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Domain Auction Train Wreck

It'll be one of those moments that's too horrible to watch and too horrible to look away at the same time. I'm referring to the Domain Roundtable 2009 Live Auction that takes places today at 4pm EST. I've been watching Domain auctions for a while and I really think they've set themselves up to fail here for a number of reasons.
  • They have way too many domains. They've chosen quantity over quality and that's never a good sign. If Thought Convergence runs this anything like the last couple of auctions, be prepared to be in for a very long evening of amateur auctioneering. They are good guys, but they don't keep a very quick pace to their auctions. I'm just saying.

  • They have some really outrageous reserves for many of the good names. They'll not even receive an opening big on names like Conservationist.com ($45k) and HomePrices ($300k) which is a shame, because they are good domain names. There are several "so so" domain names that also have high reserves like Precocious.com ($11.5k) and QueenBee ($18k). Not bad names, but they aren't going to move at those prices. Maybe if they ramped them up for $5K they would get into 5 digits, but those are "buy it now" prices, not reserves. There's a difference people.

  • Very little marketing - it's almost like they are embarrassed about the names or something. I haven't seen nearly as much publicity about this event as it should have gotten with some of the names that are in there

  • Good names are diluted by bad. When you put a name like Contests.com in an auction beside BabyPrescriptions.com, it dilutes the auction. It would almost make sense to split the auction into "Bargain Bin" and "Premium" or something because the way it's done now is just not enticing to buyers.

There are some bright spots though, that might save the day. It's hard to have a domain auction today and not have something positive to say, right? Contests.com is a great name and the reserve isn't outrageous at $150k (I would have preferred to see it at $100k or so but that's just being picky :) ). Some of the sub $1k reserve names should do well - Monetize.org, WordLists.com, Ames.us, EarringStore.com, and JobFairs.info jump out at me personally, but not 5 figure well. And I may be wrong. It happens. Maybe they'll get some big ticket sales out of this auction and it makes the whole thing worthwhile, but if the whole auction nets more than $300k in sales, I'll be very surprised. When you're auctioning off over 200 names, $300k in sales ain't much to write home about.

If you are looking to bid, be patient. If the Train Wreck scenario plays out, there may be one or two deals to be had. Good luck to all involved.


  1. Surprised ?
    We sold 39 of 76 domains and had nearly $500k in sales. We moved them in about 2 hrs which is pretty fast given that we had technical difficulties in the beginning and several bidders kept sniping at the last minute as auctions were closing.

    Aftermarket prefers to run a shorter auction with less names priced well. I believe we still have the higest sell-through percentage at domain auctions. We also pick names for every budget. Not everyone in a domain auction wants to buy domains that are 6 figures and some want just that and not the mid-tier name.

    The prices you see reflect reserves set by the owners. Aftermarket pushes reserves down as best we can and picks names that we believe are priced to sell. 51% sold. And if past auctions and current extended auction bids are any indication of future success we plan to surprise you one more time.

    Extended bidding is live here: http://www.domaintools.com/domain-auctions/live/DRT2009

    Thanks for your feedback !

  2. I was certainly surprised by the technical difficulties, as you all have generally had fewer issues than other online auctions. I admit most got worked out, but I never was able to bid online. Support was nice and helpful though, as I expected and offered a phone number if I wanted to bid that way. I think anyone watching the first hour would have agreed with my "Train Wreck" analysis, though.
    I was also surprised by contests.com, which, as I said in the article could have saved the day... which it did. Without that going for $380k, the total auction would have been a pretty dire $120k or so. I expected it to sell mind you, but for less than $200... and my predictions would have been pretty dead on.

    I agree the sniping was horrible. This isn't ebay. What was even more upsetting was going back and extending an auction after saying "Sold". Totally unacceptable in my opinion. The software needs to be improved to make sure that never happens and to reduce the likelihood of sniping. Sold is sold.

    Good luck with the extended auction! I'm anxious to be proved wrong and even said so in the article.

  3. Sniping? How hard can it be too avoid that? Not very. Just extend the auction about 5 min if there are bids less than 5 minutes left.

  4. @John We already extend the auction when bids come in last second. Doesn't sound like you were watching. There is no point for bidders to attempt the sniping really. Makes no sense and it lengthens the auction time. The only thing that we have to watch out for is sometimes bidders can stumble in to the auction late and want to jump in right as an auction is closing. Either way there is no real sniping at a live auction.

    woo the video/audio glitch took 20 mins and the auction continued with no problems. Snap, namejet, bido, sedo, afternic etc all run with out an audio/video feed and the bidding coninues fine. Ours did as well. Trainwreck is pretty harsh but we appreciate the feedback.

    most auctions have 1 saving domain. Look at past results at any auction. Some auctions have more total sales because they are 5 hrs long and have hundreds of names. We've run the numbers. We've listened to customers requests for shorter auctions.

    With regards to the sold is sold comment. The auctioneer in every auction has ultimate control of decisions with bids coming in and at the wire.