Thursday, September 15, 2011

ICANN to Launch Global Awareness Campaign about new gTLDs

The global communications campaign by ICANN to raise awareness about new gTLDs will launch next week on September 21st  but already there are concerns from various stakeholders in the process that the budget of $750,000 is too low for the global undertaking.

The campaign is expected to launch on 21st September. ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom will be joined by Nominet CEO Lesley Cowley at a gTLD Discussion on September 20 in London before he attends similar events in Paris, Berlin and Munich.

According to an ICANN Press brief released 17th of August, a new gTLD website will be launched by ICANN on 21st September to raise awareness about the program. ICANN staff will attend conferences around the globe to increase the publicity for the new gTLDs. The organization is also preparing multilingual materials that community members can use to raise awareness of new gTLDs which will be available on the new gTLDs website when it is launched in 5 days.

It is hoped that ICANN road shows will provide adequate support to the communications campaign for which ICANN has earmarked a limited a budget of $750,000. In a July report on communications the budget was described as "alarmingly low for a global campaign". ICANN had earlier issued an RFC "ICANN | How Do We Raise Global Awareness of New gTLDs" Respondents included the Internet Society of Hong Kong, the Intellectual Property Constituency of the gNSO, ,Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, International Trademark Association amongst others.

Kristina Rosette, special counsel at Covington & Burling, added that "the budget does not seem sufficient given the programme's intended global reach". The communication plan is balanced between purchased communications opportunities and those made available to ICANN without fee through its community members, outreach, and the generation of written materials.

ICANN is also asking community members to recommend events and opportunities to raise awareness of new gTLDs. Recommendations can be to Natalie Schoer (natalie.schoer[at], ideally at least one month in advance of the potential event, and should  include the following information: event date, time, location, information on sponsoring organization, expected audience and a link to the organizers' website. A calendar of events will be posted on ICANN website.

However, Jeff Neuman, vice president, law and policy at registry Neustar, said: "The reality is that no amount put on paper for such an important and historical programme will ever seem like it is enough to spend on getting the word out there.

"Will all stakeholders be aware of the programme by the time it launches? Probably not. But part of our job as a global internet community is to make sure we all do our part to educate and prepare everyone for this huge opportunity," he said.

In a visit to Brazil on September 12, Beckstrom said that Icann should be supported in its effort to raise awareness about gTLDs and was not charged with endorsing the programme.

"I want to make clear that ICANN is an organisation that is not advocating new gTLDs for anyone. Our role is merely facilitation to implement the policy and the programme approved by our community, so we are here to educate not to advocate," he said. The application stage for gTLDs opens on January 12 2012 and closes three months later on April 12. ICANN has budgeted for 500 applications, which would result in revenues of some $92.5 million.

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