Why Fortune 1000 Companies Need to Pay Attention to the New TLDs – With Jennifer Wolfe

Why should Fortune 1000 companies be concerned with the new gTLDs (generic top level domains), and how do the new gTLDs fit into a company’s overall brand strategy?

The world is moving from 23 gTLDs today to 1,400 in the coming years, and IT, Marketing and Legal departments need to understand the situation, speak the same language and make decisions sooner rather than later.

Listen in as we discuss the use of domain names, social media, technology and mobile apps for marketing and brand awareness.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe: Why Fortune 1000 Companies Need to Pay Attention to the New TLDsJennifer Wolfe is the founder, president and managing director of WolfeDomain.com, a digital brand strategy advisory firm that works with Fortune 500 and emerging growth companies to build and protect brands in the next generation of the Internet.

Wolfe is also managing partner of WolfeSBMC, an intellectual property, corporate counsel and innovation law firm she started at the age of 28, and has recently been appointed to the Generic Name Supporting Organization Council of ICANN.

Wolfe co-author the book “Brands Rewired,” as well as the upcoming book “Domain Names Rewired,” and is a Six Sigma Certified Black Belt.

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Jennifer Wolfe Interview Raw (Non-Edited) Transcript

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Here’s your program.

Michael Cyger: Hey everyone. My name is Michael Cyger, and I’m the Publisher of DomainSherpa.com – the website where you come to learn how to become a successful domain name entrepreneur and investor directly from the experts.

ICANN is lifting the lid on the domain name industry’s equivalent of Pandora’s box, releasing what will be a flood of generic top-level domains, or GTLDs. Well, no one knows exactly what effect this will have; one thing is certain. Everything we have known about domains and domaining is about to change. How will it affect the domain name industry? How will it affect your business?

Today we are joined by Jennifer Wolfe, Founder, President, and Managing Director of Wolfe Domain – a Consulting Firm that specializes in digital brand strategy. Jennifer, welcome to the show.

Jennifer Wolfe: Thanks. It is great to be here.

Michael: Jennifer, I saw that you have recently been appointed to ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization Council. Congratulations!

Jennifer: Thank you. Thank you. I am very honored and very excited.

Michael: For those in the audience not familiar with the GNSO, can you describe it briefly? How many people are on the Council? How does it work?

Jennifer: Sure. Absolutely. The GNSO Council is comprised of twenty-three individuals. A portion of those represents registries and registrars, and certain stakeholders within the ICANN community. And then there are certain at-large members, like myself, who represent, at large, the Internet users community. The purpose of the GNSO is to develop and make recommendations to the Board of Directors on policy with regard to domains to top-level domains specifically.

Michael: Got it. And is this a Policy Group that is actually listened to? I am very ignorant of the whole ICANN process. I know my City Government, and we get these Citizen Groups together and they come up with ideas, and they spend a lot of time. And then they provide that input to the City Council and, sometimes, it is just ignored. How does it work with ICANN and the GNSO Council?

Jennifer: Sure. It is very similar in a lot of ways. ICANN is a Non-for-Profit Corporation, but it really functions as a Global Stakeholder Group. It is a bottom-up Organization intended to listen to the stakeholders of the Internet and then try to set policy that serves the greater good. That is really the goal. But it is like any other political animal. There are politics being played. There are people who are listened to and people who are not listened to. I think, certainly, the GNSO does drive policy that ICANN’s Board follows, but the Board of Directors ultimately has the decision making authority on the specific policies that are set forth. But there is a really smart group of people working on the GNSO, and looking out for all of these stakeholder interests to try to ensure that the Internet is expanding and evolving as it should and serving the needs of Internet users all over the world.

Michael: That makes sense. And so, in my local town, if I want to volunteer in one of the local Councils, I pretty much volunteer my time. I drive myself. It is a lot that I am providing if I were to do that. Is it the same for people on the Council? Do you have to travel on your own dime to ICANN meetings, for the GNSO Councils, and take time away from work in order to provide your input to the Council?

Jennifer: Sure. It is absolutely a volunteer position. So it is people who have an interest in serving the ICANN community and the Internet community at large. ICANN does provide some support with regard to travel because the meetings do occur all over the world three times a year, but it is a strictly volunteer role. I, as the other Council members, do have to make the decision that I am going to take time away from the work that makes my living and that furthers my career to dedicate some time to serving.

Michael: Sure. Yeah. And not only time away from your work and time away from billable hours, or working for clients, or what have you, but time away from your family, and time away from your home, and all the other things involved. Well, thank you for doing that, Jennifer. And you have not actually started the position from what I understand. You start October 19th. Is that correct?

Jennifer: That is correct. I was just appointed and my term will start at the conclusion of the upcoming ICANN meeting in October.

Michael: Excellent. And so, you have not actually been in it, but it has got to be pretty exciting. Do you feel like you have an active role in Internet history, providing that input that might actually change the way the Internet runs?

Jennifer: Absolutely. And that is what really attracted me to the opportunity to serve; is that I feel like it really has a meaningful impact and that, with the experiences that I have that I think are unique in a lot of ways, I can bring something very valuable to the ICANN community. I think it is also important they look for diversity. There are not a lot of women involved, so I am very happy to be one of those women who are serving the ICANN community.

Michael: Great. All right. So, I think I understand how the responsibility works; and it is a very cool opportunity, and I wish you the best of luck in changing the policies for the better. But let’s chat about Wolfe Domain – your Advisory Consulting Business. And I should point out that your website is WolfeDomain.com.

Jennifer: That is correct.

Michael: When was WolfeDomain.com launched, and when did you first start offering your advisory service?

Jennifer: Sure. We actually started the company this year. In the middle part of this year. We spun it out of the Law Firm that I am the Managing Partner of. I have a number of other partners in our Law Firm that is located out in Spokane, Washington, Sin City, Ohio, and New York City. And that is an Intellectual Property Law Firm. And that is part of how we became involved with the GTLD initiative, which is really advising clients on protecting their brand and understanding whether they should or should not move into the space. As we started working with clients, it became very clear to me that a new industry was really going to evolve and emerge out of this because the GTLD landscape it very complex, and it directly intersects a number of stakeholder groups, then organizations from the legal departments to the digital, the marketing department, the IT departments; and I immediately saw that companies were going to struggle with how do they cross over all of these different sectors within their company and develop a cohesive strategy. So, about the middle part of this year, we decided this is a standalone company; it is not just an add-on to a Law Firm, and so we spun it out and formed a new entity that is in Cincinnati, Ohio and New York City right now.

Michael: Okay. So you were finding that clients were coming to you and saying, “We’ve got this issue”. And you understand the term silo in Corporate America where you have got IT here, and you have got marketing here, and you have got legal here, and nobody seems to talk to each other unless there is some major issue. So you decided, instead of being just a legal service, you were going to offer consulting services across the entire organization to help them figure out their GTLD strategy.

Jennifer: Absolutely. And that is really where I think we have some unique specialties; is that we understand how to cross over those bridges. And it does take some communication skills to understand that you talk to the IT department in a different way than you talk to the law department in a completely different way than you talk to the marketing department. But you have to bring them all in a room at some point in time so that decisions can be made, and particularly in a GTLD environment. There is a lot of money at stake in terms of just investing and acquiring. Certainly in defensive strategies now that we are going to move to a world of fourteen hundred top-level domains instead of twenty-three. That changes everything. And all of these different stakeholders within the organization need to understand what is happening and then somebody has to bring it together into some sort of ROI for them.

Michael: Yeah, definitely. All right. So, how do you describe Wolfe Domain to somebody unfamiliar with your company that maybe works in Corporate America?

Jennifer: To somebody just in Corporate America, the first thing is we have to explain what the GTLDs are, and that the Internet is about to undergo a major paradigm shift. Once I get their attention and am able to briefly describe how the Internet is going to change and how it really will impact their entire digital strategy, which leads to all of these other things we have just discussed in marketing, and IT, and legal, then they are very interested in what can we do and how can we help them. But the first step that I am finding right now is we are really still in a phase of education. We have briefings that we have prepared; and my first step is always: “I need to brief your C-Suite. I need the very top-level people to understand the magnitude of what is about to happen so that we can get the resources we need to do the work.”

Michael: Yeah. So, just before we hit the record button on the interview, we talked briefly about Six Sigma – a process improvement methodology used throughout Corporate America that originally started in manufacturing environments and then migrated to transactional environments and service environments; and how you were actually a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt, which means that you understand that everything in business is done through process. And I remember when I was at GE in the mid-90s and Jack Welsch, named one of the greatest business managers of the century, was implementing Six Sigma across the entire GE Business – hundred of thousands of employees -, and changing the culture of the organization. I remember how important it was to go directly to the C-Suite, make sure that everybody reporting into the CEO was all on the same game plan with the same understanding about how things were going to change, and was bought into it. So, when you say that you need to go to the C-Suite to make sure that there is buy-in, and understanding, and a game plan, it makes perfect sense; and I think a lot of people do not necessarily think in those terms. They think: “Well, let me talk to the IT department. Let me talk to the marketing department.”

Jennifer: Right. No, that is absolutely right. And again, I think with the changes that are coming, you really do have to involve these different groups within the company. It cannot just be done in one department. If it does, it is going to fail.

Michael: Okay. So let’s talk about digital strategy because you have mentioned that a couple of times. What does digital strategy mean?

Jennifer: I am sure if you ask a room full of digital strategists, they would have all sorts of different answers. And I think that is one of the struggles that I find in a lot of companies; is they are not sure where digital resides. There may be a room full of twenty-somethings who are responsible for what is going on Facebook, and Twitter, and so forth. There might be a marketing effort. It might come from the CMO; it might not. It is just very fragmented and it is very different in companies. And what I see happening now is that there is going to have to be a consolidation of the digital strategy. With the domain name space changing the way it will over the next couple of years, I think what we will see is domain names really become an anchor to your digital strategy. That is where people go when they go back to their computer. Or if it is their flat screen hanging on their wall, that domain name is going to be the anchor to your entire strategy. And then, of course, you have to interconnect what are you doing on social media and what are you doing with apps or mobile devices. And they all have to be interconnected. And I think, right now, those are very fragmented in most companies.

Michael: Okay. So the digital strategy includes your social networks, your marketing, your technology, your apps, your mobile strategy; and you think that everything is going to be anchored by the domains.

Jennifer: I think domain names will become the anchor because I think we are about to move to this world of fourteen hundred top-level domains, categorized into lifestyle, media, search, navigation, commerce. All of these different categories of generics will start to be used and that is going to be confusing for a lot of people. I think that we will see some of the big digital movers educate consumers. And I think if certain companies are success at their strategy, then consumers will adopt because we know consumers adapt to new technology and new ways of doing things. But with that, companies then have to figure out: “Well, how do I interconnect all of these things that we have going on?” Because, if they stay fragmented, they are not going to be successful. There is going to have to be somebody in companies who is responsible for cohesively bringing this all together. And then, again, crossing over the stakeholders. When you need to focus on brand protection, you have got to work with the legal department. When you have technical issues, you have got to work with the IT department. And I think that is an evolution that has been occurring over the last few years.

Michael: Who do you think is going to be the biggest company to educate consumers on the new domain name GTLDs? Do you think it is going to be like an Amazon that goes out and buys their domain name extension and, suddenly, people start to get how this works? Or do you think it is going to be Google just saying, “Hey, we don’t care what the domain is. Come search here, you click through, and maybe you will pick up that we have got some new GTLDs working”?

Jennifer: Google has applied for a hundred and one top-level domains. Amazon has applied for seventy-six. Microsoft has applied for eleven. I think that when those companies – when I say those big digital players – start to role out their top-level domains, they are going to educate consumers. And certainly, we know all three of the big search engines – Bing, Yahoo, and Google – have all applied for top-level domains. So, the theory is they will evolve their algorithms to factor in top-level domains. And top-level domains are inherently categories, so search will likely evolve to factor in the top-level domain as a categorical directing point to what is that website about. And I think that is where we are going to see a big shift. If you look, we had almost half of Interbrand’s top global brands apply for top-level domains. Thirty-six of the fortune one hundred companies applied for top-level domains. I think that the banks – JP Morgan, Citi Group, and all of the major banks – have applied for top-level domains. And when they really educate consumers that, “Hey, don’t trust a .COM because that could be fraudulent. Only trust .JPMORGAN, or .PNC.” When they educate consumers that the .COM is questionable, I think we are going to see a big shift.

Michael: Yeah, definitely. Well, it will be interesting because I know my mother is never going to be able to understand that. So, it will be interesting to see how much of the population will not get it and we will just need to move out of the Internet realm, and when new people will get it. Do you view this as like a decade or two-decade transition to get a majority of people, say in the US or the world, to understand how the top-level domains work?

Jennifer: No, I think a decade is way too long. I think it will be a couple of years, of course. If you look at the rate of adoption, even of Facebook and then you launched Twitter and Pinterest, and you look at how much faster people are quickly learning about these social media tools. “Hey, I can go do all these things.” People get it. They get it faster and faster. So I think we are going to continue to see that accelerated rate of adoption by consumers and by Internet users. And again, I think that if the message comes in loud and clear that only trust this branded site, or only find everything related to tennis on .TENNIS, or .GOLF, I think it becomes easier for people to find what they are looking for. Once they get over that hurdle, then we are going to see a real rapid rate of adoption. So I think that that is where all companies, even those who did not apply, need to start to understand how this is going to impact navigation of the Internet. And again, that is where it intersects with social media and with apps because people get to your website from different sources. And so, how are you using search versus social media versus your app and mobile technology to get people to your website, and to buy products and services from you, and connect with your brand?

Michael: You are advising companies every day about their digital brand strategy and how they should be positioning it. I am interested to know what you think when you are watching TV and a commercial for a company – a major, fortune one hundred company – comes on. And say it is Citi Bank, or say it is some company out there. And I do not know specific examples, but you see them. Instead of pointing them at the end of the commercial to the CompanyName.com, or whatever TLD, they actually point people to Facebook.com/CompanyName.

Jennifer: Right.

Michael: What are your thoughts about that?

Jennifer: I think that that’s really interesting. And I think it is because those companies understand that their targeted consumer is living their life on Facebook. And so, if Facebook is a centralized portal to them, that they are going to capture them more easily. And I think the theory is also that they can track that they are coming in through Facebook and know that that’s working. I think that we will se a trend away from that because as valuable as that is, ultimately, if those companies have their own top-level domain, they are going to be able to more easily direct consumers to them, and they might more easily remember that top-level domain. Instead of trying to remember a long string .COM, it will be that much easier. And the second point related to that is a lot of those companies are promoting contents or promotions – things that might be a one-time event – and they likely can’t get the .COM, so they need to have their Facebook as the portal because they can’t a .COM or something that will be memorable enough that, in a 30-second commercial spot, the consumer is going to remember it.

Michael: Right. And then, when people interact on Facebook, their friends see it. And if the have the same demographics, then they get some viral aspect to it. So there are positives and negatives for directing people directly to Facebook.com.

Jennifer: Absolutely.

Michael: Great. All right. So, Wolfe Domain. You have got clients. We talked briefly, before the interview, about some of the clients. Are you allowed to name some of the clients that you are consulting with about digital strategy?

Jennifer: Sure, a couple of clients. When I was talking with a lot of clients prior to the application period, there were questions about is this worth it or not; and my response was always, “I can tell you what it is going to cost to do this and if it fails. I can tell you, right now, this is how much money you will lose. But if you do not do it and it does change everything, you could be out of business. So, which way do you want to go?”

Michael: Why do you say they could be out of business if they do not apply for a GTLD?

Jennifer: So, I say that and, obviously, that would not happen in a year or two years. But in a five to ten-year range, what I think we will see happening is that the flat screen on your wall is not going to be connected to your cable box. It is going to be connected to the Internet. And I think pretty much most people understand that is the evolution of where we are headed. We see Google buying out Fiber Optic Cable. We see Apple trying to develop the devices that will actually deliver that high-speed access to your TV. So, if you take that out to the next level, what that means is, top-level domains become the channels. That your channel surfing on the cable box right now. That is what you are going to be surfing and using, as those channels on your flat screen TV gets connected to the Internet. So, in my opinion, any company in the media business needed to buy one of these right now to secure that, what I call, Internet real estate that is so important. Because this is just like what happened in .COM back in the 90s. There was this rush to buy up all of these domain names. The same thing is happening now, only in the top-level domain space. So, because brands were allowed to basically purchase their top-level domain and close it off for their use, that was a really unique opportunity for media companies to basically make their claim and own their channel.

Michael: What other clients do you have?

Jennifer: Sure. So, just on the flipside of that since that was an applicant, we are also working with non-applicants; and they have given me permission to talk about them as well. The Nestle Company is very much on the forefront of this. They are a very strong IP Company. They had decided, for very strategic reasons, not to apply. But now they are really looking at: “Okay. Where do we go? Where do we go from here? What should we be looking at from an offensive and defensive standpoint?” and just trying to navigate the complexity of it. If you pull up the list of all nineteen hundred strings, it is pretty overwhelming for anyone to just look at it. And we have spent hours, and hours, and hours, of course, digging through it, dissecting it, analyzing it, breaking it down, and then creating a methodology to help clients figure out what is relevant to them and what is not; because you are not going to pursue fourteen hundred strings. You are going to have to understand what is really relevant to you and what is not.

Michael: Great. All right. So that makes sense from your applicants’ and non-applicants’ standpoint in how you are working with them. I also read on your website that you offer a Digital Mapping Technology Tool.

Jennifer: Right.

Michael: What is it and how do domain names fit into that tool that you are offering?

Jennifer: Sure. It is really a methodology and then, it is a way of, basically, dissecting this list of the fourteen hundred strings that will eventually launch into the Internet over the next two years. And then, looking at your brand and determining where do I fit in this. Or if you are a generic, where does your portfolio fit within what is happening here? How does that migrate from a .COM or .CO or .NET environment to this, now, fourteen hundred possibilities? So, what we have created is a graphical way of plotting what is relevant and helping companies to visually see; because, as I said, if you took an executive and handed them this list of nineteen hundred strings with all of this information, it would be meaningless to them. But if you can take them through an exercise and a methodology that graphically shows them where does their brand fit with their competitors, with their verticals, and their supply chain – because that is also relevant to understand. Somebody who, today, could be your customer, later could be your competitor. And you need to look at what they are doing because these top-level domains create the opportunity for some disruptive innovation and for new business models to emerge. So I think you have to look at your customers, your competitors, and anybody in your vertical and your supply chain, and know: Are they moving in this space? What are they doing? And then, of course, the nine hundred plus generic terms that will be open to anyone to buy. Do any of those categories fit into your brand or into your space because, if they do, you need to know who might be buying those up and you need to make sure that, when they do open the doors and you can buy your domain, if you want to buy something there, that you get in line fast.

Michael: Yeah, definitely. So, as an Engineer and a Six Sigma Practitioner in the past, I love methodologies and I love processes.

Jennifer: Yeah, me too.

Michael: So, I am sure that large Corporations that look to a methodology to figure something out and to make sure they are not leaving pieces out that they did not think about would appreciate that. Do you feel that large Corporations tend to like the process that you walk through in evaluating TLDs?

Jennifer: They do. And again, I think the issue for some of these large Corporations is, in many cases, the C-Suite does not even know that this is happening. And so, when you start to introduce it, they say, “What? What are you talking about? Why is anything going to change?” It is unbelievable to them. So, you have to immediately earn their trust and the credibility. You say, “Let me talk you through something and let me show you in a briefing why everything is going to change.” And what I have been experiencing is once I take them through just a short ten or fifteen minute briefing explaining how things are about to change and why, their eyes are wide open, saying, “Oh my gosh. How long do we have to respond to this?” Because they understand that we all live our lives on the Internet. The Internet is a foundation to every business. I spoke recently, even with smaller businesses who are in manufacturing. Not necessarily in a consumer business, but they still run their business off the Internet. And how people find them is critical. So, this really does impact every company out there.

Michael: But what do you say to the C-level – the CEO, COO, CMO-level – person within the organization that says, “I remember when .INFO came out. And I remember when .PRO came out. And what happened to those? Why should we be spending a hundred and eighty-five thousand dollars on an application and, potentially, another half a million or a million dollars down the road to negotiate and try and buy .FOOD when we can just buy our own Name.food for nine dollars or thirty dollars down the road, and be done with it?”

Jennifer: Right. Everybody asks that question, and it is a great question because most of the other top-level domain extensions have not been enormously successful. The difference here is the sheer scale. We have never before had brands have the opportunity to own their brands. So when we are looking at this large number of very famous brands going to launch and educate consumers, that is going to have an impact. And then, when we look at the sheer number of nine hundred plus generics, a hundred and one of those owned by Google, they are going to have an impact. Just the scale of this is going to have a greater impact. Those others were launched one at a time. And if they did not put enough money behind marketing it and driving it, it just was not as successful. So I think the sheer scale of this is going to be different. And again, to me, the big issue is if some of these companies educate consumers that .COM is where the fraudulent people are. That is where the fishing sites are. That is where people are trying to trick you into going to a typo squatting site. I think if they educate people in that way, it is going to have a real impact on the consumer belief of “Do I trust something on .COM with regard to a brand or not?”

Michael: Yeah. But it is not necessarily the case. Like I run DomainSherpa.com, and it is not a fishing site. And people would argue that .COM is more trustworthy than .NET and .ORG and .INFO, and anything else that might come out.

Jennifer: Absolutely.

Michael: I hear what you are saying that the sheer number of top-level domains is going to be enormous. And clearly, Google is not afraid to throw millions of dollars at something just at the possibility that there might be a big payout because they make more than enough profit in their business to do. So, I am still not convinced that just by the sheer number, the Internet is going to change. Ten years from now, when I have got my entire wall, instead of painting it, it is now digital display because it is just going to be so cheap that it is going to be cheaper for me to put in insulated digital displays rather than paint my walls. And I can hook it up the Internet. Why wouldn’t I just point it to a .COM as apposed to a .FOOD when I need to look up recipes in the kitchen?

Jennifer: Sure. And again, I think that is going to come down to how well do these companies execute. Certainly, the scale is going to make it easier to educate because it is going to happen all at once with a lot of companies. So that makes it a little bit easier. Certainly, I do not think .COM is going to go away. I think it is going to be diluted. I think that power of .COM as that is where you want to have your website will ultimately be diluted as we start to see how things unfold with all of these other new top-level domains that launch into the Internet. This is a really hard concept for a lot of people to grasp because we have been living in a .COM world since the Internet began, but I have this great video clip I use in a lot presentations. With Katie Couric on the Today Show, when they were talking about “What Is This Thing Called E-mail?” And this was just back in the earlier 90s. It was not really that long ago. And nobody used e-mail. It was unheard of, and nobody understood why would anybody send an e-mail to somebody. Why would you need to do that? Now it is just part of our lives. I think any time a paradigm shift is coming, there are going to be people who say, “I don’t believe it is going to change. I don’t think anything is going to be altered by this. Why would we need to change?” But I think if we look at just the history of business, it is changing at an accelerated pace. So I think that it is foolish for a company to just say I don’t think it is going to change. You have to hedge your bets. You have to look at it and think strategically. The great thing about this program is it is not going to live until the end of 2013 and into 2014. So, to me, this is the time that businesses should be thinking about: What am I doing? Because you have got time to plan. You have got a lot of time to plan. If you wait until it is too late, it is going to be just like the .COM rush. Someone is going to have the domain name that you want.

Michael: Yeah. So what do you feel is your biggest challenge as a strategist consultant to large Corporations to help them figure this out?

Jennifer: The biggest challenge that I face is figuring out who to talk to first. Because I have a lot of contacts in Legal Departments, but they are dealing with it from a brand protection standpoint. Their job is not to figure out what do we do going forward. That it someone else’s job. And I think it is this general theory of the Internet is not going to change or I have never heard of this. So, the biggest challenge is finding the right person to talk to and then briefing them on here is what is happening and here is why it is important; and whether you think it is going to change or not, you still need to have a plan.

Michael: Definitely. Is Wolfe Domain invested in GTLDs coming out? Do you have a stake in any of them?

Jennifer: No, we do not, which is nice because it puts us in a really objective – we are not trying to push one or the other – position to offer advice.

Michael: Definitely. And so, do you see that Wolfe Domain will have a lifespan up until 2014 and then people will start to figure it out, and then you will not have as many consulting customers? Or do you see that your business is going to continue to grow in the future because more companies will understand the need, and you will start moving down from fortune one hundred companies to global five thousand companies, let’s say?

Jennifer: Absolutely. I think this is going to continue to evolve. We are looking right now at a two to three-year window for the Internet to start to shift for this paradigm to occur. Even once it starts to occur, companies are going to need continual, somebody out there who is really knee-deep – deep dive – into the space and bringing back ideas from the work that they are doing out there. And that is where I think we will have a lot of value. The other thing is that ICANN is going to offer, at least they plan to offer, a second round of TLD applications. So, if three years from now, or four years from now, ICANN says, “Hey, this has worked great. We have proven it did not have any impact on the stability of the Internet. It has been really successful. Let’s have another round”, then that is going to open up for a whole new set of companies to apply for their top-level domains and the cycle will just start over.

Michael: Yeah. All right. And speaking of ICANN, you are going to be at the next ICANN meeting in Toronto, I believe, October 13/14th.

Jennifer: Yes. I think it is October 12/13th. Right around there.

Michael: Thirteenth. Somewhere in there. So, if you are heading to the ICANN meeting, be sure to look for Jennifer. A couple of final questions for, Jennifer. Wayne Nelson, our Producer, has told me that you are Co-Authoring your second, titled “Domain Names Rewired”, slated for release later this year. November timeframe?

Jennifer: Yes, that is correct.

Michael: What was the main impetus for writing the book and what would people take away from this?

Jennifer: Sure. The impetus was really, once I realized that the top-level domain program was moving forward, I knew, immediately, that all businesses were going to need to understand how to navigate that space. And so, I partnered up. Anne Chasser is the former US Commissioner of Trademarks. We wrote our first book, which was “Brand Rewired” looking at how brands are evolving. We wrote that book two years ago. So we partner up and took the same approach. We interviewed the top leading brands, top technology companies, and top consultants in the domain name space. We interviewed them and we were able to see some trends that we thought we could expect as top-level domains moved forward. And so, it is really meant to be a guide of: Here is what is happening. Here is where we see things moving. Here is where all these other experts see things moving. And then, provide a roadmap for how do you develop a new strategy.

Michael: Excellent. So it is “Domain Names Rewired”, but it really speaks to domain name as the focus for a brand. A digital strategy.

Jennifer: Correct. That is correct. It is very brand-focused. But I think even for a generic sort of domainers to understand what those people think is happening, as the Internet shifts, will be invaluable information.

Michael: Yeah. So, that made me think of another question, Jennifer. So, we have talked about digital brand strategy and the new TLDs in relation to large Corporations. Google applying for a hundred plus. Amazon applying for some. Microsoft applying for some. What does it mean for the small investor? The investor that maybe spends a hundred thousand dollars or forty thousand dollars a year buying domain names, focusing on .COMs, trying to buy the premium generic single-word domain names. What is your advice to them as you think about the GTLDs that are going to be launched within the year?

Jennifer: Sure. My advice to them is: you really need to pay attention to these nine hundred generics that will launch into the Internet because that is the expansion of your business right there. And you need to understand how could it impact if .COM does become diluted. Now, I am not saying for sure that it will, but if it does, then how are you evolving the way that you make your money and the way that you position yourself in your portfolio? Because if you look at these nine hundred plus, they do fall into certain categories, and you might determine where do you think that there is going to be more attraction. And be sure that when those doors do open and you can buy those up, that you are in line first.

Michael: Yeah. And at least hedging bets. So, any investor, make sure that they want to hedge every bet that they are making. So you are saying keep it mind, understand what is coming out, understand how you want to hedge your investments, if it all.

Jennifer: Right. Absolutely. You certainly do not want to go into it blind and not knowing what is happening, and be reacting. Because when those initial periods open, they will only last for a short period of time. And again, if you wait too long, if you have not thought about it and you do not have a plan, then you could find yourself in a really bad spot.

Michael: Definitely. All right. If people have follow-up questions for Jennifer, please post it in the comments below and we will ask her to come back and answer as many as she can. If you would like to follow WolfeDomain.com on Twitter to find out where they are speaking, what new videos they have coming out, and understand where they are heading in the industry, you can follow them on Twitter at @WolfeDomain.

Jennifer Wolfe, Founder, President, and Managing Director of WolfeDomain.com. Thank you for coming on the show, educating us about the new GTLD landscape, and thank you for being a Domain Sherpa.

Jennifer: Thank you.

Michael: Thank you all for watching. We’ll see you next time.

Watch the full video at:
http://www.domainsherpa.com/jennifer-wolfe-wolfedomain-interview/


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7 Responses to “Why Fortune 1000 Companies Need to Pay Attention to the New TLDs – With Jennifer Wolfe”

  1. Eric Jenkins says:

    Michael……

    Another very interesting interview. It was very informative to hear the thoughts from a person who is on the “inside”. I was really surprised to hear her thoughts on .COM.

    I have read through many of the comments below and they bring up some interesting issues. The fact that I am watching this interview about 17 months after it was done and with the fact that many of the new gTLD’s are just now coming out we will see shortly if her theories hold up.

    Thanks for the interview Michael

  2. mark says:

    I liked the interview, however, I am a little preplexed by some of the statements she has made.
    Although it is true and Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Nestle, Bank of America, Etc. may actually own their left of the dot (.gucci, .Louis Vuitton, .Nestle, etc.), the fact of the matter is that they CAN Afford IT.
    However, many mom and pop shops are not able to pony up such money, time and labor to have their own left of the dot.

    Think about it, if I currently have a website selling food, why would I want to pay the owner of .food, or .shoes, or ??? anything unless they have a track record (like google or yelp)?

    So what is going to have to happen is the the New Owners of the Left of The Dots are going to have to spend heavily in getting the .name *left of the dot) out. Than, try to get store operators to advertise on the site.

    Most mom and pops will have a .com or .net for their website, which will cause more confusion.

    I know this will bring a lot of business to trade mark attorneys, but, at the end, I am going to say that this will not work for at least the next 5 to 10 years.

    And if the person being interviewed felt this was the new thing, how come her law firm has not invested in at least .law.?

    • Jen Wolfe says:

      You are absolutely right that many small busineses could not afford the $185,000 filing fee. That’s all the more reason why small businesses need to understand the potential paradigm shift that is coming and be prepared to apply for second string domains in the 900+ new generic top level domains. If .com is ultimately diluted in some way, then small business owners want to secure their brands in other top levels as soon as the doors open. This means they need to research and understand the new landscape. Whether you believe a change is coming or not, every business owner should try to understand what is happening and how it could impact their business in order to make smart business decisions about their online presence.

      And the reason I didn’t buy .law is that running a top level domain would be completely off strategy for my business – it’s a whole different operating business, requiring a completely different infrastructure. .

  3. Dave Tyrer says:

    Another great interview with one of those rare people who has a good idea of
    what’s coming, and thanks for the opportunity to talk to a GNSO member.

    My big concern with the new gTLD process is that there is no mandatory
    separation of the registrar and registry roles by ICANN, and few people are
    even aware of this. That is, some of the applicants for many dictionary word
    extensions that morally belong jointly to the citizens of the earth are
    seeking exclusive ownership of those word extensions.

    This interview makes no mention of this issue. I looked at L’Oreal’s
    application for .beauty for example, and they do not intend to onsell
    domains such as Natural.beauty etc, rather, they plan to hold around 10,000
    .beauty domains for their own exclusive use. Imagine Paris.beauty and
    Cosmetics.beauty and 10,000 others, all owned solely by the one cosmetics
    corporation. Is that fair to Revlon and all the other companies in that
    category? Over time, with effective marketing, this scenario (in its worst
    case) could potentially give various companies massive competitive and
    unfair advantages over their competitors.

    I recently read a letter to ICANN (thanks to DomainIncite) by Congressmen
    Leahy, Smith, Grassley and Conyers who raised various issues about the
    rollout such as trademark infringement, defensive registration and
    potentially controversial TLDs such as .sucks and .church etc etc. They too
    do not mention the exclusivity of many of the gTLD applications – giving the
    impression they are unaware of it. (If they were, surely they would have
    mentioned it.) One thing they do mention is that “many members of the public
    outside the ICANN community are unaware that the New gTLD program is
    underway.”

    Even Michael’s comment in one of his questions makes the not necessarily
    correct assumption that you can just go buy the .whatever to suit your
    business for just a handful of dollars. (Where he asks why should a food
    company buy the .food gTLD for $185k when they could just buy their
    Name.food for just a few dollars.) I haven’t read the .food applications,
    but ICANN has not expressly mandated that the new domain owners must offer
    their names to the public. The new owner of .food will not necessarily sell
    the Nestle.food domain to Nestle, for example.

    The issue is very eloquently expressed in a letter of complaint to ICANN by
    Blacknight.ie which states: “generic words used in a generic way belong to
    all people. It is inherently in the public interest to allow access to
    generic new gTLDs to the whole of the Internet Community, e.g., .BLOG,
    .MUSIC, .CLOUD. Allowing everyone to register and use second level domain
    names of these powerful, generic TLDs is exactly what we envisioned the new
    gTLD Program would do. In contrast, to allow individual Registry Operators
    to segregate and close-off common words for which they do not possess
    intellectual property rights in effect allows them to circumvent
    nation-states¹ entrenched legal processes for obtaining legitimate and
    recognized trademark protections.²

    I’ve read that Amazon has applied for 76 or so gTLDs, and that they intend
    to privately hold them all. (I’ve yet to locate and read a few of their
    actual applications and am still researching these issues.)

    The thought of Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, exclusively owning both
    the .store and .shop extensions and the millions of useful domains possible
    under this scenario led me to build a new site on the subject, currently
    half finished.

    The site is SuperMonopolies.com

    There is a page about the .store extension.

    I hope that ICANN takes a look at this crucial issue. It does not seem
    compatible with Jennifer’s statement: “there is a really smart group of
    people working on the GNSO, and looking out for all of these stakeholder
    interests to try to ensure that the Internet is expanding and evolving as it
    should and serving the needs of Internet users all over the world.”

    Amazon or another applicant could exclusively rollout a million websites
    such as Book.store, Phone.store, App.store, Music.store and Toy.store and so
    on. They are not prohibited by ICANN from retaining ownership of every
    single one. How on earth will exclusive private internets like .store “serve
    the needs of global internet users?”

  4. ADAM says:

    This interview was great. I really have enough listening .com is king, gold standard etc. when coming facts so obvious.
    Its always nice to here educated person no narrow-minded guy who call himself a domain king.

  5. Anunt says:

    Jennifer, what is going to happen to ALL the typo traffic…

    For Example: there are going to be new gtlds such as .movie, .app, .video, .game, etc.

    When the average Joe types in .movies, .apps, .videos, .games, etc…where will ALL this typo traffic go?

    What about ALL the traffic from non-existing gtlds that the average Joe types…where will ALL this typo traffic go?

    My partners and i are seriously willing to invest $5 Million USD for ALL this typo traffic.

    Jennifer, where do i apply to own this type-in typo traffic…

    Thanks!!!

  6. JB says:

    This was a good interview but I don’t think she is right because i think .com will be the gold standard forever…

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