This is a guest post from Fred Mercaldo discussing some happenings in the geodomain space, as well as providing an update on his latest development project, FrenchRiviera.com, a domain name I sold a couple of years ago.
Fred entered the geo domain business by purchasing Scottsdale.com seven years ago. After successfully developing and monetizing Scottsdale.com, he began to acquire additional properties, and his software platform “City In The Box” has been installed on close to 85 City.com brands. In 2010, he founded GeoDomain Development Ventures, LLC which presently does the marketing and advertising for over 65 City.com brands (including Burbank.com). Fred is also President of the leading trade association representing the geo domain industry, GeoPublishers.com.
After returning from 12 days of meetings on the French Riviera, I am motivated to share our results as it pertains to the geo-domain marketplace, as well as some other observations on recent deals, and also share developments about our marketing plans for our CitiesPlanet.com family of sites.
Myself, Holly Meschner (our VP of Business Development), and Toby Hardy the CEO of FrenchRiviera.com Media Group, LLC spent the past 12 days meeting with hotels and various business professionals in the south of France. We only launched the site on March 23rd, but through Holly’s great efforts, we were able to secure over 20 appointments, and overall we were involved in 32 meetings. Not only were our meetings fruitful, there were a few observations that I need to share:
- Even in France, .COM is king. We have numerous high end periodicals published by Air France and other industry giants….in over 90% of the advertisements; the brands listed their websites as .COM.
- In our meetings, the phrase “We understand your brand name” was mentioned to us many times. It is doubtful we could have secured not only the meetings, but the attention and interest we experienced if we had hit the market with anything but the FrenchRiviera.com label.
- It is a great time to launch a City.com. While there were plenty of super yachts, Bentleys and Ferraris, the economy has taken its toll on the hospitality industry, even in Monaco, Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes, and St. Tropez. Listing and quoting their occupancy rates anywhere from 54% to 74%, not only are visits down, but average daily rates are under pressure also. Everyone was eager to find out how they could work with us.
While there are many exceptions to my .COM comments, and there are many successful .FR sites, time and time again our branding and business plan strategies were reinforced positively in our meetings. We look forward to finalizing our contracts and building www.FrenchRiviera.com into the dominant source and trusted authority for the travel and tourism industry for this very important region.
Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com Sale
Having grown up in Philadelphia, both the Inquirer and Daily News was part of my everyday life. I moved to Chicago when I was 22, which had both the Tribune and Sun Times. I find it shocking that this deal was made for $55,000,000; and I predict that eventually, Philly.com will be the top earner and largest asset in this purchase. It is important to note a few things:
- The previous purchase for these assets were 10 times the value of the present purchase price.
- While the print publications continue to lose money, (begging the question…”How much would you pay for a business losing $20,000,000 per year?”) you need to wonder what the motivation is for the buyers. Excellent article in todays (Monday, April 9th) New York Times about what they think about it.
- Records show that Boston.com was valued at $20,000,000 by the New York Times/Boston Globe group through an independent evaluation. If Philly.com is worth half of Boston.com, then the 2 daily papers in a top 10 metro market were purchased for $45,000,000. This is not something to cheer about if you are a fan of print; this is another example of how the model of publishing a daily newspaper, printing it, and delivering it….is not a profitable or sustainable business model.
There was an excellent article a few years ago in these very papers regarding the speculation of what life would be like without a daily paper. It was thought provoking, and very interesting. Mostly dwelling on the theory that without papers, there would be no journalists….and no journalists to uncover City Hall issues, corrupt politicians, political commentary, etc. Well, these reporters and journalists are indeed important in our society; and they will continue to exist….it is just that their articles will be read online, and not in print, in the very near future.
Sale Of NewburyPort.com
This, as many have stated, is a win-win for both parties. However, let’s look at the potential for the buyer. As a real estate agent, if he properly develops this domain, this will turn out to be the best investment he will have ever made. Regardless of what other opinions are out there, here are the facts:
- If developed properly, NewburyPort.com will rank at the top of the search engines. Even if it is in the top ten, the public will click on it, and not the .net, .tel, .info or whatever, because they understand and trust the .COM.
- Personally, if I were moving to this area, I would check out NewburyPort.com. I would also look at the site for pertinent and relevant information about the town, and would assume that the real estate section of the site would be the most credible place for listings and real estate information. Many times buyers are reluctant to visit places like “GreatHomes4SaleinNewburyPort.com” because they feel all they will see are the listings of the specific agent; however they perceive NewburyPort.com as the “official” city site, and therefore trust it more.
- How many sales does he need to get to recoup the purchase price? At 3% commission, as soon as he hits the $1,000,000 mark in sales this year, he will have completely recovered his purchase price.
This is a classic example that City.com brands cannot be valued at “population times $.10” or other numerical values. Properly developed, the buyer has hit a grand slam.
CitiesPlanet.com Opening Call Center This Month
After many months of due diligence, we are happy to announce the opening of a Scottsdale based Call Center that will service our 65 PLUS City.com brands. In an effort to make our sites “hyper local”, we will be offering a $179 monthly package for local businesses that will give them the following:
- A Feature Interview/Article that will appear on the Home Page, in a “Featured Business” section. This will be repeated every 3 months with a new article/interview.
- A Premium Business Directory upgraded listing. In our Business Directory, we will limit our upgrades to 5 per category.
- Social Media. Many businesses are struggling with their social media goals; we will establish and manage both Twitter and Facebook presences for these businesses.
We plan on staying in contact monthly with each of these businesses, and are in the process of including a “ROI Dashboard” which will show them exactly what results they are receiving from being featured on our City.com sites. Additional packages will be available, ranging anywhere from $400 to $4,000 per month, depending on the category and level of exposure. We have hired 2 top professionals from within the industry to manage the Call Center, and we look forward to getting started.
New Investors Coming Into Our Industry
I am very pleased to report that, after a couple of years of inactivity (from my perspective) I am seeing new money being invested into our pure City.com space. I am working with a group in the San Francisco Bay area that is in the process of developing 14+++ brands. www.CaliforniaMedia.com will show the brands, and the executives behind the deal are from the insurance and real estate business.
We need to look no further than Toby Hardy as an example of a serious investor/developer from another field of business. A successful shopping center developer in the Southeast, Toby is now entrenched in the long term development of FrenchRiviera.com. Seeing many of the same philosophies and goals of building shopping centers (in our case, the developed domain is the center; the tenants are the advertisers) he is bringing his years of expertise and intelligence and concentrating on the City.com brand business.
There are many more, but just wanted to note this trend that will no doubt continue to rise. And yes, contrary to many opinions, I still insist we are in the infancy (OK….maybe “toddler” phase) of the internet and geo domain business. It is great to see professionals from other industries….successful and intelligent people….that share and embrace our vision.
Finally, as President of GeoPublishers.com, I need to remind everyone in the geo domain world that we all need to support this organization to the best of our abilities. This organization has the potential to be the leading spokesperson representing all of our best interests, whether they be legal, political, or bringing major media into the space…which is happening on a daily basis.
Elliot, thanks for the opportunity to share my developments and comments. I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to Fred on the launch of FrenchRiveria.com, the development of domains with CaliforniaMedia.com and the opening of the CitiesPlanet.com call center. It is encouraging to see movement in the Geo industry. Agreeing with Fred, .COM is still king. Additionally development is king and Fred is a testament to success in development. Although it seems like the industry has been stagnant the last few years, I think we have all hunkered down in our development and focused our energies there as well as relationship building with partners and clients. This is one of the keys to success in development that Fred recognizes and capitalizes on. Cheers to a great first quarter of 2012!
Fred and his group developed and manage Boulder.com for me. He is a first class person and would highly recommend CitiesPlanet.
Thank you Fred!
There’s lots of open ad spaces on FrenchRiveria.com. Has anyone outside of local businesses had success marketing on these geo-sites?
Jessica and Peter…thanks for the kind comments. Mike….we just launched on March 23rd, so our efforts to secure advertisers are just now underway. We have many interested hotel partners, and they will participate in numerous ways…either paying direct for advertising, or providing us with net rates in the 30 percent range, or by barter/trade deals. We will be handling our own vacation/travel fulfillment, so all of the options we are providing hotels will be profitable for us. We are also in the process of securing some major sponsors/partnerships for the site…..we are in discussions with some of the top organizations in the airline, credit card, and luxury brands industries. We hope to have some significant partnerships secured in the coming 60 days. Fred.
I was just checking FrenchRiviera.com a couple of days ago to see if it had been developed yet, nice surprise ! Looking good.
I’ve been drooling over that domain for over 5 years 😉
Tons of potential, good luck (not that you should need it)
FrenchRiviera.com is an awesome brand. Best of luck!
Congrats to Fred and his team and Toby as well for what looks to be an upcoming successful site for the French Riviera region.
I too am a big client of Fred’s “city in the box” platform. We are currently operating 20 city sites using the platform and have another 8 in development, yes Fred while you were on vacation we have added 2 more domains into development.
For those that own pure generic domains we at CityPartners strongly recommend “city in the box” its worth every penny.
Steve…..do 32 meetings in 12 days sound like a vacation to you? LOL!!! It truly was in the coolest place I’ve ever been to in my life….anyway, thanks for the support and comments, and let’s get these sites LIVE! Fred.
Shout out to Peter and Jessica.
Cheers and keep up the good work!
I see many people are typing French Riveria instead of French Riviera. Maybe I should that that domain..just in case 🙂
I was surprised to see that the Adwords tool shows only 18,100 global exacts for “French Riviera” (compared with 33k for Burbank).
Still, it sounds like Fred and his team are approaching the launch in a very professional way. Good luck to them.
No offence, but isn’t there an easier way? It seems like a lot of effort for very little result…