Archive for February, 2007

iREIT Loads Up on “Typos” of Disney, Misspells Dyslexia

Internet REIT, the domain-name giant backed by large private-equity players, has stopped displaying ads on more than 200 domains that are “typos” of major brands following two news reports over the weekend on this blog. But it is still running pay-per-click ads on many other sites that are typographical variations of large American companies. Among them: The Walt Disney Co. A list of more than 60 iREIT-owned Disney-related domains is posted below.

The Houston-based company owns and runs ads on scores of typos of generic words, too, in addition to those that raise potential legal risks. One of its generic typos happens to be dislexsia.com, a misspelling of dyslexia, the learning disorder. Ironically, one of iREIT’s founders, Marc Ostrofsky, a domain-industry legend who sits on the company’s board, has battled dyslexia, according to this 1999 article in the Houston Business Journal (see clarification below).

iREIT’s financial backers include Maveron, co-founded by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz and former investment banker Dan Levitan. In an article last year in the Puget Sound Business Journal, Levitan, a member of iREIT’s board, expressed his enthusiasm for the domain market, saying: “Step one in the development of this industry was the realization of the value of the traffic and the aggregation of names and portfolios.” The second step: Creating “a relevance, so instead of just landing on these pages, there’s some compelling reason to stay and perhaps come back.” I’m seeking an interview with Levitan and Schultz to see if they’ll discuss iREIT’s ownership of thousands of typos of major brands, including Starbucks.

iREIT CEO Bob Martin and President and Chief Operating Officer Craig Snyder told me in a joint interview over the weekend that the company still has a lot of work to do to figure out how to effectively identify and remove “legally sensitive” domains. The company has owned many of its typos for months. Said Martin: “We are confident that in a short time we’ll have a good handle on these issues. I’ll never say we’re going to be 100 percent perfect.” In a January email interview, Martin said: “We take a very strict policy against holding vice or potentially legally sensitive assets in our portfolio.”

Here are some of the Disney-related domains it has purchased:

DISNEYKIDSCHANNEL.COM
DISNEYLAND-ORLANDO.COM
DISNEYLANDC.COM
DISNEYLANDDAYSINN.COM
DISNEYLANDJOB.COM
DISNEYLANDTHEAMPARK.COM
DISNEYLANDTOKYO.COM
DISNEYLANG.COM
DISNEYLANT.COM
DISNEYLATIDO.COM
DISNEYLATINNNO.COM
DISNEYLATINOJUEGOS.COM
DISNEYLATINOO.COM
DISNEYLINE.COM
DISNEYMANIA4.COM
DISNEYMANIA6.COM
DISNEYMANIAFOUR.COM
DISNEYMOBLEPHONE.COM
DISNEYMOVIECAR.COM
DISNEYMULAN.COM
DISNEYON.COM
DISNEYONBRAODWAY.COM
DISNEYORLANDORESORTS.COM
DISNEYP.COM
DISNEYPARTIES.COM
DISNEYPIXARMOVIES.COM
DISNEYPLAYTIME.COM
DISNEYPLYHOUSE.COM
DISNEYPRESCHOOLGAMES.COM
DISNEYPRINCESES.COM
DISNEYPRINCESSGAMES.COM
DISNEYPRINCESSS.COM
DISNEYPRINESS.COM
DISNEYPRINSESSEN.COM
DISNEYSPRINCESS.COM
DISNEYSTINKERBELL.COM
DISNEYSTOOR.COM
DISNEYSTRORE.COM
DISNEYSUMMERGAMES.COM
DISNEYTHANNEL.COM
DISNEYTHEMEPARK.COM
DISNEYTORE.COM
DISNEYVIDEOGAME.COM
DISNEYW.COM
DISNEYWORLDGAMES.COM
DISNEYWORLDINFLORIDA.COM
DISNIECHANNL.COM
DISNIECHANNLE.COM
DISNIEYCHANALE.COM
DISNIYGAMES.COM
DISNNECHANNEL.COM
DISNNEYCHANELGAMES.COM
DISNNEYSTORE.COM
DISNNYCANEL.COM
DISNRYCHANNL.COM
DISNSEYGAMES.COM
DISNYAND.COM
DISNYCANLEL.COM
DISNYCHAENL.COM
DISNYCHANEEL.COM
DISNYCHANLEL.COM
DISNYCHANNELGO.COM
DISNYCHEANEL.COM
DISNYCHEANL.COM
DISNYEME.COM
DISNYPRINCESS.COM

Clarification: This entry originally said Marc Ostrofsky has battled dyslexia. Ostrofsky had dyslexia only while a young boy.

iREIT Owns Yahoo “Typos,” Too, Among Many Others

Following up to my post earlier today, here is a partial sample of iREIT-owned domains that are typographical variations on corporate names and brands. I have neither the space nor the time to list all the addresses. The list below is roughly 200 150 domains, but they number in the thousands. iREIT’s CEO, Bob Martin, and COO, Craig Snyder, told me in an interview today that the company is in the process of implementing a system to identify and remove such names from its portfolio of about 400,000 monikers. Although the company is currently seeking to monetize the domains through paid-search advertising, Snyder told me: “We don’t put any long-term value on these.”

ABECROMBEANDFITCH.COM
ABERACOMBIEANDFITCH.COM
ABERACROMBIEANDFITCH.COM
ABERBROMBIE.COM
ABERBROMBIEANDFITCH.COM
ABERCHROMBE.COM
ABERCOMBEKIDS.COM
ABERCOMBIAANDFITCH.COM
ABERCOMBIEANDFICH.COM
ABERCORMIBE.COM
ABERCRAMBI.COM
ABERCROBIEANDFITCHCO.COM
ABERCROBRIE.COM
ABERCROMBIEABDFITCH.COM
ABERCROMBIEANDFICTCH.COM
ABERCROMBIEANDFITC.COM
ABERCROMBIEANDFITCHC.COM
ABERCROMBIEANDFITCHMODELS.COM
ABERCROMBIEANDFITCHOUTLET.COM
ABERCROMBIEANDFITSH.COM
ABERCROMBIEANDKIDS.COM
ABERCROMBIEKDIS.COM
ABERCROMBIEKIDES.COM
ABERCROMBITANDFITCH.COM
ABERCROMCIEANDFITCH.COM
ABERCRONBIEANDFINCH.COM
ABRACROMBIANDFITCH.COM
ABROCOMBIEFITCH.COM
ABROCROMBIANDFITCH.COM
AAPPLEBEES.COM
ANHAUSER-BUSCH.COM
ANHEAUSER-BUSCH.COM
LANDSLEND.COM
LEANSCRAFTERS.COM
24HOUTFITNESS.COM
24HOURFITNEES.COM
UNITEDAIRALINES.COM
URBANOUTFITTERES.COM
URBANOUTIFTTERS.COM
VERITZON.COM
VERIVZONWIRELESS.COM
VERIZIONWIRELESSARENA.COM
VERIZIONWIRELESSS.COM
VERIZIONWIRELSESS.COM
VERIZIONWIRRLESS.COM
VERIZNE.COM
VERIZOCWIRELESS.COM
VERIZOLN.COM
VERIZOMWIRELSS.COM
VERIZON.WS
VERIZON17.COM
VERIZONA.COM
VERIZONANDWIRELESS.COM
VERIZONAWIRELESS.COM
VERIZONBILLPAYMENT.COM
VERIZONBLUE.COM
VERIZONBUSUNESS.COM
VERIZONCELLS.COM
VERIZONCELLULER.COM
VERIZONCENTRA.COM
VERIZONDR.COM
VERIZONDSLSTARTPAGE.COM
VERIZONEASYPAY.COM
VERIZONENCORE.COM
VERIZONETONES.COM
VERIZONEWIRELESSREBATES.COM
VERIZONGAMES.NET
VERIZONGWIRELESS.COM
VERIZONHWIRELESS.COM
VERIZONIRELES.COM
VERIZONLOGIN.NET
VERIZONLONLINE.COM
VERIZONLOOKUP.COM
VERIZONMAI.COM
VERIZONMERITS.COM
VERIZONONLINEDSL.NET
VERIZONONLINEWIRELESS.COM
VERIZONORDERSTATUS.COM
VERIZONPHONEMART.COM
VERIZONPIZ.COM
VERIZONRIGNTONES.COM
VERIZONRINGBACTONES.COM
VERIZONRWIRELESS.COM
VERIZONSMARTPAGES.COM
VERIZONSPEEDTEST.COM
VERIZONSPENDINGPREE.COM
VERIZONTRANSPORT.COM
VERIZONVIEW.COM
VERIZONWEARLESS.COM
VERIZONWERILESS.COM
VERIZONWHITEPAGE.COM
VERIZONWIESLESS.COM
VERIZONWIIRLESS.COM
VERIZONWIRE4LESS.COM
VERIZONWIRELAESS.COM
VERIZONWIRELERS.COM
VERIZONWIRELESS-MERITS.COM
VERIZONWIRELESSDISCOUNTS.COM
VERIZONWIRELESSGAMES.COM
VERIZONWIRELESSONLINESTORE.COM
VERIZONWIRELESSPAYASYOUGO.COM
VERIZONWIRELESSPIC.COM
VERIZONWIRELESSREABATES.COM
VERIZONWIRELESSRYL.COM
VERIZONWIRELESSTEXTMESSAGE.COM
VERIZONWIRELESSX.COM
VERIZONWIRELISE.COM
VERIZONWIRELOSS.COM
VERIZONWIRERESS.COM
VERIZONWIRLESESS.COM
VERIZONWIROLESS.COM
VERIZONWRIELESS.COM
VERIZONWRILESS.COM
VERIZONXIRELESS.COM
VERIZORWIRELESS.COM
VICTARIASECRET.COM
VICTORIOSECRET.COM
VICTORISSECERTS.COM
YHAHOOGAMES.COM
YUTOUBE.COM
YAHHO-GAMES.COM
YAHHOGAME.COM
YAHHOLAGIANS.COM
YAHHOMESSINGER.COM
YAHHOMUSICVIDEOS.COM
YAHIOO.NET
YAHOO36.COM
YAHOOAGAIN.COM
YAHOOCLICK.COM
YAHOOGALIAN.COM
YAHOOGAMES.NET
YAHOOGILLANS.COM
YAHOOGLOBE.COM
YAHOOHOROSCOP.COM
YAHOOLAGINS.ORG
YAHOOLANCHCAST.COM
YAHOOLGAIN.COM
YAHOOLIGAHS.COM
YAHOOLIGASNS.COM
YAHOOLIGINS.ORG
YAHOOMASAGER.COM
YAHOOMESGER.COM
YAHOOMESSENGER7.COM
YAHOOMUSICAVIDEOS.COM
YAHOOPERNALS.COM
YAHOOPERSOMALS.COM
YAHOOSMILIES.COM
YAHOOTCHAT.COM
MICRORSOFT.COM
MICROSOFTOFFICE2000.COM
MICROSOFTOFFICEASSISTANT.COM
MICROSOFTOFFICONLINE.COM
MICROSOFTOFFISE.COM
MICROSOFTONLINESERVICE.COM
MICROSOFTPICS.COM
MICROSOFTPOWEREPOINT.COM
MICROSOFTPOWERPOINTDOWNLOAD.COM
MICROSOFTPROFESSIONAL.COM
MICROSOFTSERVICEPACK.COM
MICROSOFTSUPPLIES.COM
MICROSOFTTRAINSIM.COM
MICROSOFTTRAINSIMULATOR.COM
MICROSOFTWINDOWSCE.NET
MICROSOFTWINDWS.COM
MICROSOFTWORDUPDATE.COM
MICROSOFTXPHOME.COM
MICROSOFWINDOW.COM
MICROSOLFOFFICE.COM
MICROSOSFTUPDATES.COM
MICROSOSP.COM
MICROSOSTWORD.COM
MICROSOTPOWERPOINT.COM
NETFLILX.COM
CITBANKCARD.COM
CITBANKVISA.COM
CITIABANK.COM
CITIBABANK.COM
CITIBACKONLINE.COM
CITIBANB.COM
CITIBANCKCARDS.COM
CITIBANCKONLINE.COM
CITIBANK-INDIA.COM
CITIBANKBANK.COM
CITIBANKDIVIDENTCARD.COM
CITIBANKFORECLOSURES.COM
CITIBANKHHONORS.COM
CITIBANKI.COM
CITIBANKJ.COM
CITIBANKLONLINE.COM
CITIBANKN.COM
CITIBANKNY.COM
CITIBANKONLINEGUAM.COM
CITIBANKONLINEPAYMENT.COM
CITIBANKONLLINE.COM
CITIBANKONLONE.COM
CITIBANKPAKISTAN.COM
CITIBANKSONLINE.COM

iREIT Owns “Typo” Domain Names Related to Google

Internet REIT, a giant investor in domain names backed by leading private-equity investors, owns more than 30 addresses that are misspellings of Google or its product names, including Google Earth. (Check out all the domains below.)

In many cases, the sites are filled with pay-per-click ads sold by Google, long a search-ad partner of Houston-based iREIT. In some cases, Google is advertising on the sites. In at least one case, an iREIT-owned Google typo is for sale. And iREIT’s Google typos are not an anomaly — iREIT owns typographical variations of many other famous corporate brands ranging from beer giant Anheuser-Busch to phone giant Verizon, which I’ll discuss in a subsequent entry.

Googiearth

iREIT’s financial backers include Maveron LLC, a Seattle venture-capital firm co-founded by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz; Perot Investments, a Dallas investment company founded by billionaire and former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot; and Jacobson Family Investments, the investment vehicle of a wealthy New York Family. (UPDATE on 2/18: iREIT owns these Starbucks variants: ASTARBUCKS.COM, STARBUCKCOFFEEGEAR.COM, STARBUCKDS.COM, STARBUCKSCOFEE.COM, STARBUCKSEMPLOYMENT.COM and STARBURCKS.COM)

Bob Martin, the chief executive of iREIT, said in a telephone interview today that the company has been taking steps to remove “legally sensitive” domains from its portfolio, having acquired many through acquisitions of smaller investors’ portfolios. However, he said, it is still working on a system to identify and divest such names. “We know that typos of domains that are potentially legally sensitive are not something that have lasting value,” he said. Martin added, “Typos are definitely a challenge for the industry.”

Craig Snyder, the chief operating officer of iREIT, who joined Martin on the interview, said the company needs to develop internal tools to identify and eliminate certain domains. He said it also plans to expand a relationship with a partner that recently helped it purge a significant number of potentially problematic domains.

(I told Martin and Snyder that I downloaded a list of names sitting on iREIT computer servers from DomainTools. It was easy to do a “search and find” in a Notepad file and identify the Google typos and others. I then did a Whois search on each domain to verify that it was indeed registered by iREIT. The Whois records confirmed that many of the names have been owned by iREIT for months, so it has had time to identify potentially problematic names.)

iREIT’s actions raise serious questions about how dedicated top industry players are to reshaping the image of the domain industry. The domain market is controversial and little-understood. For years it has received a bad rap because many of its players have engaged in “cyber-squatting,” acquiring names associated with corporations and seeking to profit from them. In recent years, the image has begun to improve as the media has focused attention on the success of the many domain investors who acquire only generic words and steadfastly avoid legal trouble.

But despite the efforts of the sector’s “white hats,” the industry continues to be plagued by individuals and companies that buy typographical variations of famous brands (some misspelled, some not), which can but does not always amount to trademark infringement. A key reason they do it: misspellings of company names are lucrative, and some speculators can’t hold back. I spoke recently to a marketer who says she gets a lot of traffic, which converts pretty well, from the misspelling of the domain name of a major girls magazine. But she and other marketers are increasingly concerned about poorly converting traffic from typos or correctly spelled variations of corporate names. For more on the controversy surrounding poorly converting traffic from parked pages, check out this rant.

Let me add: parked domain traffic is of mixed quality. Some of it is very good, particularly on short, generic domains like CNET’s Kids.com, which has converted very well for one particular marketer I know. Some parked domain traffic, however, is “garbage,” in the words of another marketer I spoke to. Josh Meyers, who runs Yahoo’s Domain Match advertising program, told me that, overall, parked domain traffic converts similarly to PPC ads on Yahoo.com and Google.com.

The fact that iREIT owns misspellings of Google and its services is at once humorous and bizarre, particularly given that Google is its search-ad partner. Google is a huge force in the domain channel. Along with Yahoo, it syndicates ads on parked pages that amount to $600 million to $1 billion in annual advertising spending by marketers, according to various analyst estimates. Representatives of Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.

The Google-related domains are:

GOOGALMAPS.COM
GOOGIEARTH.COM
GOOGLB.COM
GOOGLDEARTH.COM
GOOGLE-AERTH.COM
GOOGLE-FROOGLE.COM
GOOGLEAERHT.COM
GOOGLEDEARTH.COM
GOOGLEEARDH.COM
GOOGLEEARGH.COM
GOOGLEEARTH4BETA.COM
GOOGLEEARTHC.COM
GOOGLEEARTHCAM.COM
GOOGLEEARTHIMAGE.COM
GOOGLEEARTHJ.COM
GOOGLEEARTHR.COM
GOOGLEEARTHSETUP.COM
GOOGLEEARTHWIN.COM
GOOGLEEARTHY.COM
GOOGLEEARTK.COM
GOOGLEEARTS.COM
GOOGLEEEART.COM
GOOGLEGLOBALEARTH.COM
GOOGLEGLOBEL.COM
GOOGLEHEAR.COM
GOOGLEHEARHT.COM
GOOGLEHERHT.COM
GOOGLESA.COM
GOOGLESL.COM
GOOGLESPR.COM
GOOGLIEEARTH.COM
GOOGLRMAPS.COM

Arrington: Drop Some Web 2.0 On The Domain Space

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch has called for a Web 2.0-style company to start handling domain registrations, according to the new DomainTools blog. DomainTools, run by domain guru Jay Westerdal, says Arrington told the crowd at the recent DomainFest trade show in L.A. that he’s a Go Daddy customer and gets so frustrated using the site that he “wants to throw his laptop out the window.” It’s time for a user-friendly service to start handling registrations, he said. (Web 2.0 generally refers to the new wave of Internet companies capitalizing on social networking, user-driven content and other forms of information-sharing online.)

Marchex To Add Content to More Than 100,000 Sites

Marchex, the Nasdaq-traded online marketing company that owns more than 220,000 domain names, says it will distribute content generated by Web users and professionals on more than 100,000 of its domains by the end of the second quarter.

Seattle-based Marchex is leveraging content from its Open List search and content engine. The company already has built content on many sites that previously contained only pay-per-click advertising listings. Those sites include Remodeling.com, BostonMortgage.com, Locksmiths.com and SeattleInsurance.com, the company said in a news release last week.

The expansion means that many more of Marchex’s sites, which focus on topics ranging from restaurants to hotels to financial services, will feature user reviews, third-party reviews, local directories and maps. The company said the expansion will beef up Marchex’s sites in verticals such as autos, careers and professional services.

Marchex acquired three-year-old Open List for $13 million in cash and stock last year. The unit is critical to Marchex’s efforts to turn its domains into information portals that generate repeat visits from Web users. The company displays ads on its sites sold by Yahoo, and it sells ads directly to merchants. “We’re really focused on taking these Web sites and really building them into destinations,” John Keister, Marchex’s president, said at Citigroup’s entertainment and media conference in Las Vegas last month. “And that’s something that a lot of folks in this specific space … have not focused on or have not done a very good job of.”

Marchex also said last week that it was launching Open View, a proprietary technology that can automatically distill information about hotels, restaurants and other businesses from multiple sources into “distinct” and “meaningful” summaries. The technology is indicative of the rapid change occurring in online media, whereby computers are used to efficiently distribute content created by human beings. The goal is to give users relevant information in real time, and, of course, to get them to click on highly targeted ads. Web users will be coming across more and more of such sites in the next few years.

Marchex has deployed the technology at OpenList.com, where users can search for local hotels, restaurants and attractions, as well as at its Delis.com and NewYorkDining.com. “A key goal of Open List is to drive high-quality content in an automated fashion,” Matthew Berk, Marchex’s lead search architect, said in a statement. “The Open View technology is an example of the power of the Open List platform to aggregate and make sense of a wide variety of local content.”

In its most recent financial report, Marchex said its proprietary traffic — traffic from the domains it owns — accounted for $12.3 million, or 38 percent, of its $32.3 million in revenue in the third quarter ended Sept. 30. Marchex reported a net loss of $411,000, compared with net income of $27,000 a year earlier, though revenue rose 26 percent.

Marchex was founded in 2003 and went public in the spring of 2004. Its shares are up about 1.5 percent today to $12.60. The shares are trading about 40 percent higher than their opening-day close three years ago but about 50 percent off their peak of $26.40 on Dec. 19, 2005, according to data from Yahoo Finance.

NetShops.com Offers a Twist on Domain Plays

Been hunting for a hammock, coat rack or grandfather clock online lately? Then perhaps you stumbled onto one of the Web sites owned by NetShops.com, a venture-funded e-commerce startup that has been snapping up generic domain names and building stores on them. Its 100-plus sites include Hammocks.com, CoatRacks.com, GrandfatherClocks.com, DayBeds.com, Pans.com and Telescopes.com. Sources tell me the company has been one of the most aggressive in recent months in seeking to acquire domains owned by individual investors.

Omaha, Neb.-based NetShops’ business model contrasts with most others in the direct-navigation market. Most domain aggregators have fashioned themselves as new media ventures and rely on revenue from pay-per-click advertisements. NetShops is backed by Insight Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital (an early investor in Google). Though it’s a startup, it’s been around for more than five years. It was known until the spring of 2005 as Niche Commerce. The company started out with one site, Hammocks.com, and moved into multiple storefronts in 2002, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Last year, it was ranked the nation’s 13th-fastest-growing private company by Inc. magazine. Annual revenue topped $62 million in 2005.

NetShops’ sites, it should be noted, rank high in organic search results, so they’re not dependent on type-in traffic, though undoubtedly they get plenty of it. The company was mentioned in a recent article on the domain industry by Constance Loizos of the San Jose Mercury News. In the article, Jeff Horing of Insight Venture Partners said, “As of of late 2004, it wasn’t obvious to us that you could turn domains into a real business, but that’s definitely proving to be the case.” He said he’s still kicking himself for passing up on an opportunity to invest in another domain venture.

Demand Media, a startup run by former MySpace.com Chairman Richard Rosenblatt, who’s also mentioned in the Mercury News article, has been doing some innovative things with domains that move beyond a traditional online-media approach. For instance, the company created Deals.com, an online community whose members post links to discounts, coupons and bargains offered for products on the Web. The deals are ranked in the order of how many favorable votes they receive from the community. Deals.com is modeled in part after Digg.com, a popular news Web site in which members submit links to articles and blog entries.