My take on MysteryDomainAuction.com.
John Motson of DNxpert.com launched his MysteryDomainAuction.com web site yesterday, and a blogging firestorm ensued.
But before I get into that, let me tell you the backstory. About a month ago Motson e-mailed me to say he was now giving away his eBook about domaining that he previously offered for sale. Having reviewed the book, I thought it was certainly worth downloading for free. Motson didn’t hide that he was giving it away free to create a subscriber list for the launch of a new project he was working on called The Domaining Revolution. He wouldn’t tell me what it was about. But the way he talked about it I assumed it was some sort of online conference.
I was surprised to see what it actually was. “The Revolution” is actually MysteryDomainAuction.com, an auction site for a domain name worth $10,000 (or that much cash). It’s an “all pay” auction, which means everyone who bids pays their bid amounts regardless of whether they win. In reality, bidders are paying for links on the site. It reminds me of Million Dollar Home Page. As it turns out, a few other sites like Motson’s exist, although I don’t think any of them have received much publicity besides Swoopo.
I’ve read a number of blog entries and comments about the site that suggest Motson is ripping people off, it’s a stupid idea, and it’s a scam. I don’t think it’s any of these. My initial thought is that it’s an amusing idea. It isn’t going to spark some sort of revolution, but I always like when people try something new. And domainers should take a marketing lesson or two from how Motson has built hype for the site.
At the end of the day it’s a completely opt-in marketing tool. You only buy a “bid” if you want to, and get a link back if you do. No one who has placed a bid so far thinks they’ll actually win the domain at their bid price. They’re doing it for the link. Because it’s opt-in, no one is being forced to participate, and how it works is clear, so I don’t have any problem with the site.
My disappointment is that Mystery Domain Auction has nothing to do with domains. People have been fussing about how the domain is supposedly “valued” at $10,000, and it must be worth less. But that’s irrelevant, because the winner will probably take the $10,000 cash instead. So the site may as well have been called “$10,000 auction”. I seriously doubt it will bring more attention to the domain industry as Motson suggests.
By trying to tie the site to domains, Motson found a ready audience in domainers. But that may limit the end result, because the mainstream press is less likely to pick up on it like it did Million Dollar Home Page.
Motson is taking a risk, by the way. If people aren’t willing to buy links at over $10 a piece, he’s going to lose money.
I don’t know how it will turn out. But if Motson makes a profit, you can bet you’ll see a bunch of copycat sites for sale on the forums.
Agree with your thoughts and definitely the site has nothing to do with domaing revolution imo.
John Motson says
Thank you for an unbiased opinion on the topic Andrew.
I would like to add that I have made the mystery domain auction affiliate program available to the general public – which means potentially $500,000 of the $1,000,000 earned could be shared with affiliates.
As I state on the front page of the site and in the faq, I aim to auction off a mystery domain name for an accumulated $1,000,000 – I don’t intend to keep all the money to myself.
The affiliate form is here:
One thing is sure: you have definitely created quite a buzz and controversy in last 2 days 🙂
Rob Sequin says
Good luck with this new business model. If you don’t mind me saying, you might want to make sure this is not considered to be a lottery or raffle since those would be regulated by your state.
Also, if you are auctioning someone else’s property, you will most likely need an auctioneers from your state.
Lastly, I would assume that you talked with an attorney about the terms of sale and contract with bidders.
I hope this works but I dont think we shall see real interest until the domain the is released.
People shall buy into the idea once they know what they are actually getting.
The affiliate program shall grow this as people shall include links to the site but it really needs some news and tv coverage for it to be a real success in my eyes.
At least John is trying something different!
Lets hope it works and brings some positive light to our industry.
Definitely nothing like a revolution, but a funny idea. I placed four bids, obviously without any hope of winning at this stage, and I must say that it brought instant traffic to two of the four websites. That was for me the only purpose – not to start a revolution! And it worked. But I did it because it was around $2 per domain!
Obviously, as bids go up, people might be more reluctant to bid. On the other hand, traffic will have grown, and links will remain longer at the top… so it might be worth, especially for somebody wanting to promote a site at its initial stage. Let’s see. If I would be John, I would have added a requirement stating that the $10.000 will be paid only in case the total amount gathered reaches at least double that amount, or something like that – just in case…
The model is clever. However, in order to increase the attraction, if I would have done it, I would have awarded two prizes: the one for the highest bidder, and a smaller prize (let’s say $ 5,000 – again, provided the total income reaches more than twice the amount of the prizes) for somebody selected by chance on the list for all those with bids above $ x, or something like that – a kind of lottery draw. It would have increased the attraction of the whole thing.
Anyway, John came with another clever idea which i discovered on this thread: affiliates. Potentially indeed a kind of win-win situation for him and for affiliates.
Accurate remark on the copycats: already on the first day, if I remember, somebody placed a bid with a link to a site promising to develop within a week a script allowing to start the same kind of auction! Obviously, I wouldn’t buy such a script: the buzz effect wouldn’t work repeatedly.
I enjoyed placing my bids, I took it as fun: best wishes to John for a full success – and a nice reward at the end, if everything works well!
Will Castillo says
What if I want to get a copy of the ebook now?
It seems the “free” offer is over as it redirect visitors to the mysterious auction.
Any way to get it?
Thanks in advance,
John Motson says
You can still get the ebook for free by subscribing to the newsletter at http://www.mysterydomainauction.com/newsletter.php
Dwayne Rowland says
I disagree. This is all about domains and how someone with an idea, a lot of design work and a bit of good luck can turn a very long domain name into a creative beehive of activity not to take into consideration all the value is held in domain links and the prized mystery domain. How much domain do you need!
David McAllister says
Considering that we usually pay around a $0.25 per click on some other websites (sometimes even more), the 10 bids we have now placed on this site have already been justified (in traffic received). I think we are going to keep doing this for a while. It still makes economic sense for us.
Will Castillo says
@John: Thanks a lot!
mysterydomainauction.com is now terminated.
Rob Sequin says
Landing page text from the site:
“Following legal advice obtained as a result of concerns raised by fellow domaining bloggers and some NamePros members about the legality of an all-pay auction in the US where this site is hosted in addition to consideration of the problems I may face at the end of the auction in case more than one person bids with the same amount which is very likely I have decided that the best option is to cancel this auction effective immediately.
All bids have now been refunded.
All affiliates that made sales have been paid out of my own pocket.”
I guess my comments in #5 above were justified?
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had concerns.
Now, for everybody including John that thought this was going to be great for the domain industry, now it’s a black mark on the industry.
It shows a poorly thought out business model and now people are disappointed.
Sorry it didn’t work out.
Short comment about Rob’s remarks:
1) For all, or most of us, it was obviously not a “revolution” in domaining, but rather a funny way to promote domainsas longs as bids didn’t go above $3. And I tested that: on the first day, I posted a link to a minisite I had just created – within 30 minutes, it generated more than 20 first visits and a few clicks on ads. The “revolution” advertised by John should rather be seen as an advertising trick. The primary purpose was to earn money – but most domainers hope to do that, don’t they?
2) “Black mark” on domaining? Certainly not, since the promotion campaign had not yet become very wide, and it presumably attracted interest primarily among domainers at this stage. So it will be remembered as a failed attempt, not as a black mark.
3) John – whom I don’t know and have never corresponded with – is obviously a decent man: I received refunds for my five small bids done in order of promoting small, new domains. So there is nothing to complain about.
4) Finally, a small lesson: the first mistake was to have the server in the US, not a place to be for somebody who wants to avoid litigation! The second one was not to think about the technical problem of the last bid just using Paypal.
Anyway, everybody can certainly derive some useful lessons about that failed experience – and I have enjyoed this thread with well-thought comments.
It’s quite sad to see a business plan fail. Well even if the participants were refunding of their bids the site still got some success with publicity to say the least. So I guess we can’t call it a total failure.