Who is Bruce Clement, Domainer

I'm a domain name investor in Auckland New Zealand with somewhere around 1700 registered domains. I have some strong opinions on domaining (domain name investing), so it is only fair that I explain where I came from so readers can judge how much credence to place on my opinions.

When I came to writing a brief domain investors biography about myself I began to feel it was a little like AA sessions, at least as they are portrayed on TV, my apologies if I've got it totally wrong.


I'm Bruce and I'm a domain name addict.

"Hi Bruce" etc.

Now I've got that out of the way, on with my story.

My first domain name registration was made sometime in 1996 or 1997 and was a personal domain name I simply used for email until I chose to let that lapse in 1999. It's currently unregistered, and sometimes I consider re-registering it, I really can't quantify why though.

In 2000 I registered a gTLD (.com) domain to act as my personal email address based on a nickname I'd had for around three years at that stage, then a few business domain names for the business interests of my then life partner's and myself and a few names that I now see as speculative, but that I then told myself I intended developing into sites or mini-sites. Some development actually happened and the business sites were a mixed bag. The speculative sites proved interesting and although I never had any realistic scheme to even make the registration fee back I did develop a couple of small sites on them, and more importantly I received unsolicited approaches about selling a couple of these names. Looking back I can see that's where I got the first stages of the bug.

Next was in February 2005 when I stumbled across a service called Expired Domains run by a local registrar called 1st Domains that acted as a drop catcher, re-registering expiring domains the moment they became free, they auctioned off their service to the highest bidder. I saw a business opportunity, and intended to obtain generic domain names from Expired, build a small site on the name, and then sell off the site and domain name as a package. My first night I won two of their auctions and they managed to secure the domains. The first of these domains, Cardealers.co.nz, is still with me and is making me a small sum from paid parking. The other name was a mistake, and I can't even remember its name.

For a while I was sensibly obtaining domain names, but not actually developing anything, then things went a bit crazy. Back then Expired Domain's auction ended at midnight and there was no auto-extend on them. I would simply decide which domains I was wanting to acquire, pick my maximum bid, wait until after 11:55 PM to place my bids. Most of my competitors were sound asleep, so I quite often knocked them out of the auction. Buying plumb domains became an all consuming passion for me. I even lost interest in the idea of developing them as small sites.
I'd also spend some time trying to think up good generic names and see if they were registered. If they weren't I'd register them.

Soon I had more than 100 domains. Things changed for me, Expired Domains changed their end time to 8PM and introduced auto-extend. This took away much of the fun element so I dropped out for a while, but the pull was strong on me and I came back. Some time later I had a bunch of domain names with no revenue stream and renewals coming due. I tried moving domains on an auction site, but it didn't working for me. I stopped buying names for a time, but I missed the auctions.

Then I discovered paid parking through a forum. I listed my domains with a parking service and suddenly I had a revenue stream. My criteria for buying domain names changed. No longer was it generic or nice names, now I was looking for back links and page rank (PR). Google now clears PR for expired domains, but it didn't then. Traffic, traffic, traffic became my mantra. I bought some truly ghastly names. I also discovered that there were other parking sites and domain names would do better with some services than others.

For me, a company called Name Drive has proved to be the most successful parking site. When I register a name I'm not immediately going to develop, they get first “dibs” on it. If they can generate revenue the domains stay with them. I heartily recommend them on a regular basis on forums.
Once again my life changed. Now I was bidding on domains late at night, getting up early in the morning to see what I'd got parking them in the morning, examining unique visitor counts, revenue per thousand visits (RPM) and “cost per click” (CPC) twice a day, making minor changes to keywords, amd moving sites between parking services. Money was flowing and by now I saw myself as a domain investor rather than a site developer. My domaining habit was getting bad.

Tessa, my life partner, often asked me "Did you buy any [domains] tonight?" I'd reply with a "Yes" and she'd ask me what they were. Around that time, they'd become such a commodity to me, I started not remembering which domains I'd registered a few hours earlier. A few times I thought of good names and when I discovered they were registered did a “who is” check to see who had them only to discover my own name.

This had long ago ceased to be fun.
Over the Christmas 2006-2007 period I went to India for a month's holiday and didn't do any domaining while I was there. When I came back it was several weeks before I did any domaining. I knew that to resume doing this I needed to get the joy back into it. It's not that I so much stopped doing what I'd been doing, it's that I saw I needed to send myself back into the important bits.

I knew from my parking revenue statistics that if I simply walked away from the worst performing half of the names in my portfolio I'd be able to do better than break-even on registration renewal. I also knew that this was because of a very small number of unrepresentatively good "gems" and that if they stopped performing at their current revenue levels the whole house of cards I'd constructed would only survive by abandoning a lot more.

I'm also selling domains here and there. This is not a new thing as I've been doing this throughout my time as an investor. Whenever I sell a domain name it helps me maintain the portfolio. I don't really actively market the domains, but the parking services have sales inquiry forms and I have a portfolio site ”Rare domains" where I list the bulk of my domain names.

Over the three and a half years I've been doing this I've watched the .nz market improve and I firmly believe that in the very near future the New Zealand internet market will mature making good generic domain names in the .nz space will become a more valuable commodity. I fully intend being there with my collection. I also believe that by carefully choosing those names I take forward I can keep my portfolio running at only a slight loss. Because I see it as a medium to long term investment, I need to get that slight loss down, but I can live with it.

About a year ago I ditched (not renewed) a number of ugly and badly chosen domain names. Names that are neither generic enough for my tastes nor producing the revenue needed to take other domains into the future with them.
At the Royal Easter Show last year I went to the art competition and bought two paintings. The sales person was rabbiting on about the artist of one of the paintings I chose being an established name and becoming “recognized”. He seemed obsessed about how I would be able to resell them at a profit. I listened for a while then politely explained that resale wasn't important to me, I just wanted those paintings because I liked them, they "spoke to me". Other painting there that didn't speak to me, or at least not as much, and I didn't buy them.

With the new way of looking at things I still acquired new domain names, but they had to “speak to me" (or sometimes speak to Tessa, she has a knack sometimes for picking good ones). I don't care how many sites link to qrp.co.nz, if the name doesn't do it for me I'm not buying. On the other hand, reselling is always an option for any domain name that doesn't look as good above my mantelpiece as that painting does.

Once I have the domain name, it's parked. I'll write more on this another time, but my mantra on parking is "If it's not deployed, it's parked." To me the benefit gained by parking each and every domain name in my portfolio for a few months to see if it generates decent revenue that way are so great that I wouldn't do without it. It's a simple combination of economics and my history.

This year things changed again. I have enough domain names for now, and I'm very exposed to a short term downturn in the economy. Expired Domains changed their rules and I felt I'd had enough. I still monitor the lists and will buy “Gems” based on them shouting at me, not just speaking quietly, but I'm primarily interested in obtaining development sites for now.

For the future, I know things will change for me again. I believe things will get better for the industry and I intend to be here when they do.

This was originally written in April 2007 and I've updated it to October 2008 for this article.

Bruce Clement is a keen domain name investor and commentator. You are free to copy this article under the http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/ licence as long as you publish it unchanged and link either to Bruce's blog Domaining .nz at http://domainingnz.blogspot.com/ or to his hub site at http://www.clement.co.nz/

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