As a bevy of potential buyers continue to pursue the Boston Globe (including purchasing Boston.com and The Hive), much of the focus has been on the property the paper sits on, but its digital real estate — Boston.com, BostonGlobe.com, Globe.com, and a number of other vanity URLs — is also worth a sizable amount of money.
Even without daily traffic Boston.com gets, the URL alone would almost certainly be valued in the six or seven figures for a patient seller. In 2012, NewYork.com was sold, and while the purchase was not disclosed, a previous owner said he was aiming for a purchase price around $6 million, a long-term investment for a domain he bought for a few bucks in 1994.
Kathy Nielsen with Sedo, a company that helps broker domain name sales, said the market was still good for short, simple, generic domain names.
“Digital property is still very, very valuable,’’ she told me. Sedo helped broker the sale of Sex.com in 2010 for $13 million, a record sale price, and is still focused on helping connect buyers and sellers for valuable domains like Pizza.com, Vodka.com, and Dudu.com. “Both [Boston.com and Globe.com] are between half a million and a million dollars.’’
With their current traffic, Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com would be worth quite a bit more: Ken Doctor, who often writes on the media industry, told the Herald Boston.com could be worth as much as $50 million if spun off separately, which the New York Times has indicated it is not considering doing.
But I was curious as to their value as just plain old Internet real estate, as unlikely a scenario as that would be.
Globe.com, for example, currently just redirects to BostonGlobe.com and serves as the email domain for Boston Globe employees, making it an easier possible target for a clean sale.
“With the BostonGlobe.com domain, they are not likely to sell at all,’’ Stan Chess, who has bought and sold a number of big-dollar domains over the years, told me. “Now Globe.com or Boston.com, they could sell if it’s not the newspaper site.’’
He agreed that the domains could be worth some serious cash, saying it would sell for at least $100,000.
Chess’ biggest sale has been over half a million dollars, and he has sold “20 to 30’’ domains in the tens of thousands.
But just as the buyer of the Boston Globe will likely have to wait until the time is right to sell the paper’s Morrissey Blvd. acreage, selling online properties is all about timing.
“If the seller needs to sell in a week, they’re probably not going to that price,’’ Nielsen told me. “You have to find the right buyer, and they could be anywhere in the world, and they have to know about it.’’ She also said that prices tracked fairly closely with the stock market, meaning that holding on to the domains through a recovery could boost a sale price down the road.
Either way, the domains have been a good return for the Globe: Boston.com, for example, was originally registered by the IT staff of Au Bon Pain, possibly to ensure a competitor (Boston Market is usually the name floated) could not get it.
So Steve Taylor, the Globe’s then-executive vice president, reached out to broker a deal.
As Eddie Medina reported in 2000:
’’I knew Lou Kane (then Au Bon Pain CEO), so I called him up,’’ Taylor recalled recently. “Lou Kane said, ‘What’s Boston.com?’ “
So Taylor explained to him what the World Wide Web was, what URLs and domain names were, and how important this odd terminology was to his infant company.
So he asked Kane what he wanted in return for giving up the name, and they struck a deal. The Globe got the name Boston.com; Kane got four quarter-page ads for charities of his choice and an agreement that Boston.com would produce and host the Au Bon Pain Web site.
Not too shabby a negotiation. Interestingly enough, the Taylor family is now part of a consortium to buy back the Globe, as Beth Healy reported, giving Steve Taylor a shot at seeing just how well his investment has matured through the years.