him take me out to a club on my first night.  He didn’t know me from a hill of beans (and still may not) but I had new respect and support for him and all his companies, just for treating me like the rest of the “big” domainers.

In short, TRAFFIC was a great try with many successes and many opportunities.  I’m sure Rick would welcome any positive recommendations from those that attended and a “kiss my ass” to those that bash after the fact.

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About the author

Outsmarting the Dumb, Outworking the Smart

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  1. Jones

    The people in the room had no intention of paying end user pricing, when most of them had built thousand strong portfolios on reg fees, who is going to part with cash, when they have a vault of domains sitting for sale?

  2. Tony

    2 Things:

    1) You might sound brash and arrogant at times but you are funny, straightforward and enlightening most others. Why your blog wasn’t nominated while F_Factor and N_News were is beyond me (no offense to them intended).

    2) The king wears no clothes. For a guy who calls other people’s domains pigeonsh!t to label others “morons” for correctly thinking the names he put on auction are suspect is a bit hypocritical.

  3. Joe

    TRAFFIC, like any domain conference, is by definition attended by domainers! Most domains had ridiculous reserves on them that looked much more like optimistic end-user prices! Add the lack of online bidding to that and you’ll have the real reason why the auction was so disappointing.

  4. Jeff

    I think the issue with the auction is that live auctions and domains aren’t really that compatible anymore. Rick can tinker with the format, domains chosen, reserves, etc. all he wants and it’s still unlikely to be a big success.

  5. em

    Good points Shane. Why have a closed doors session when the very thing you are selling, or its best quality, is the fact that it can be accessed from anywhere. It looks like Rick put on a great show but it appears that the whole thing was a bit “clubbish”. Maybe a less swanky, clubbish place and internet bidding might be the answer.

  6. trio

    for auction, nobody do it better then http://www.4.cn
    for end users, the Chinese have more money to buy domains

    Look at the current auctions at 4.cn:

    Baobei.com (baby) at $139K with 14 more days to go
    ZY.com at $79K with 13 more days to go
    838.com at $47K with with 13 more days to go

  7. Howard

    Hi Shane

    Thank you for pointing out a few things about T.R.A.F.F.I.C. that unfortunately, do not tell the whole story, but just touch on things third had by someone who, to the best of my knowledge has not attended T.R.A.F.F.I.C. in a long while, if ever.

    There are three points that I believe require some additional comments to get a clearer picture. First is the Auction. Rick felt that there has been something wrong with live domain auctions for some time now. The most obvious problem is technical difficulties due to the online platform or providers which have caused tremendous delays and even cancellations of auctions. By eliminating that factor, he felt that it would create a smoother flow and keep the action going. To some extent, that is exactly what happened. What we didn’t foresee is people who submitted premium domains did not keep their promises to us. We made it clear that if a person or company was submitting a domain with an end-user Reserve, that they had an obligation to bring in end-user bidders to the auction, either live or by phone. There was not one end-user bidder at the auction. We not only knew in advance that those high-end domains would not be sold to domainers, but made it clear to those who submitted them that the domains would not be sold without their active participation in obtaining bidders.

    Second is the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. app. I am not sure who you quoted above, but the purpose of bringing out the app to domainers and the public at large is threefold: 1. to provide additional value to those who attended T.R.A.F.F.I.C. (made retroactive to last year’s attendees), 2. to create an endorsement system similar to LInkedIn’s where folks who know and trust others can endorse them as trustworthy individuals to do business with and feel confident that you are dealing with a reputable person, and 3. to provide a mobile platform to buy and sell domains.

    Third is that T.R.A.F.F.I.C. is somehow “elitist” and caters to the professionals as opposed to those who may dabble in domains, but do not depend upon them for income or investments. Actually, there is some truth in that because we have been told over and over again through the years, that people come to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. to do business with other professionals who are there to learn how to increase their incomes form their investments that they depend upon daily for a living. The fact that continuously amazes me is that our opening price is equal to or less than DomainFest’s pricing, but we have more people register at the higher prices each year than those who take advantage of our discount early-bird pricing. So your comments that DomainFest caters to more segments of the domain population is just not true. In fact, one of our panelists asked the audience how many were attending T.R.A.F.F.I.C. for the first time, and at least 30% raised their hands.

    I know that no matter what I say here, the nay-sayers will not be swayed to buy a ticket and come to the next T.R.A.F.F.I.C., but I wanted YOU to know the real story.

    1. Post author


      Herein lies one of the problems. You have no idea if you’ve ever met me. You have no idea if I’ve ever been to TRAFFIC despite only being one of only 250 at the conference. As opposed to Ron Jackson who reached out with a gracious hand to meet me and welcome me to the conference. He made a new investor feel welcome and gave an honest word that if I ever had any questions he would be glad to see if he could help. He knows I was there because he cared that I was there. I made the same handshake with you and you looked over my right shoulder as if to see if anyone would bail you out of the greeting but that was at TRAFFIC Vegas and that was Rick’s show. But I honestly had no hard feelings at all. You are an important, successful domain investor and I just a newer domain investor that has nothing to offer you but payment to the event, a few smiles, and decent conversation. For some that’s good enough and others it’s not.

      I’ll answer a few of your points. “The app now is in a barebones stage as we rushed to get it out in time for TRAFFIC. Each attendee has received the first full TWO years for free. The App itself is free but the membership fee is $600/year” Rick’s quote. One, I believe it’s illegal to have memberships to go with apps. Read the terms of service. But I do think it’s a good idea. I disagree with the $600 that’s all.

      Two, I may very well be wrong but you used the word “elitist” not me . I do feel it did not cater to the medium to small domain investor as well as DomainFest. That is my opinion and may very well be wrong, as you have stated, but it’s still my opinion. I do agree that to truly make this judgement I needed to attend so for this assessment I am wrong

      As for the end users for the domains. This is the first anyone has said about this. I will say that most auction have both the auctioneers and the sellers working the buyers/end users. If the end users have to bring their own buyers then what’s the purpose of an auction house? They might as well just strike a deal with the end user themselves. I guess you could get a bunch of them in the room and let them duke it out but again, why not just do this privately and avoid the commission?

      In short, don’t use my not being at this actual event to judge my ability to offer advice and to critique the results. I could be as bold as Frager and say it sucked but I did not. I didn’t because I don’t think it did. I thought there were a tremendous amount of positives. But there are also a lot of opportunities. I would have gone if I had the time and would say the same thing I am saying now, just over a drink. That is if you had any clue who I was.

  8. Brad Mugford

    @ Howard

    “What we didn’t foresee is people who submitted premium domains did not keep their promises to us. We made it clear that if a person or company was submitting a domain with an end-user Reserve, that they had an obligation to bring in end-user bidders to the auction, either live or by phone. There was not one end-user bidder at the auction.”

    I fail to understand what TRAFFIC’s role is if you already have interested end users.

    Why would you invite them to attend a conference when you could deal with them directly?


  9. Howard

    @ Shane and Brad

    Apparently you don’t understand the purpose of an auction as opposed to a private sale. A person can negotiate a price for a domain with a potential buyer/end-user, but it is not the same as when you can get 2 or more potential buyers/end-users to bid against each other for a quality premium domain. The price will always go up, not down. So when someone enters a premium domain in any auction and that person knows that the only bidders will be domainers who will price it at a wholesale rather than retail price, it is in the Seller’s best interest to find interested retail buyers (end-users) to bid on the domain.

    I truly apologize if i offended you by not giving you the attention that you deserved. I’m not really great at putting names with faces unless I see and meet person either more than once or under circumstances that would tend to emphasize the name of the person I am meeting for the first time. I welcome you to come to the next T.R.A.F.F.I.C. or even come to South Florida and I would love to get together with you and discuss the issues expressed here and elsewhere.

    1. Post author


      I planned on going for another handshake and talk regardless 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to respond. It means a lot to myself and my partner Chris

  10. Jason Thompson

    Shane, I must commend you not only on this entry but on the replies you have so eloquently written. The irony is Traffic in Las Vegas last year is where I met you for the first time. Although I didn’t formally attend the event I was invited into the auction. I was invited by other domainers who vouched for me. This is what I respect about this industry, there are those of us who think we are above it and there are those of us who try to lift up those that are around us.

    Shane, Morgan, Dewayne, Ron, Oscar, Bruce, Patrick and the list goes on. You know who you guys are. You are the main reason why I attend events in the domaining space. I have learned from all of you!

    1. Post author


      You nailed. Traffic was the best thing I ever did for my domain investing career. It was meeting people like you that is the reasoning.

  11. peter h

    I love the way you think. Definetely a lot of food for thought in your post as well as your reply. Keep up the good work and the constructive criticism.

  12. Phillip K

    What I find interesting that I wasn’t aware of is that the sellers were supposed to do the foot work to bring the end users into the auction. If that is the case … why the high entry fee for their domains. If the domain was good it would sell and TRAFFIC would make it’s commission.

    I would think for the entry fee charged that it would have been TRAFFC organizers that put together a phone bank and sent out emails to potential end user buyers. If I was able to find my own qualified end user buyers why wouldn’t I close my own deals?

    How is it better for me to sit my hard sought end user buyers out in the audience of a domain auction so that there is a risk they may see something other than my domain and buy that instead. I think it should have been up to TRAFFIC to put those end users in the audience. Seems to me that people who sought out and brought in end users to the conference was about helping TRAFFIC … not themselves. imho

  13. Howard


    I look forward to meeting and spending some quality time with you at the next T.R.A.F.F.I.C. (which could be in Las Vegas in May).

  14. steve cheatham

    IMHO I think TRAFFIC auction was a good snap shot of the market. It was well managed. The bidding and the prices seemed about right to me. Yes there were a few names that did not make sense, but that is every auction. Apparently someone thought they made sense.

    Think about it… new TLDs coming out creates uncretainty in the market, the domains lost value last year, recession, market, and again, new TLDs coming out.

    BYW, Rick and Howard are very friendly. But they do not do the greeting. Once the show starts they have their hands on everything assuring a quality and well run conference. Ray Neu was doing it and if he missed you, I am sure it was not personal. Come early next time. It is informal and a small group and you can get to know everybody better.

    I just wish they had more food. They cut back this year with a new format. lol.

  15. Joe Saladino

    Domaining will have its mood swings but is the best investment on earth just about! Mr. Schwartz & Mr Neu are pioneers and leaders in the industry! We need to always remember this and try to raise the bar on our domaining commitment instead of crying like little babies! Thanks Mr. Schwartz & Mr Neu for being awesome examples for everyone! Blessings! In Jesus!

  16. Pingback: Whose job is it to make an auction successful? | Domain Shane

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