A grateful thank you to Ron Jackson at DN Journal for featuring dotStrategy President Bill Doshier, and the .BUZZ registry as their March/April cover story.
Text from the feature article is posted below. The complete story with photos can be found at the DN Journal here.
By Ron Jackson – April 2015
Hundreds of new domain extensions have been introduced over the past year with most of them scooped up by well-funded corporate entities. Donuts.co alone operates more than 150 new gTLDs and plans to add dozens more. Still, if you look closely enough you can spot an occasional David among the Goliaths like Donuts, Uniregistry, Minds+Machines, Rightside, Radix and even bigger behemoths like Google and Amazon.
One of those Davids who operates just one new TLD registry is actually a Bill – a self-described Arkansas born and bred country boy named Bill Doshier to be exact. Already hailed as one of the nicest guys in the business, Doshier has a daunting task ahead – making his .buzz TLD as popular with the general public as he is among his fellow domain entrepreneurs.
So just who is this new kid on the block that is going head to head with a lot of guys who have been in this industry before it was even an industry? And why does he think he can weave his way through the highly competitive new gTLD minefield, armed with just a single TLD, without getting squashed in the battle for attention by the big boys and their blitzkrieg of new names to the right of the dot?
Well, any good entrepreneur has to believe they can beat the odds and it turns out that spirit is deeply embedded in Doshier’s bloodline. Yes, Bill is a down home guy (born in Harrison, Arkansas, a small town near the Missouri border, 53 years ago), who was always outdoors hunting and fishing with family and friends or rooting for his beloved University of Arkansas Razorbacks – but the Doshier clan knew more than a little about business too.
“I noticed early on all the men in my family were self-starters and self-employed,” Doshier said. “One grandfather owned the local hardware store, another grandfather was a carpenter. One uncle operated his own machine shop, another uncle was a farmer. My father himself was a small town attorney working by himself out of a small local office. These men never worked for anyone but themselves, for themselves. As I get older I recognize more the influence they’ve had on me. Each a risk taker in their own right, they created their own opportunities.”
“Now independence and the ability to create and innovate are so important to me. It’s clearly my bloodline. Today, with .buzz, I operate my own business of running a registry and selling domain names. These men I grew up around – perhaps unknowingly – mentored me to work toward this goal of self employment and independence.”
There were several twists and turns in Doshier’s path to the domain business and we were surprised to learn that his journey started in the same field as our own – journalism. It makes sense – if you love words the way journalists do, domains are a natural fit. “I loved writing and photography and worked through high school as a photographer for the local newspaper covering sports and local events,” Doshier recalled. “In 1979 I graduated from Harrison High School and enrolled at the University of Arkansas pursuing a journalism degree and becoming a newspaperman.”
“My own disposition as a risk taker developed quickly during college. I wasn’t a very serious student. I made B’s, enjoyed playing poker, shooting pool, road tripping to the horse races and of course following the Razorbacks. These activities all funded by numerous photography jobs. My junior year an increased interest in making money and the stock market ensued. I began focusing more on business courses, taken as electives, than I did my core journalism degree courses. In 1983 I graduated from Arkansas with a journalism degree, immediately married Ms. Nita Williams, and started my first job in Little Rock as a stockbroker. Crazy!,” Doshier laughed.
It turns out things would get even crazier as Doshier made his way through the business world. “A three year stint as a stock broker rolled into a short two year career trading options on the Chicago Board Options Exchange, going broke, and moving from Chicago back to Arkansas,” Doshier said.
“By my 10-year high school reunion, I was out of the brokerage business. A purchasing position with a local manufacturer paid the bills for a few years. My son Michael was born, followed immediately by a lay off. In 1993 I accepted an entry level sales position with a distribution company out of Houston, Texas and my daughter Abby was born shortly afterwards.” As you will learn later in this story, that entry level position blossomed into something much bigger for Bill – but first things first.
“A few years later, at some point during all this excitement and upheaval, my neighbor invited me over – logged on to Prodigy – and showed me the Internet. I immediately went home and registered my first domain name, GoHogs.com. It was 1997, and obviously I didn’t truly grasp the potential of what I had just seen. Later, in 1999 before my 20-year high school reunion I registered ReuniteMe.com and set up a website for our upcoming reunion event. I love that domain, and still have it. And that was my total awareness of the domain industry to that point in time.”
“So while I never fully understood the domain game, I kept a distant eye on it as the Internet developed into this amazing convenience. I started paying more attention as the new TLD program progressed slowly. I remember thinking what a great business running a registry appeared to be; minimal labor expense, no inventory costs, no collections required, your store was always open with an incredible distribution channel aggressively selling your domains around the world twenty four hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year.”
“To me, this was the perfect business model. I made numerous cold calls to people in the registry business. Introducing myself and gathering all the information I could on registry operations. I specifically wanted to confirm operating a registry could be a small business opportunity for somebody from outside the domain name industry,” Doshier said. “So while I never fully understood the domain game, I kept a distant eye on it as the Internet developed into this amazing convenience. I started paying more attention as the new TLD program progressed slowly. I remember thinking what a great business running a registry appeared to be; minimal labor expense, no inventory costs, no collections required, your store was always open with an incredible distribution channel aggressively selling your domains around the world twenty four hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year.”
“In late 2010 I connected with Ken Hansen at Neustar (who is now Co-Founder and CEO of the .CO.COM registry). Ken, as Ken always is, was so welcoming and nice to me on our first visit. I asked him if I could come visit him at Neustar to further discuss my ideas for applying to operate a registry. He ask me when do you want to come up? I was at Neustar headquarters the next week for a face- to- face meeting with Ken. Leaving Neustar I was convinced this new registry opportunity was an event I wanted to be a part of,” Doshier said.
“Meanwhile, the previously mentioned entry level sales position had evolved into a management position, a VP title and two terms served on the company’s Board of Directors. New TLDs now appeared to be a game changer to me. I relished the opportunity to present the new Internet to my fellow board members and convince them our company should not only register our brand name, but also consider taking the lead in applying for specific TLDs within our industry space much as Amazon has done.”
“In early 2011, Ken joined me in Houston for a board of directors meeting. We presented TLDs together to the board and to my disappointment, nobody got it – nobody agreed with me. I was later told this was not part of the company’s strategic plan,” Doshier ruefully recalled.
“It became very clear on that day if I was going to operate a registry, a leap of faith was required and I would have to go out on my own. Shortly afterwards, I resigned from a rewarding sales career of 19 years and formed my company, dotStrategy, specifically for the purpose of applying for and operating a new TLD. I immediately called Ken and signed on with Neustar for application and backend support. The application process started in earnest early 2012.”
Now the $64,000 Question (actually the $185,000 question as that’s what it costs just to apply for each new TLD). How did Doshier settle on .buzz as the extension he would go into battle with?
“I understood early on, during the application process, that in order to avoid a ‘contention set’ (Editor’s note: if more than one party wants the same extension it is put up for auction, favoring those with the deepest pockets) I must search out and apply for keyword strings that were a bit under the radar. I still have the list of hundreds of words I considered applying for. Picking just a couple of TLD names was a grueling selection process. I actually changed my application paper work with Neustar three times before finalizing my selections,” Doshier said.
“.Buzz actually became first choice one evening while watching MTV with my kids. I heard buzz mentioned on MTV and immediately said “that’s it!” to my son Michael. I remember him confirming how ‘cool’ buzz could be with a younger crowd,” Doshier smiled. “So, I called Ken the next morning. I remember he was elated with the new choice and agreed to change my Neustar paperwork one more time. I was set now on my TLD selections, and on my own applied for .buzz and .fun. I decided not to apply for .rocks, .fishing and .parts. which were also high on my list.”
While Doshier applied for .fun he doesn’t expect to win the contention set for that one after discovering that the competitors include Google and a Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett) company. That being the case Doshier said, “I have no plans now to seriously look at additional TLDs until perhaps ICANN offers another application round.”
As a lone entrepreneur going up against giant corporations Doshier’s options are obviously limited but he is more than happy with his lot in new gTLD life. He may not have the bankroll the big boys do but he has the freedom to do things any way he thinks is best. “I‘m 100% owner of dotStrategy and the operator of the .buzz registry,” Doshier said. He relies on two trusted to advisors to help with the registry workload.
“Pinky Brand consults and advises me in many different areas of registry operations including ongoing Registrar relationships,” Doshier said. Lance Wolak from ExcelStrategy (and previously with PIR and .org) is handling our marketing. Lance is responsible for sales programs, as well as developing our reseller and affiliate program at create.buzz. Additionally, I receive great support from the Neustar team and I still call Ken Hansen for advice and direction.”
For almost all of the new TLD applicants a long road had to be traveled before they were awarded their extensions. We ask Doshier about the feelings he had on the day he landed .buzz. “Reveal day seems so long ago,” Doshier said. “The plan was to apply for two TLDs and hope to win one outright. Mission accomplished, as I was the only applicant for .buzz. I remember an overwhelming feeling of relief with the application process finally being over and knowing the results. I don’t think I was at all aware of what had just happened, and how big this lone .buzz applicant status truly was. Soon, emails of congratulations started rolling in from those who advised me during the application process.”
Doshier continued, “Most exciting was the meteoric rise of .buzz toward delegation. Being a single applicant for a TLD did have significant advantages. Due to the number of contention sets, .buzz moved from an initial ICANN prioritization of #746, to becoming one of the first 50 new strings launched. I signed my ICANN contract in October 2013, Pinky Brand advised me on my Registrar agreement, and we began contracting with Registrar partners immediately. .buzz Sunrise began February 2014, Landrush in March and finally we went live in General Availability, April 15th, 2014. Easy to remember our anniversary, tax day!”, Doshier laughed.
“You go through so many events during the launch process that your ‘go live’ day turns into just another day in the process. I do remember being on edge, but very proud of the accomplishment of taking .buzz live. I remember being elated with the first registration totals that Neustar reported, then disappointed as the totals slowed down later that day,’ Doshier recalled.
“That afternoon, we threw a big party at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) where I work as an instructor in the marketing department. Marketing students planned the party and called it Buzz Bash. Buzz Bash served as the official launch event for the .buzz registry, as well as a celebration of the UCA startup community. We had a great turnout from the University and local business community. The students start-up businesses were on display. We served hot dogs, gave away t-shirts and gave free buzz haircuts all afternoon on the UCA campus. By the way, I did get a buzz cut and will do so again this April 15th!”, Doshier promised.
In a final reflection on that special day, Doshier noted, “I wish now I had taken notes on the feel of that day. So much has happened in this first year since .buzz launched – it’s truly tough to remember all the emotions of launch day.”
Doshier has gotten another big break since being awarded .buzz. Widely heralded entrepreneur Howard (the former CEO of Vegas.com who is now Founder and CEO at One Degree World) decided to use .buzz domains as a foundation for his ambitious new global travel and entertainment network that has already featured .buzz domains on national TV and in leading newspapers. Lefkowitz announced his new venture involving hundreds of new gTLD domain including Vegas.buzz and Vegas.club at the 2015 NamesCon conference in Las Vegas in January.
NamesCon Co-Founder Jothan Frakes had first introduced Doshier to Lefkowitz and the two quickly hit it off. “I met this larger than life personality like I’ve never encountered before,” Doshier said. “Howard is pure Vegas, I’m pure Arkansas. There’s probably not two more different personalities partnering together than the two of us, but it works. We’ve become good business associates, talking once or twice a week about everything .buzz. Howard has given .buzz a look and branding in the travel and entertainment segment. He has great marketing knowledge and an incredible group of creative people working with him. In February, his TV ad for the travel.buzz platform reached 110 million viewers tuned in to watch Wheel of Fortune.”
“For two weeks on Wheel, travel.buzz promoted its global destinations’ .buzz websites. This was a very large marketing investment to spur visibility and demand for Howard’s new travel and entertainment platform. To this date it’s the largest single effort by far to present and promote the acceptance of the new TLD program to the general public. Howard is to be commended for this effort,” Doshier added.
“No other company has as many destination-specific domains in a single TLD as Howard’s team. I’m thrilled to have .buzz deployed in this global environment in such a massively important market as travel and entertainment. It’s the number 1, 2, or 3 of the gross domestic product of nearly every nation on the planet, and certainly a buzzworthy environment. Howard’s travel.buzz platform presents global travel and entertainment destinations, with:
We do what each of us does best; I supply him names, he builds his brand. I truly believe Howard takes over the travel and entertainment space in very short order. He’s a visionary and his track record speaks for itself,” Doshier declared.
Doshier is now one year into his big adventure and has already caught some great breaks – but he is convinced the best is yet to come despite having hundreds of competitors battling for market share. “Absolutely, it’s competitive selling domain names but this is such an incredible business model. So much potential in front of us,” Doshier said.
“I have to realize everyday .buzz is a brand and focus on what that is going to look like long term. “Buzz” is a common word in the English language to describe what’s new and interesting, and what is being widely talked about. Passionate communities place calls to action that are exciting, inspirational, and above all just might change the way the world thinks. Many recognize the intrinsic value of the .buzz TLD as their best domain option to deliver their must-read message. The word ‘Buzz’ conveys the message of an active, growing movement, and our early adopting .buzz communities are becoming well defined.”
Another thing that sets .buzz apart – and not necessarily in a good way in the opinion of some – is the high price of .buzz registrations compared to other TLDs, both new and old. Doshier, however, feels the price is right. “Pricing of .buzz in the $30 to $50 a year range across the .buzz registrar channel presents real value to the .buzz enthusiasts, evangelists, and thought leaders that desire to fuel community interest, excitement, and new experiences,” Doshier said. “Great content will inspire others to think differently, and increasingly find its home at .buzz. Registrants excited about connecting their ideas, their businesses, their brands to the definition of .buzz, understand the value of this top level domain.”
“In just a few short months, .buzz has become recognized as the new TLD home for travel and tourism sites, the legalized cannabis movement, as well as the beekeeping or apiculture industry. I’m looking for communities that value the word buzz whether it has a dot beside it or not,” Doshier noted. “Generally, .buzz is ideal for evangelists and thought leaders who fuel community interest, excitement and new experiences. My day is centered on locating these evangelists and having conversations around the value of this strange looking little word. Conversations around how I can make the registry work better for them.”
There have been reports that new TLD registrations have been lower than expected for many operators. .Buzz will end its first year with just over 10,000 domains registered. More than 70 new registries have higher totals but .buzz’s premium registration price has brought in more total revenue than that of many registries that have far more domains on the books. We asked Doshier if registration results were meeting his expectations.
“I recall estimating 20,000 names as my three year target on the .buzz application submitted to ICANN,” Doshier said. “Our one year anniversary is April 15th and .buzz just recently passed 10,000 domains registered. Obviously domain names sold is most important, but there are other areas of success for .buzz. Recently 20+ .buzz sites ranked in the Alexa top 1 million list. This has created high visibility of the .buzz TLD among domain name buyers. The top sites by traffic are viral.buzz, parisfashionweek.buzz, domain.buzz, healthybody.buzz.”
Doshier added these bullet points:
Communities with the largest .buzz domain registrations (through Q4-2014) were:
• Legalized Cannabis
Despite his enthusiasm, Doshier is fully aware that there are major differences in opinion as to how the new gTLD program will play out as time goes on. Many in the .com camp believe the extension is in an unassailable position and that it will always be the top choice for businesses and major corporations. We asked Doshier what he thought the landscape will look like 5 to 10 years from now.
“A common myth is that customers won’t migrate into the habit of using new TLDs,” Doshier said. “This myth continues to be dispelled daily. There’s simply no validity now to the idea you must operate a .com or .net – or any legacy TLD for that matter – to capitalize on an opportunity. New TLDs are quickly becoming recognized as valuable property capable of catering to specific communities or audiences with a fresh inventory of very relevant names. Great content, regardless of its origin, will attract the customer and increasingly find its home on a new TLD.”
“It’s so exciting to watch the development of the new TLDs. For the first time, in a long time, there’s value now on both sides of the dot. Examples like Howard taking on .buzz, .club and .vegas for his new venture. Seeing .nyc plastered all over New York City. The move into China by TLD Registry and others, UniRegistry basically owning NamesCon last January. This new domain train has left the station for good, and I think the momentum is remarkable one year out. I’m relatively certain the millennials, this next generation of innovators and creators driving the Internet forward, will opt for a hip relevant new TLD over a .com for their new start up site, blog site or investment opportunity,” Doshier said.
And what if things don’t go the way Doshier expects? “I remember while struggling to make it as a trader in Chicago having a conversation with an old pro, and me telling this fellow how tough it was to make it on the floor of the exchange. He looked me straight in the eyes and asks, “Have you gone broke yet?” I said, “no”. He concluded, “Oh well, you have to go broke first before you’ll ever make it here.” And I did. There’s nothing wrong with failing. It’s going to happen. Understand this and go for it!, the natural born risk taker from Arkansas concluded.