Turning a Frustrating Practice Into a Useful Tool for Consumers

Media Morph: Filling Up Empty Domains

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: Filling up empty domains.
Here is a play for one of the most undertapped online advertising budgets, local businesses.
Here is a play for one of the most undertapped online advertising budgets, local businesses.

The issue: "Domain parking" has long been a dirty phrase in the web-marketing industry. Companies buy up either commonly misspelled or generic domains, fill them with cost-per-click text ads from Google or Yahoo and hope consumers end up there ready to click on the ads. While it's a brilliantly high-margin business, it can be incredibly frustrating for consumers.

The new twist: Marchex, a Seattle company that holds a variety of online assets, including 200,000 domains, is trying fill more than half of them with directory-style content that consumers might find useful. It's hard to build out sites at that scale, so the company is tapping a content-aggregation technology it acquired for $13 million in March 2006 called Open List. All together, the sites attracted about 31 million unique visitors in March.

Example, please?: Open List searches the web for content related to particular topics, categories and geographies, aggregating reviews from such sites as Insider Pages and Citysearch and maps and driving directions from Yahoo. It also encourages people to find what they're seeking through refinement; a visit to NewYorkDoctors.com lets users sort by neighborhood, specialty, hours or user rating.

The ad angle: Most of the sites are heavily commercialized with text ads. Ideally, this launch, which was billed as "providing more than 1 billion pages of local content," is a play for one of the most undertapped online advertising budgets, local businesses, although a few odd matches occurred, including an ad for Denver Urgent Care showing up on the New York Doctors site.

Other domain-content plays: Former Intermix CEO Richard Rosenblatt, is trying to fill domain parked sites with user-generated content and a new Los Angeles company called LeaseThis.com has launched a marketplace by which marketers or media companies can lease popular domains.
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