Rob Rozicki on .SKI, the tipping point and what he learned over the last year

I interviewed Rob Rozicki one year ago on the blog, and now he's back! Rob and his team at Starting Dot will finally launch the new TLD (top level domain) .SKI on 8th Sept.  with an initial Sunrise phase for trademark holders from 1st July. Personally I think it will be a blockbuster. In this new interview he predicts the tipping point of the new TLDs, explains what he learned over the last year having launched two extensions  and why .SKI will be massive. Rob Rozicki, Starting Dot Registry 1) It's been one year since we last talked. In the meantime we all got wiser on the new TLDs. You have launched two of them; .bio and .archi. What are the lessons learned? How do you see the general market for the new TLDs? That's a great question. The learning curve since launching .archi and .bio has been very steep, and we've learnt a lot in a very short space of time. I think, the main thing we've taken away is that you need to be 100% committed to the communities where your TLD provides most value. Just opening the registry does not guarantee success. You have to interact, educate and nurture both customers and our partner channels. For customers its education, real world examples and showing them the potential of a great name. For our partner channels its about educating and getting them excited about the potential size of the customer base, so that they want to proactively promote the TLD. For our live TLDs the market is growing at a pace we expected. Our TLDs are premium TLDs and we've been pleased to see that .archi and .bio customers have really high usage rates for names (Currently .bio has 11.000 registrations and .archi 2.000). There are lots of great sites in both TLDs which is helping spread awareness and creating great opportunities.
portman.archi
Portman.archi
There are many great examples of .archi websites. We've got some of the world's biggest architecture firms like John Portman & Associates using portman.archi all the way down to local firms like PoMo Architekture based in Paris using pomo.archi.
wecoffee.bio
wecoffee.bio
The organic world in Europe has really embraced .bio and we see great sites coming online everyday. Innovative companies like Smartfood in Italy are using smartfood.bio to really differentiate themselves in the market. Wecoffee.bio is an artisan laboratory of coffee and ideas who really encapsulate the .bio community philosophy.
Premium TLD 50 (Starting Dot)
Premium TLD 50 (Starting Dot)
Pricing strategies and promotions have been an interesting experience for us. We've had mixed success with varying promotions, but ultimately we think that our TLDs provide the most value for registrants and return for our partners when priced at a premium TLD level. In Q1 we (StartingDot) launched the “PREMIUM TLD 50“, ranking of the world’s top 50 premium generic top-level Internet domains (gTLDs) which measures the performance of the largest premium generic suffixes by total number of domain names registered. It tracks the performance of gTLDs with an average retail fee over US$40. .Bio is at number 5 with an average retail price of $66 USD, which shows that a good pricing strategy and community engagement can be successful. I see the general market for TLDs and premium TLDs as becoming very strong. I envisage that we'll drop the term "new" from new gTLDs and just become part of the system by the end of this year.
I think what you'll see in the registrar market - as the pace of launches drops off - is that registrars will start to identifying TLDs that match their strategies and business goals and partner with registries on targeted campaigns and promotions. Registries that have a good understanding and access to those verticals will be really attractive to registrars, and price will become less of an issue. For registries who directly market to the verticals their TLDs represent its really important that they focus on the value their TLD brings to people as part of an overall web presence. Along with that we should promote value adds like web presence builders and others services directly to verticals as packages rather than siloed products. 2) Can you let us in on your marketing strategy for .SKI? Which pitfalls and winning formulas from other registries have you seen to be avoided and implemented? I can't let you into all of our strategies as we have some big news and surprises to announce soon. As you've probably seen over the last three years .SKI has been constantly active and investing in marketing to ski and snow sports members, and we're going to keep doing that but at a much higher intensity. We believe that .SKI is a great tool for brands (endemic and non-endemic), business and individuals involved in ski and snow sports and we're going to be right where they live, work and play in the 2015/16 season. You'll see .SKI and our partners at resorts, competitions, trade shows, on athletes and even on the chair lifts showing people how they can use their .SKI web addresses. The term "ski" resonates with anyone that is passionate about it, and ski and snow sports are at an amazing convergence point right between the outdoors and technology. People's ability to capture, upload and share content on mountains has never been greater. We believe .SKI can play a huge part in enabling a community thats over 115 million people strong to share their adventures with the web. I think its fair to say that the guys at .club have been doing some amazing work in marketing their TLD.
If we can come close to that we'll be very successful but I think each TLD needs to do things that works for their verticals. There is no one size fits all marketing strategy for TLDs and I don't think that you can sit back and wait for the "rising tide to lift all boats" aphorism to come true because thats just lazy and in reality it won't. We're firm believers that we control our own success and our marketing will reflect that. 3) We have some clients in the ski industry. What is the way forward, if they want to get a generic .SKI domain such as heli.SKI, downhill.SKI or telemark.SKI? We've literally had thousands of requests for premium names like heli.SKI and powder.SKI. There are some amazing uses people want to put these names too and we have a founders program people can apply to. However if your clients are interested in just purchasing the names, we have a premium names list that relatively to other registries is very small. If the name is on that, it will either go to auction or be priced very competitively. We want people to use every single .SKI for a great reason, so we're not making it prohibitive or complex to get a premium .SKI name. 4) You mentioned earlier that you see the general market of new TLDs to become stronger? Which are the factors, and do you see a tipping point? 
 The factors that will grow these TLDs are a combination of great marketing by registries, partnership with registrars, resellers and community organizations as well as adoption by the verticals. With .SKI we started working on these elements long before we had a launch date. For the last three years and especially during ski season we have been very visible in the ski and snow sports community. Last year a survey asking people if they had heard of the .ski domain showed that 60% knew that there were plans for a .SKI. For something that didn't exist thats pretty good brand awareness.With regards to partnerships with registrars, resellers and community channels we've been overwhelmed with the interest coming in to date for .SKI. Registrars are proactively reaching out to us for the first time to understand our plans, and enquiring how they can be part of our community marketing. In the ski and snow sports community especially from media companies we're seeing lots of traction for partnerships.We also predict high levels of adoption for .ski, because we've worked hard showing people the potential of a great .SKI names whether you are an athlete, resort, brand, business of skier. Very soon after launch you'll see high profile community members switch to .SKI. People will realize that to get good ski and snowsports content, then they have to visit a .SKI, and this will encourage them to think of a .SKI domain, when they are ready to start or update their web presence.I think the tipping point is close and will come 12 to 24 months after the bulk of the launches have happened.
 I predict that registrars, resellers and web presence companies will begin intensively looking for new customers in specific verticals, basically following the money. Those registries who have done their home work, are able to show partners a high return and provide the opening for them to reach those new customers will see the bulk of registrar interest.
Thanks Rob and good luck with the launch!If you're interested in .SKI domain names, then do check the launch dates below. You can order your .SKI domain here.
The launch dates for .SKI domains
1st July - 30th Aug. : Sunrise for trademark holders.
1st July - 30th Aug. : Limited Registration Period (Official ski associations. Read more here)
8th Sept. : Go Live