Why Topix Should’ve Saved its $1 Million

    March 13, 2007

The WSJ’s Kevin Delaney, provides a broad overview of the issues web site owners face when switching their web site from one domain to another – usually via a 301 redirect. The story focuses on Topix.net…

The news site…paid a Canadian company $1 million for the Web address Topix.com in January…Mr. Skrenta intends to switch his site over to the more popular .com Web address from .net soon to help eliminate confusion and increase credibility with consumers…Such a simple change, Mr. Skrenta has discovered, could have disastrous short-term results.

Any loss of traffic from a redirect, could be a huge issue for the company…

About 50% of visits to his news site come through a search engine…Even if traffic to Topix, which gets about 10 million visitors a month, dropped just 10%, that would essentially be a 10% loss in ad revenue, Mr. Skrenta says. “Because of this little mechanical issue, it could be a catastrophe for us,” he says.

I’m not going to dive into a how-to on 301 redirects – especially as Danny’s covering this angle in detail – but do want to look at the bigger picture. Why in the world would you change your domain name anyway?

I think Topix.net has done a pretty good job of telling the world that they are “Topix.net”, why go through the effort of risking the potential lost traffic of a domain redirect and re-branding – especially when the new domain cost you $1m.

I know a few years back – heck just a few months back – you either needed a “.com” or you’d languish in the second-tier internet world. But with fewer and fewer .com domain names available, I’ve seen a recent resurgence of “.net” domain names – none of them seem to be hurt by choosing the younger brother of the TLD world (heck, if del.icio.us can do well, any TLD can!).

What’s done is done, but I probably wouldn’t have spent the million, and I certainly wouldn’t have worried about redirecting.