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Kink.com: Demystifying Alternative Sexuality

Kink.com: Demystifying Alternative Sexuality

February 12, 2009
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" Kink is in a special class because of the nature of its content "

Kink.com, by anyone's estimation, is an industry phenomenon and in many ways a social phenomenon. Though it seemed to explode on the scene just a few years ago, the first so-called property, Hogties.com, actually was built back in 1997, by Kink.com CEO and founder Peter Acworth. It was, as the name implies, a bondage website that reflected the edgy sex play Acworth was into and which he has since turned into an authentic empire that has succeeded impressively in capturing both market share and its share of mainstream headlines.

"The corporate name back in 1997 was CyberNetEntertainment," Kink.com PR Manager Thomas Roche says. "Peter established Hogtied.com in New York City when he was going to Columbia Business School. He started it in his apartment, first selling content he bought from other people. When he found that other places were selling the same content, he started shooting it himself. It started as a bondage site because of his lifelong interest in bondage, so he simply started hiring girls he met off of Craig's List, tying them up and selling the content. It turned out he was doing what he loved best and liked it more than graduate school and stuck with it."

It wasn't long before he moved the operation to San Francisco, in 1998, and hired an employee. Fucking Machines was created in 2001, and a string of sites a couple of years later, whippedass.com, wiredpussy.com, meninpain.com and waterbondage.com. Then, there was ultimatesurrender.com, sexandsubmision.com, devicebondage.com and tsseduction.com from 2003 through 2006.

In 2006, National A-1 Internet sold the Kink.com website to CyberNetEntertainment, which thereafter was known as Kink.com.

The company grew quickly after that. A few months ago, in August of this year, their first gay website, boundgods.com, was launched under the KinkMen umbrella, and that same month, the company also rolled out its most ambitious product in a while, Kink on Demand.

"Kink on Demand covers everything we have ever published is available on a per shoot basis," Roche said. "It's a little bit more expensive to buy it that way than to get a subscription, but if you like something in particular, that's how you would get it, on Kink on Demand. We do purchase some third party content for the site, including from Andrew Blake and Marquis from Germany, and we are actively acquiring third party providers, pretty much focusing on the best in the fetish field, content that is different but still similar to ours."

"We've been asked a lot of times when we are going to offer a one site membership, so that our members can go through and look at everything on one site," Kink.com Affiliate Manager Terry Mundell said. "But our sites are really expensive; some of the most expensive on the Net, up to $55 per month. So we really couldn't offer a mega-pass without it being like $450, so Kink on Demand allows the user to not have a membership but to buy 'kinks," go through and peruse the shoots, and buy whatever they want on a one off basis. That was our solution to that, but it also allows us expose our member base to other friends of the community, people who are producing content. The direction we want to in there is quality and niches we didn't have already; for instance, rubber and micro fetish play."

Kink on Demand also is a platform that allows them to distribute test shoots in order to get feedback on the content before developing a whole website around it.

"We'll often shoot four scenes before we launch a site. Whereas before we would go back and forth about whether to develop a website around the concept, now we can put it directly into Kink on Demand and get customer and affiliate feedback from that one shoot," Mundell says. "It's our own technology that we developed from scratch. We wanted to make it sort of like iTunes, where a customer could get an account from us and then go in and watch what they want without having to fill out credit card information every time." Credits are known as "kinks," which can be purchased for friends and family.

While Kink is sticking closely to its core business model of creating authentic high-quality BDSM and fetish videos, they are embracing as many ways as possible of getting that content to the end user in a way that let's them watch any part of any scene.

"We also have a pay-per-minute model in development, unlike the pay per shoot model currently on Kin on Demand, where customers can buy a chunk of minutes and watch whatever they want, and we already have iPod version of all of our content, that you can watch on your iPhone, available through the site."

As far as traffic acquisition, Kink is in a special class because of the nature of its content.

"A lot of our affiliates are also our customers," Mundell says, "smaller website owners who are producing BDSM toys or tying up their wives, or whatever it may be. They have small networks across maybe New York or Florida, and are like-minded people who look to Kink to do things effectively and with the authenticity it takes to please a BDSM customer. So the way we brand ourselves really helps me with affiliate acquisition, but also with traffic because people aren't afraid to put Kink up on their sites, because they know we are doing things the right way.

"Overall, affiliates are a huge part of our model," he adds, "The BDSM community is a very sharp group of people, many of whom are making their own social networking communities online. Since we have always been online, we were there for that massive migration online, and people have come to us over the years when they are starting a website to got ads from but also inspiration. We try to make ourselves very real and available, because our affiliates are unlike anyone else's in the way they are vested in the websites and the community."

As far as payouts go, Kink.com's 14 pay sites offer affiliate 50% rev share, including rebills.

"Rebills are one of our real strengths," Numdell said. "We get a lot of our affiliates praising our high number of rebills. Then, when an affiliate reaches 25 sales, the percentage goes to 60%, including rebills. Affiliates can also now go on Kink on Demand and essentially skin it to look like their sites, where they can offer kinky videos. It's skinned with their header and CSS, and of course we pay them for Kink on Demand sales as well."

According to Mundell, he spends a lot of his day working with affiliates to make sure that they know Kink is going to do things the right way, as far as content authenticity goes and also billing practices. Pre-checked cross sales, for instance, are an absolute no-no.

As far as the overall branding of Kink.com, the endgame is the demystification of fetish content.

"I think that for a long time we were thought of as a BDSM company, and tended to think of ourselves that way as well, but I don't think that was really accurate," Roche said. "Our second site was FuckingMachines.com, which has virtually no BDSM content. What I think we are trying to do now, and becoming Kink.com was a big part of this, is move to a place where what we are really doing is demystifying alternative sexuality, which includes BDSM, which is where we started and will always be an important part of out community. But we really want to demystify everything. We want to demystify the variety of sexuality and be much broader than just BDSM."

The Kink crew is aware that they have to be willing to say that they are about something outside the mainstream, even while it is becoming mainstream, and also that their goal is to help it become more mainstream.

"This is different from somebody like Vivid or Wicked, that are going to have a lot of stuff focused solely on sex," Roche said. "But we're not just about sex. We're about more than just sex."

When it comes down to it, Kink is on a mission to assist the masses in feeling better about their purvy selves, one scene at a time and all in the same of healthy sexuality.

No profile of Kink.com would be complete without a mention of its purchase of the 93 year old and 220 thousand square foot San Francisco armory in 2007. The purchase sparked a fire storm of opposition from community groups and the mayor at the time, but the brouhaha has since died down. The building is now a complex of offices, permanent sets and living quarters for Acworth and perhaps the occasional guest.

As far as rollouts, Kink launched four new sites at the end of this year and plans to launch five next year. It's a labor of love for those tasked with the job of demystifying alternative sexuality for the masses. After all, someone has to do it.


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