'Ebola.com' joins long list of disease Web domains

Searching for Ebola news? You may land on Ebola.com. Turns out it's for sale, and the guy who owns it is hoping a pharmaceutical company might buy it.

The Cleaning Guys hazmat cleanup company are seen here as they sanitize the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital in Dallas.
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The Cleaning Guys hazmat cleanup company are seen here as they sanitize the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital in Dallas.

It's not unusual for big pharmaceutical companies to hold domains for major diseases on the Internet. For example, the Cancer.com and Obesity.com domains are held by Johnson & Johnson, Diabetes.com is held by an affiliate of GlaxoSmithKline, and Arthritis.com by Pfizer. But who would want to own the domain name Ebola.com?

"We've had many inquiries on the domain over the years," according to Jon Schultz, president of Nevada-based Blue String Ventures and the owner of the Ebola.com domain.

Schultz bought Ebola.com in 2008 for an undisclosed sum.

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"Ebola.com would be a great domain for a pharmaceutical company working on a vaccine or cure, a company selling pandemic or disaster-preparedness supplies, or a medical company wishing to provide information and advertise services," Schultz told CNBC in an emailed statement.

"There could be many other applications as well. With so many people concerned about the disease, any advertisement referring people to Ebola.com should get an excellent response."

Schultz, together with his business partner Chris Hood, own other medical or health-related domains, including BirdFlu.com, PotassiumIodide.com and GreenCoffeeExtract.com, among others. The company's strategy is to buy "generic domains which we think we can develop or resell later at a profit," said Schultz. "Having seen the movie 'Outbreak,' I was entranced by the subject and couldn't resist buying the domain."

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The current asking price for Ebola.com: $150,000. However, Schultz said the domain's price "is subject to change as the situation evolves."

He added: "$150,000 is not a tremendous amount for a premium domain. The fact that this is a top news story makes it very reasonable, in our opinion, as many domains sell for seven figures. Just this year Whisky.com sold for $3.1 million and MI.com sold for $3.6 million."

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DigitalDNA, the domain name broker representing Ebola.com, approached several large pharma firms to gauge interest in buying the Ebola.com domain. It also reached out to several smaller biotech companies, including those with Ebola drugs or treatments in the pipeline. There appears to be interest coming from domain speculators—but not so much from the pharma or bio companies, according to the broker.

It's conceivable, of course, that the life science companies are worried that buying the Ebola.com domain might give a perception of trying to profit from the deadly outbreak. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 3,800 people have died from the virus.

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"It might not fit their strategy to generate revenue from treating and curing large-scale diseases," said Rob Frankel, a marketing and branding expert in Los Angeles. "If you talk about cancer, diabetes, flu ... that is driven by scale. Pharma guys aren't being driven by media hype. They'll get behind something with numbers."

Ebola.com currently features a link on the home page to donate to Doctors Without Borders, a medical aid charity treating Ebola patients in Africa. There are also links to news articles about the outbreak. In addition, there are also several advertisements, including one linking to "Ebola Books, eBooks and DVDs at Amazon.com."

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Schultz said that Amazon is not an advertiser on the Ebola.com site. "That is actually our advertisement as it is an 'affiliate link.' We have joined Amazon's affiliate program, and if people click on that link and buy a book or DVD, we get a commission on the sale."

Amazon declined to comment.