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.