A New York City size and type of marketing campaign for .NYC

This YouTube video published on April 21, 2015 expertly outlines the genesis of the .NYC TLD. Sadly it has 33 views, no comments and not a single thumbs up in two and a half years!

Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) produced the show called Represent NYC and this episode focused on the then-new .nyc domain, with Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer as the host. Gale did a great job interviewing her three guests which included Betsy Bober Polivy (Founder of Manhattan Sideways, sideways.nyc), Ken Biberaj (VP at Russian Tea Rooms, russiantearoom.nyc and Community Board 7 member) and Anna Guzman (Business Development Manager at Neustar, ownit.nyc).

In the humble style of most public television productions, the video dives into discussing what is .nyc, the technical and marketing role of Neustar and a few case studies including Betsy’s sideways.nyc, a website devoted to promoting NYC businesses located on the side streets of the city.

For such a large, bustling and often loud city that is surrounded by excess, New York City has plenty of outlets for citizens to feel connected on a local level. The discussion in the video really highlights the sense of local connection while making a case for owning a .nyc domain name.

So why only 33 views? What’s the problem with that anyway?

Most public television is informational as was this video. This wasn’t a marketing video although it makes a compelling argument as to why at least all businesses in NYC should register a .nyc domain (and possibly residents for personal sites). Therein lies the problem: when you are competing in the attention economy, in the busiest and loudest place on the planet, being modest about a great product, through the humble means of public television, you cannot expect exponential adoption as a result.

It’s true that .nyc has progressed nicely with around 75,000 registrations and that nexus requirements (unlike other cityTLDs including .london, .boston, and .paris) have helped the domainspace thrive organically, but for .nyc to reach its full potential I believe the marketing must match both the value of this great product and the limited attention of distracted, yet potentially ideal customers. That means .nyc has to be marketed more clearly and loudly.

The Best of Boroughs Campaign was a step in that direction – but still seemed a little too quiet and polite to cause a stir. While one of my daily mantras in my professional life is to “plan for chaos”, in the case of promoting .nyc domains I believe we need to “plan the chaos”. Chaos may not be the ideal word but I believe a little commotion, ruckus and a splash of organized drama would project .nyc towards it’s potential.

A New York City size and type of marketing campaign for .NYC

Remember John Oliver’s news about Michael Bloomberg’s law firm, registering 400 .nyc domains on his behalf?

This was a two and a half minute clip and aside from all the fun quotes (please watch the video), here are a few of the potent marketing messages, verbatim from the video:

  • Citizens of New York recently got an exciting internet opportunity
  • The city’s top level domain .NYC is now available to all New Yorkers
  • There was an immediate rush to register web addresses, even from ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg
  • I would encourage everyone to go to OwnIt.nyc and buy the domain name of your choice

John Oliver’s show pulls in an average of 4.1 million weekly viewers across TV airings and DVR, on-demand and HBO Go plays. The video above has over 800,000 views and was published on a YouTube account unrelated to John Oliver or his show. It was a well written and delivered piece that was politically well timed and effective at creating laughs while delivering news. There was an increase in excitement and awareness of .nyc and no doubt a bump in registrations, incidentally at a cost of zero.

Contrasting the two videos above, while I enjoyed them both, the ruckus within John Oliver’s two and a half minute video is more effective at embedding a call to action than the thirty minute Respect NYC video.

Generating Excitement

Although it’s tempting to think about how to replicate the effect of John Oliver’s video, he had a national audience and some great content, a controversial politician and colorful language to work with. Also if it was easy to do everyone would be doing it for every product, and all of the time.

I do however, think that a game plan considering the following is essential:

  • What marketing efforts have already been made? What were the goals and what were the measurable outcomes?
  • What is registrar feedback on their option to promote .nyc domains on their websites? Can IP geo-targeting be used to promote .nyc domains in keyword searches initiated by devices connected in NYC?
  • Where are people currently exposed to .nyc domains that are in use and can this exposure and interaction be increased? e.g. government departments, school websites, students’ email addresses, sports teams, media outlets, personalities, local institutions, museums, local stores or national stores with a local presence, neighborhood resources…
  • What marketing channels are available in NYC? e.g. NY1 (Spectrum News), WYNC (New York Public Radio), PIX11, etc. 
  • What regular and adhoc news, stories, PR can be distributed? e.g. registration statistics, infographics, SEO bulletins, NYC business and website case studies, .nyc premium domain sales news, auction marketing, etc.
  • What directly and indirectly related influencers exist in the NYC market who could facilitate in the promotion of the .nyc domainspace?

The GoDaddy barge travels up the Hudson River to promote the new .nyc internet domains, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, in New York. (John Minchillo/AP Images for GoDaddy.)

Being that NYC is one of the biggest, boldest, loudest, craziest cities on the planet, how can .nyc be promoted in that same style? I don’t have all the answers but here are a few suggestions:

  • Put a banner on a barge in the Hudson River taunting New Jersey about not being able to register .nyc domain names. Done.
  • Sponsor the New York City Marathon
  • Be a sub sponsor for Nathan’s Famous International Hotdog Eating Contest at Coney Island
  • Sponsor New Year’s Eve activities in Times Square and/or with a news channel covering the balldrop – or give out a few hundred thousand .nyc promo cards
  • Sponsor a Central Park concert or the Halloween Parade or Boo at the (Bronx) Zoo
  • Convince Famous NYC institutions like Radio City Rockettes to switch over to a .nyc domain name and use it in all their marketing.
  • Provide a helpline for people to call and get assistance with registering a .nyc website and building an instant website – perhaps a local registrar teaming up with Wix would be a great partnership (I know registries walk a careful line to prevent favoring a particular registrar so some of this marketing may be best at the registrar level)
  • Produce a series of short, comical and memorable web videos about the helpline described above to get more people to call in for assistance as the videos begin to trend.
  • Have a presence at every Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Jets, Nets, Rangers, Cosmo game or even the US Open in Flushing Meadow Park… Bonus points for getting the .NYC logo on a football, soccer ball, tennis ball, basket ball or hockey puck!
  • Have ten ice cream trucks (with full .nyc decals) give out free ice creams (with .nyc cone sleeve) across NYC in the summer – maybe ask them to register a .nyc domain first…
  • Team up with the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission to put a .nyc call to action bumper sticker on the back of their 14,000 yellow cabs – and if they won’t do it try Uber or Lyft
  • Paint the 7 train blue, white and orange (OwnIt.nyc’s colors)
  • Light up the Empire State Building blue, white and orange

The ideas are never ending in the city that never sleeps and while it’s true that there’s a significant cost to many ideas, most would trend for a while and could be used for PR across local media outlets, further normalizing New Yorkers to a more meaningful .com alternative. Whatever the idea, I think it’s important to just keep the campaigns coming and maintain the excitement – there’s just too much competition for attention here.

One more thought – The Benefits and Disadvantages of Nexus

I believe that the nexus requirements (which mandate .nyc registrants must live or work in the City of New York) have been important in organically developing the .nyc domainspace. As you can see from the Developed NYC business listings pages, adoption and development of .nyc domains by diverse businesses across the city has been tremendous. If at the launch of .nyc, anyone in the world was able to register .nyc domains, we may have seen many cases of New Yorkers being unable to register their business name with the .nyc TLD. Currently having around 75,000 .nyc registrations with the nexus requirements in place, limiting the potential market, highlights the strength and potential of .nyc.

Despite the clear benefits of the nexus requirements I wonder if they also come with a cost. Certainly lifting these restrictions would yield more registrations and no doubt revenue for Neustar and the City of New York, but could lifting the nexus restrictions also benefit New Yorkers and the health of the .nyc domainspace?

Currently Neustar (the registry) provides the technical and some marketing services for .nyc however, the selling occurs at the registrar level (e.g. GoDaddy). Therefore, the registrar option to promote .nyc domains to their customers at the instant they’re searching for a domain name is incredibly important. Registrars must make decisions based on pricing, registry discounts, customer needs and other variables whether or not to show the availability and option to buy a .nyc domain name. I wonder if registrars like GoDaddy are incentivized to display keyword.nyc in a list of buying options when someone searches for a domain? Currently, I’d argue – no. I believe that when someone searches for “keyword nyc” at a registrar they will not always see the succinct keyword.nyc as an option to buy and may instead see alternatives including keywordnyc.com, keywordnyc.store, keywordnyc.club, etc.

This is because the nexus requirements for .nyc create an extra layer of complexity for registrars and customers. Many registrars do not want to confuse customers by displaying keyword.nyc for sale only to later tell the customer they cannot register the domain when the nexus requirements cannot be validated. Also if registrars have limited on-screen space for banners and other advertising to promote a TLD, they are only likely to promote the TLDs that most visitors can register – and not just a fraction of visitors meeting nexus. So .nyc domains become less visible on registrar’s websites while other TLDs such as .com, .store and .club are offered as they don’t have nexus restrictions. This reduction in visibility of .nyc domains affects New Yorkers who have nexus and could register a .nyc domain if they were shown it as an option.

Some may also argue that the love of New York City is global, much like the adoption of New Zealand’s .kiwi around the globe. So should folks from outside the city be able to register and develop a .NYC domain name into a website expressing their love of the city? To commemorate their visits?

What about the hundreds of thousands of people who live in New York for a few years and then move out? Maybe they’re students at one of New York City’s top universities or maybe they relocate for work purposes. Perhaps they move across the country or maybe just a mile across the city limits to Long Island, Westchester or New Jersey? Is it fair that these former residents lose their developed .nyc websites because they are no longer in compliance with the nexus restriction? The restriction itself may be enough of a reason for many of these folks (who may move out of the city) from ever registering and building a great .nyc domain name to begin with.

Should the nexus requirements be lifted there would still be protections in place for NYC businesses against trademark infringement through the UDRP and URS process. Is this enough protection to keep the domainspace safe, clean, organic and respected? I’m not sure. However, during this year, .nyc will turn 4 years old – maybe the pros and cons of the nexus requirements could be reexamined.

So what are your thoughts on .nyc’s nexus requirements – should it remain in place or is there a case for considering lifting these requirements for the betterment of the domainspace? What about generating excitement for .nyc and to project it towards its potential? Would love to hear your opinions in the comments section below.

4 responses to “A New York City size and type of marketing campaign for .NYC”

  1. I completely agree. Neustar must lift its game when it comes to marketing .NYC or provide some kind of incentive for registrars to do the promotion. I also agree that the nexus restrictions may be part of the reason why registrars are less likely to make .nyc more visible.

    1. You maybe right. Here are a few interesting release dates:
      Oct/Nov 2014 – Original auctions/.NYC launches
      Oct 2015 – 16,600 collision names released (many premium level domains with a standard price)
      Oct 2016 – 3,800 premium domains release (for registering at premium prices $250 – $7,500)
      Post-Oct 2016 – 500 names were reserved for ongoing, small batch (~20) premium auctions (so far the themed auctions completed were real estate, fashion and technology)
      So I believe there are still a few hundred either reserved for future auction or available at places like Sedo for super premium prices – many show a $30,000 buy now price.

  2. Well the premium releases in Oct 2014, 2015 and 2016 did enough to keep people renewing their domains. So it was very timely in that it created some momentum.

    I do believe that it is time to consider lifting nexus… People all over the world love to visit NYC and would love a digital piece of it. Even residents of New York State being excluded from registering a .NYC seems a little unfair – although I believe people who live just outside the city limits in Long Island or Yonkers can still register a .nyc if they work in the city.


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