Thursday, July 15, 2010

Keith Olbermann is not the master of his own domain

If you don't own own the domain of your own name, your kids' names, your spouse's name, well, drop what you are doing and register right now.

I registered my kids' names as AOL e-mail addresses years ago as soon as they were born and soon after bought their namesake domains. That's a father thinking ahead of time about ownership in cyberspace.

I know you've heard the "you are your own brand" talk many times. It's right out of the Fast Company magazine playbook from the late 90s. You never want somebody to hijack your name on the web. That's why there are cybersquatting laws for corporations and trademarks.

Yet, somebody does own the RudyGiuliani.com domain that has nothing to do with the former Mayor of NY. When Giuliani was contemplating a presidential run a few years ago, he couldn't get that domain back, so he went with VoteForRudy.com or something like that.

The latest unlucky victim of not owning their name domain is the lightning rod liberal MSNBC host of "Countdown," Keith Olbermann. According to Mediaite, conservative Tucker Carlson's blog The Daily Caller announced that they have taken ownership of KeithOlbermann.com. Anybody who types that domain into their browser is redirected to the Daily Caller.

Foolishly, Olbermann has lost his online ID to not only an outsider, but somebody who is ideologically opposed to him and will dog him about it mercilessly (they're already crowing "We Own You!" on their home page). And there is nothing Olbermann can say or do that will ever get it back.

People pay thousands and thousands of dollars for directly typed in domain names -- just read David Kesmodel's The Domain Game about the explosive market of lucky entrepreneurs who got rich buying up those domains.

It's hard to believe that nobody in Olbermann's camp, or even at MSNBC management, covered their bases buying up the host's domain name. Mediaite indicates that the domain was owned privately for several years and apparently sold just a few days ago to The Daily Caller.

Every TV anchor and host is going to double check whether they own their own domain after Daily Caller publisher and CEO Neil Patel announced: "This is part of our long-term growth strategy. Our future acquisition targets include several other annoying cable news commentators."

You and I may not host a national television show, but as small businesses, companies and individuals, in the end, all we have our our names and reputations. Public relations is all about control. If we can't control our own names and reputations online, besides our clients and employers, we are not practicing what we preach.

The KeithOlbermann.com lesson is two-fold:

The obvious -- make absolutely sure to register the domain of your name, your family, your company, and every conceivable variation and way in for as many years as you can afford. It is all about control. Do it on GoDaddy.com -- they have the best deals by far and there are promotional codes all over the web to make it even cheaper. If your kid grows up to be a rock star, talk show host or even Joe Blow ad salesperson, they'll thank you for thinking ahead for them.

And second -- don't take anything for granted, no matter how much you trust and love the people around you. Little things do matter.

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