Everyone has an opinion of the recent TRAFFIC auction. This post has nothing to do with the TRAFFIC Conference, as I was not there but from the posts I read from Elliot, MHB and Ron Jackson it sounds like it was an absolutely worthwhile event.
I was a registered phone bidder and took part in some of the auction lots. That being said, I feel the argument I keep hearing that the absence of online bidding really hurt the auction is invalid. I can understand and appreciate what organizers are doing to make the TRAFFIC auction more transparent. The phone bidding system WORKS. Minutes before every auction lot I was interested in I received a phone call from the auction floor and was notified which name was coming up and asked if I had a top bid in mind. The phone bidding system was great, no online streaming problems or confusion and most importantly no unknown bidders. To register for phone bidding you had to be accessible by phone, have a name and email.
Who is to blame for the ‘unfavorable’ auction results?
Here’s my thought on that question. The blame falls on the SELLERS who paid to have their name in the auction. Rick wrote many times, as early as February this year about the new format and that the SELLERS are mainly responsible in getting end users to the auction or registered for phone bidding. You can read his posts where he tells sellers this here, here and here! A couple quotes from these posts:
“It takes time to really market a domain. Each seller has a duty to HELP market their domain. Howard and I will do what we can. The auction houses will each be doing what they can. We will all be rowing in the same direction for the first time and you will see RESULTS when that happens.”
“If you want to sell your domain at the highest price you need to promote and create desire among interested parties. 3 weeks does not cut it. NOW is the time to think about courting buyers and have them vie for your prize this October. It takes months to create an effective “Buzz”.”
I don’t think many of the sellers were paying attention, or didn’t care when they submitted their names. Maybe they didn’t actually know of this strategy or read those posts. How hard is it to get an end user registered for phone bidding? Probably pretty hard, but if you played the game the way it was supposed to be played, sellers had SIX MONTHS to work this out. I also feel an end user would be more comfortable registering to bid on the phone while watching the live stream as opposed to registering to a website to bid. The phone system just feels more legitimate, you feel like you are in the room – because YOU ARE in the room with a live person representing your bids.
I was a little discouraged when in the weeks leading up to TRAFFIC 2011 as I saw more and more posts from RicksBlog.com announcing high value names added to the auction. Those are the type of names that if marketed for six months may have had a chance to make the auction spectacular. I’m talking about Power.com, Cheese.com, Dubai.com, Optical.com among others.. I can understand why show organizers did this, it does make for more of a buzz leading up to the auction, brings more of an audience. Of course in a room full of domainers and mainly domain investors watching/bidding on the phone these type of names didn’t get high bids close to the seven figure reserves. Domainers look for deals, Dubai.com for four million isn’t a deal for a domainer but to a Sheikh from Dubai it may be a good deal.
For the next TRAFFIC auction, I actually hope the format stays the same, but I think the organizers need to drive home the point even harder to the sellers – market your names! TRAFFIC is the premier domain industry conference, a great place for end users to get acquainted with the domain industry. I do like that no reserve names were a part of the auction but I think it would probably be better to have all of the no reserve auctions held prior to the other names instead of mixing them in.