Don’t Do Coronavirus Domain Outbound Marketing

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Andrew Allemann wrote an article yesterday to speak out about taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak in order to profit from it. I understand that in dire straights people might do things they would not ordinarily do to feed themselves and their family, but I echo what he said and would strongly urge people to not buy coronavirus related domain names, especially if they intend to do outbound marketing to sell them.

Case in point, PRWeek published an article that discussed one such outbound marketing effort made to try and sell coronavirus related domain names to Carnival Cruise Lines and its Chief Communications Officer, Chris Chiames. Not only was Mr. Chiames upset by this outbound marketing effort, he posted the exchange on LinkedIn for all to see. Here’s an excerpt from the PRWeek article:

“He was clearly trying to take advantage of a global crisis,” said Chiames. “And from a PR perspective, what did he think I would want to do with these domains? Use them to promote something? Why would we want to link cruising with coronavirus in a URL?”

In my opinion, there is not a huge market for these domain names, especially new registrations. I think there is value for a very small number of domain names, but the vast majority of registered domain names aren’t worth much of anything. For instance, Coronavirus.com has considerable value, but GoDaddy opted to forward traffic from that domain name to the World Health Organization’s website. Had they been monetizing it with PPC links or trying to sell the domain name, it probably would have been a PR nightmare. On the other hand, a newly registered domain name like CoronavirusPandemicSupplies.Info would almost certainly not be worth anything.

If you would be embarrassed to share on your Facebook page or LinkedIn page that you bought and are looking to sell coronavirus or Covid-19 domain names, you definitely should not go out and buy them and do outbound marketing.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The stock market has crashed due to corona virus fear and among other things and i have made a lot of profit shorting stocks…hope that is ethical.

    And also just for curiosity as a domainer, i inquired about coronavirus.com domain 2 weeks ago and they responded with $188k price.

  2. Since there’s been multiple mentions of this now, I feel like sharing, I’ve owned EmergencyPreparednessKit.com for over 7 years, and have put it up for auction, and I hope others don’t view this as the same. Bulk food and emergency supply businesses are exploding right now, and I don’t see it as ‘taking advantage’ of the situation, any more than the people selling such supplies could be said to be taking advantage by not giving their goods away. The way I see it, what better time would there be to develop a name like this and it could be a legit opportunity for someone. I agree with you on the theme of your post, on the other hand in my opinion if you’ve owned a domain for some time that is only tangential to the pandemic, related to goods and services that would actually benefit people at this time, I don’t see a problem with promoting it. I only bring this up as I’m curious if others are silently judging or would disagree. If this feels like spam please feel free to not publish or to remove the domain I mentioned.

  3. Well, Elliot, I imagine you’ve seen the discussion I’ve had with Andrew Allemann on his blog, and he’s maintaining his position that registering catastrophe domains for a profit is “dirty,” “reprehensible” and “shouldn’t” be done. He is making a distinction, though, between domains registered in anticipation of a slight catastrophe, i.e. Frank Schilling’s registration of Coronavirus.com, and those registered after a major catastrophe has begun.

    So I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Allemann is accusing me, among others, of immoral behavior, just as people lashed out at me in 2014 with regard to Ebola.com. That included Matt Novak of Gizmodo calling me and my business partner “opportunistic pieces of human garbage” and a Slate article referring to me as “the most hateable man in the world.” I don’t know how how many people who were thinking of buying a domain or otherwise doing business with me over the past five years decided not to do so as a result of checking me out and seeing those articles.

    You basically endorsed Mr. Allemann’s post, saying, “I echo what he said,” so I thought it was appropriate to point out what I consider to be the hypocrisy of your position – considering, especially, that you didn’t seem to consider profiting from disease domains immoral a few weeks ago – https://domaininvesting.com/analysis-what-are-illness-outbreak-domain-names-worth/ – or in 2013.

    To be fair both you and Mr. Allemann, you both mixed a few different issues which I think should be addressed separately:

    1) the morality of buying tragedy domains for a profit (which, as people have been pointing out, could include domains like Cancer.com or Depression.com);

    2) the *wisdom* of buying tragedy domains for a profit; and

    3) the morality and wisdom of buying tragedy domains for a profit and then doing outbound marketing about them.

    With regard to 1), I believe moral right and wrong do not exist objectively but only subjectively – so there is never a real issue as to whether any particular behavior is right or wrong, moral or immoral, there is only the question of ethics, which I define as the art of rule making, collectively deciding whether a particular activity should be legal in order for society to function harmoniously. We are all selfish, to one or extent or another, and in my opinion we all have the capacity, under the right circumstances, to be as selfish and destructive as anyone has ever been. I think people who think, “I could never do a thing like that” are mistaken.

    Mr. Allemann took the weird position, in my opinion, that registering catastrophe domains for a profit is immoral but shouldn’t be illegal, and I think your comments intentionally or unintentionally supported what he said.

    With regard to the wisdom of buying tragedy domains for a profit, I think it depends on which domains you get. I sure wish I had gotten Coronavirus.com, which I tried my best to, I think I could have done more “good” with it than GoDaddy is doing and would have made a ton of money at the same time; so I personally wouldn’t care much about the criticism although it might certainly have had some negative, and possibly very negative, effects. With people being sad, frustrated and somewhat panicked in this pandemic, I think there’s going to be a lot of blaming and anger being expressed. That’s one reason I’ve been using my valuable time to post on this issue the last few days, to head that off with what I think is common sense as best I can.

    With regard to the wisdom of buying tragedy domains for a profit and then doing outbound marketing – especially sending possibly dishonest emails (i.e. the “interest” the coronavirus cruiseship domains were supposedly getting) about lousy domains to stressed people – I have to think about that one…

    Let me know, please, if anything I’m saying is unclear or, in your opinion, mistaken.

    • I guess I will try to clear up a few things:

      1) I would not feel comfortable buying domain names that only have value because of a pandemic or other illness. I would not want people looking for answers to visit one of my domain names and see a sea of PPC links. Not my thing.

      2) I think the vast majority of newly registered pandemic related domain names have very little if any value. This was evidenced by the lack of sales I shared in the previous article I wrote.

      3) I think people will look like parasites by doing email outreach to sell pandemic related domain names. This will make domain investors in general look bad. People don’t love domain investors as is, so I think that makes people dislike our business even more.

      4) I think any outbound domain name sales marketing is very challenging right now. Most people are trying to survive – either literally or figuratively with their families all at home.

      5) I don’t really judge people’s business models. People all over the world have different sets of ethics and morals. Some think porn is bad, some thing selling cigarettes or vaping is bad. Many people think domain investing is unethical. With that being said, some people look at my blog for guidance on how to operate, and I think it is far more likely that an email trying to sell some sort of coronavirus domain name would end up with negative feedback from a recipient than ending in a sale.

      6) There are some names, like Coronavirus.com, which have considerable value. There are probably a few other specific names like it that third parties would gladly buy. I, personally, would not want to own a name like Coronavirus.com because I would be embarrassed if the Boston Globe, New York Times, TechCrunch, or some other publication wrote an article about how I was trying to make money from this tragedy. Articles like that would be online forever, and I would be ashamed to be portrayed in that manner.

      To each his own, but that type of thing is not my cup of tea.

      • Thanks for the intelligent response. I agree that trying to profit from disaster domains can have negative consequences for one’s reputation, business, and personal relationships.

        But I’m not sure it’s wise for the domain community to disown people who do it, like so many are doing now and like so many disown people who try to profit from a domain which includes a trademark – which does not, in and of itself, constitute trademark infringement by any reasonable definition, in my opinion. If you remember I made several comments on that under your post at https://domaininvesting.com/microstrategy-ceo-comments-domain-names/

        As Jesus might have said, “Those who profit from criticizing others who are hurting no one will unprofit from similar unfair criticism.”

        I think Joan Jett also has something to say here:

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