What’s in a Domain Name? Perhaps, the Future of News.

If you are passionate about journalism, the website Futureof.news is worth your time.

Subtitled “Conversations about the intersection of news, technology, and culture,” Future of News appears, at first glance, a love letter to journalists and ravenous news consumers alike.

And maybe it is what it appears to be.

Through multi-part mini-documentaries with movers and shakers in the news industry, the site seeks to spur conversations about the future of journalism (just as we do at MediaFile). The mini-docs are aesthetically superb, and highlight innovations and initiatives already changing the industry.

The Futureof.news site header.

The Futureof.news site header.

“Any media company that is not also a technology company today is missing out,“ remarks the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith in Future of News’ inaugural video. “And it’s probably not going to be around very long.”

The future of news media is one that is highly technologized and interconnected, Smith asserts. Smith’s opinion is a popular one in the industry, setting the tone for the entire Future of News series.

A digital future for news is essential to a marketing campaign by a company called Rightside Group. These are folks behind the label “Presented by .news” that adorns the website’s banner.

They sell domain names. And, this website is a sales pitch.

Future of News is not journalism in itself. And, it may or may not be true documentary.

But,  the videos are newsy and informative. So what is it?

Perhaps, it is a marketer’s love letter to journalism.

Some Technicalities

Domain names begin HTTP – colon – backslash-backslash – W-W-W-dot –

Domain names tell stories. They tell stories of brands, companies, and organizations. They identify massive conglomerates and tiny non-profits. They identify industry tycoons, personal contact pages, and even mom-and-pop shops just around the corner.

But, to the right side of every domain name is something far more technical: something called a top-level domain, or a TLD.

Our website, MediaFileDC.com, ends in the top-level domain called .COM. It’s the most popular, most familiar, and most assumed TLD.

Facebook dot com. Yahoo dot com. Google dot com.

But, as you also know, we see .ORG, and .NET, and .EDU. These help distinguish what kind of website a user is about to visit. .COM stands for commercial, .ORG for organization, and .NET for network. .EDU distinguishes educational institutions, and .GOV dictates a government website.

The original non-international TLDs. Graphic Credit: Scott Nover

The original non-international TLDs. Graphic Credit: Scott Nover

These, along with country-specific TLDs, are among the original top-level domains available for websites. And they date back as early as 1985.

Web users interact and interpret these domains every single day while surfing the web.

Today, gTLDs, or generic top-level domains as they are now called, can look a bit different. .CAMERA, .CHRISTMAS, and, potentially a new personal favorite, .COFFEE.

These creative domains exist because of  a non-profit group called ICANN, or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN was formed in 1998 to manage the wide world of domain names – old and new.

Rightside Group is one of the companies that manages these TLDs. In 2013, when ICANN opened up an auction for these new domain extensions, for the first time in a decade, Rightside opened up shop, incorporated in Kirkland, Washington, and jumped right into the game.

Today, Rightside has roughly 250 employees and satellite offices in Austin, Denver, and Dublin, Ireland.

“When the auction process took place for the nearly 1,200 domain names they opened it up to, we ended up acquiring the rights to sell the [40] domain names,” said Bill Glenn, vice president of marketing at Rightside.

Among the extensions Rightside bought was .NEWS. As the sole proprietor of this TLD, any .NEWS site originates with Rightside.

A Masterful Product

“There’s never before been a media company built on humanitarian principles by humanitarians,” remarks Molly Swenson, chief operating officer of RYOT News.

RYOT, an innovative humanitarian media company recently bought by AOL and merged with the Huffington Post, is profiled in the second episode of Future of News.

The interview is expertly framed in a Los Angeles warehouse that could only be the RYOT headquarters. Perhaps, it is the newsroom itself. R-Y-O-T boldly adorns the wall that serves as the backdrop. Employees work in the background, off to the right. The B-roll is striking, largely footage from Africa where RYOT does much of its work.

The video precedes RYOT’s mega-corporate takeover, a takeover that can only be explained by a TechCrunch headline that embodies the jumbled, consolidated industry itself: “Verizon’s AOL’s Huffington Post acquires virtual reality studio RYOT for $10 to $15 million.”

Nevertheless, RYOT – who achieved additional fame through their Academy Award nomination in 2016 – explain the raw, honest purpose of their mission in Future of News.

The interviewer’s voice is absent, and RYOT speaks for itself without counterpoint or conjecture.

The videos are beautiful and intriguing. But, they are closer to marketing videos for the subjects themselves than anything else.

Rightside is the creative force behind Future of News, and direct the action from their Austin office. But they work with Austin-based video production company Dox to make it all happen.

Dox personnel interview and produce the videos, traveling for most but relying on Skype for a more recent episode – an interview with Amie Ferris-Rotman of Sahar Speaks. The subjects are consulted on their topics of choice, and much of the B-roll comes from the source itself. Ferris-Rotman’s personal photographer volunteered stunning video from Afghanistan where they work training a new class of female journalists.

Like a TED talk – an “idea worth sharing” – without back-and-forth or interrogation. In marketing, but often in documentary too, sharing ideas appears a one-way street. 

The Customers

Rightside claims its most popular domains are .NEWS, .SOCIAL, .ROCKS, .LIVE, and .LAWYER. And, publishers are catching on and trying their luck.

Just announced last Thursday, the Seattle Times has committed to seattletimes.news and st.news, which forward to seattletimes.com. Additionally, st.news will be the root of the official bit.ly short links for Seattle Times web pages.

The Seattle Times said the following in a press release:

“For 120 years, we’ve been committed to serving our community with thoughtful, independent news and information,” said Kati Erwert, director of marketing at The Seattle Times. “Employing the .NEWS domain succinctly communicates our proud tradition of journalistic authority while continuing to invest in our technology-rich present. Shortened links not only allow us to provide more news in limited social spaces, but also strengthen consistent brand presence in the marketplace in ways that users can best connect with us.”

Rightside is headquartered in nearby Kirkland, and the Seattle Times is one of its hometown newspapers.

Apple News owns apple.news, which redirects to their app if opened on mobile. Copying an article link in the Apple News app will produce a web page that starts with apple.news/, as well.

And, publishers are utilizing other Rightside TLDs as well.

The New York Post owns nypost.social, which aggregates its social media links for their New York Post and Page Six brands.

nypost.social centralizes the social media buttons for the New York Post and Page Six brands.

nypost.social centralizes the social media buttons for the New York Post and Page Six brands.

Some top companies like T-Mobile and Hyundai utilize Rightside’s .NEWS TLD to link to their press or media relations pages.

Even with the efforts of Facebook, Twitter, and Google to host as much of publishers’ content on their platforms as possible – so users can get an all-in-one experience in one place – Rightside is not concerned about the sales of domain extensions.

“It’s an opportunity,” said Brian Dillon, a senior designer who works in Austin and spearheaded the Future of News project. “All this stuff is getting centralized, but domain names don’t have to be a website. They can be a shortcut to that content. People can use a .NEWS or .SOCIAL and link to the company’s Facebook page.”

And with the advent of Facebook Live, Twitter’s live-streaming ventures in sports, and now-classic YouTube streaming, Rightside insists its TLDs can also be the perfect forwarder to their traditionally named website.

Leading By Example

With Future of News, Rightside is doing something marketers rarely do: lead by example.

Future of News is not a journalistic website, but it is not traditional sponsored content advertising either. In one sense, it is a great example of a website a publisher could have, branded with the .NEWS domain name.

“What we think is really exciting about the .NEWS opportunity and about Futureof.news is that we’re really trying to key in on addressing the needs of very specific industries and becoming a part of a community,” said Dillon in an interview with MediaFile.

“So what we found when we launched .NEWS, which was only in July 2015, was that we really wanted to understand what was happening in the news industry in general,” continued Dillon. “And you read a lot of the headlines about people in the news industry being laid off and everything going digital and we feel like .NEWS is just a great way to think of how news organizations or freelance journalists brand [themselves] online.”

Rightside, in search of that journalistic community, went – not as vendors or speakers – as participants to the Online News Association conference last year. Glenn met Rich Jaroslovsky at ONA and Jaroslovsky, vice president for content at news aggregation app SmartNews, was later featured in the fourth episode of Future of News.

Just a year later, Rightside will be a vendor at ONA 2016, which is next week in Denver, Colorado. Their growth is palpable.

An in-site ad urging users to "future-proof" their online presence.

An in-site ad urging users to “future-proof” their online presence.

“There’s no better way of kind of getting into that mindspace than talking about what’s coming next for journalism and what’s the future of journalism,” says Dillon. “So we wanted to be part of and start a conversation about what’s going on with technology and culture of news.”

What is the best way to imply that one’s product aligns with the future of a given industry? Rightside has hit the nail on the head with Future of News.

Right In the Mix

And thus, Future of News is a complete product. It is a special endeavor for any marketer, and an indubitably effective way to insert oneself into a conversation.

The news industry in 2016 is marked by dynamism and uncertainty, something Rightside looks to capitalize on. A digital future awaits all media companies, but few are certain of what exactly that means. And, perhaps the wisest among us know that no one can predict what is ahead.

But there is a market in the future of news. And Rightside is in the mix.

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