From New York to London to Berlin, the Race is on For City Dotbranding

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced the first “sunrise” phase of the roll-out of the .nyc domain name prior to a full-scale public launch in October 2014. 

Part of a new class of generic top-level domains (gTLDs — although in this case they’re also called geoTLDs) from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Big Apple is the first city in the U.S. with a top-level domain catering to local businesses, organizations and residents.

“The launch of the .nyc domain is one of the most anticipated arrivals for the city and the Internet at large,” stated Hizzoner. “There is no shortage of New Yorkers ready to claim their exclusive .nyc identities online, and this is their chance to reserve their piece of this city’s valuable digital real estate.”

Jessie Pressman, CEO of tech education startup Bite Size Learning, was one of those New Yorkers who seized the opportunity.

“Acquiring a .nyc domain is a chance to align Bite Size Learning’s brand with NYC,” Pressman, recently featured in Crain’s New York, told brandchannel. “As an emerging start-up the .nyc domain will lend credibility to our site while at the same time promoting our belief in supporting local business.”[more]

Backers of .nyc are selling it as an unprecedented marketing opportunity for any brand looking to associate itself with the Big Apple and reap the inherent benefits including better visibility on search engines where mobile users make location-based searches.

Pressman agrees. “I firmly believe that the .nyc domain will help Bite Size Learning grow. Not only because NYC businesses will want to work with a local firm, but also because businesses outside of NYC will hopefully be excited about partnering with a NYC company. Not to be cliche, but NYC is often called the best city on earth; associating Bite Size Learning’s brand with that type of perception can only be seen as a positive.”

Neustar, Inc. is the official registry operator for .nyc. “The launch of the .nyc web address holds great potential for all New Yorkers, whose work embodies the spirit and opportunity of such a great city,” said Lisa Hook, Neustar’s President and CEO. “Taking advantage of the .nyc sunrise registration period and the .nyc Founders Program will give both New York City-based trademark holders and early adopters the ability to plan ahead for what will be an exciting transformation of the web and New York City itself.”

NYC will generate revenue by collecting 60 percent of annual domain registration fees from the new Web addresses and Neustar has set a $20 registration fee for all .nyc domains during the sunrise phase. Former Mayor Ed Koch was an early supporter, as seen in a video from a 2009 ad campaign where he sums it all up: “DotNYC is the best real estate opportunity since the Dutch bought Manhattan.” 

Pressman believes a .nyc domain name will bring “Confidence in the brand and credibility. While .net is increasingly becoming more common, it still has a way to go in the public eye. bitesizelearning.nyc would automatically give a consumer more confidence in the veracity and reliability of our site and business.”

It’s not just the Big Apple that’s looking to brand itself digitally with a custom URL suffix. More than 50,000 applications were received as soon as .london opened up last month, while .berlin became the first city to introduce its own domain, with over 40,000 domain names registered in the first 48 hours back in March.

“The geo-TLDs are touted as having the greatest chance of success,” commented Jerome McDonnell, Group Trademark Director at Interbrand (brandchannel’s parent company). “It’s unclear if major brands will register with all the extensions, unless for defensive reasons. Local businesses will definitely see opportunity in being able to secure their pure/exact name at this extension.”

“It’s arguable that the dot city extension stands a better chance of success because consumers are already familiar with country codes ( .co.uk, .com.au, .jp, etc.) so they make sense to them,” McDonnell added. “Another advantage is that most have city government support behind them.”

One question mark is whether municipal dotbranding makes a difference (beyond civic pride) on the web. As McDonnell notes, “I’m unsure as yet about the pluses of dot city extensions in search engine results and rankings, but given that Google already endeavors to tailor results to your location, a geo-TLD might only enhance this and mean these domain names turn up higher in the results list.”

It’s also a relative bargain, cheaper than what a company such as AXA (for example) paid to secure .axa, as Koch was right on the money: a .nyc domain name comes out to around $20 a year. Whatta deal!

Follow Sheila Shayon on Twitter: @srshayon

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