Exec Seat: Q&A With SK Intertainment’s COO, Sam Rakowski
SK Intertainment is moving onward and upward to new naked heights, and the company’s COO, Sam Rakowski, is leading the charge. SK Intertainment — the celebrity nudity network behind Mr. Skin., Mr. Man and now Naked News, as well as affiliate program Mr. Skin Cash — has great plans for the coming year, and XBIZ World wanted to discuss its future with Rakowski in this Q&A.
We caught up with Rakowski, who for the past month has sported a MOvember moustache — all for the cause that is trying to help combat prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges (BTW, you may donate on his behalf at Mobro.co/Samski).
XBIZ: How did you get into the adult industry?
RAKOWSKI: I ended up in the adult industry by accident, really. After finishing my undergrad education in December 2001, I moved to Chicago and was doing freelance videography work and DJing casually. Let’s just say I wasn’t making the kind of money that I had hoped for, so I ended up following a lead from a friend who had been working part-time for Mr. Skin. At the time I had never heard of the company and really just saw it as a temporary gig for supplemental income. Twelve years and various job titles later I find myself leading this fantastic company to new heights and there is nowhere I’d rather be.
XBIZ: Mr. Skin started in the biz when video streaming was still in its infancy, and now it is a well-known brand market leader in its space. How did the company get to this point?
RAKOWSKI: We are where we are because we’ve always considered ourselves a technology company first and foremost. Our developers and systems admins have always kept on the cutting edge by attending conferences and meet-ups, following relevant blogs and constantly challenging each other in the workplace. Jim (owner and Mr. Skin himself) has always had a passion for delivering the best possible product. That dedication has nurtured the type of environment where improvements to our products are constantly being driven from within as new technologies emerge.
XBIZ: How many brands does Mr. Skin and operate, and how many eyeballs worldwide view your sites?
RAKOWSKI: In terms of paysites, the Mr. Skin Cash properties now include Mr. Skin (MrSkin.com), Mr. Man (MrMan.com) and Naked News (NakedNews.com), which we have big plans for in 2014. We will also be building two brand new sites (male and female) later in 2014 under a very well-known brand name in the celebrity world. Monthly our sites combined receive over 13 million visits and 50 million page-views.
We also own and operate Good Parts Media (GoodPartsMedia.com) which is the home of our various “Radio Prep” services including Mr. Prep, The Hookup and The Locker Room. We’ve always had close ties to the radio world thanks to the hundreds of radio stations that Jim appears on annually so it was a logical progression to leverage our existing resources and talents to expand into a completely different industry.
XBIZ: Elaborate on the Naked News acquisition. How does this brand compliment the others? And should we expect any changes with Naked News?
RAKOWSKI: Naked News actually debuted just a couple months after Mr. Skin launched in 1999, and we’ve always had a lot in common. We are both what I would consider adult products but clearly are not porn sites. Both sites have a fun and playful tone, revolve around news and entertainment and have owners that are very passionate about their respective products. As my focus is to grow SK Intertainment by expanding our product offerings, I’m constantly looking not only to build new brands such as Mr. Man but also to acquire and/or partner with existing brands when it makes sense.
With Naked News I saw a logical fit and knew that we could help revitalize their brand and website with our talented development team and marketing resources. The show will continue to be produced by Naked News in their Toronto Studios. We recently redeveloped the website which launched in late November and the show is now being shot in high definition for the first time. The next step will be migrating Naked News into Mr. Skin Cash which we hope to have completed in January. The new product is amazing, and I’m excited to share it.
XBIZ: How many affiliates do you work with?
RAKOWSKI: Like most programs that have been around for a long time, we have tens of thousands of affiliates in our database with a small percentage of those affiliates driving the majority of the sales. While it may be true that affiliate marketing isn’t what it used to be, there are still plenty of large, quality webmasters out there that control massive amounts of traffic. We are constantly adding new affiliates and our existing base is thrilled to have more products to promote under the same trusted umbrella. The launch of Mr. Man has also opened us up for the first time to affiliates with gay and even female traffic.
XBIZ: What sector of the online adult business is driving the market these days?
RAKOWSKI: I’m supposed to say mobile right? It’s the obvious answer and it continues to be true. Mobile traffic continues to grow at ever increasing rates. Over 35 percent of our total visits are now from mobile devices and I anticipate that exceeding 50 percent by the end of next year. As a result of this growth, we now develop all new web pages with responsive technology. Our belief is that while the presentation obviously has to change according to screen size, the content and overall experience must remain the same across all devices.
Direct carrier billing has been a huge area of growth in adult in recent years, but it is very tricky due to country specific and ever changing regulations and doesn’t seem likely to happen here in the U.S. The future of ecommerce in the U.S. lies with the adoption of technologies that optimize the checkout process such as Google’s proposed spec, requestAutocomplete (http://wiki.whatwg.org/wiki/RequestAutocomplete), which will make buying online and specifically on mobile devices extremely easy by encrypting and storing payment information in the browser and allowing users to then make one-click purchases.
XBIZ: In your 12 years in the adult business, all at SK Intertainment, do you think the industry has matured greatly?
RAKOWSKI: In my time in adult, the industry has undoubtedly matured in a lot of ways. Free content, piracy and the Google gods have made it more challenging to make money in the adult industry than ever before but savvy companies with quality products continue to thrive. The business first attitude demonstrated by most companies that still attend trade shows is evidence of the maturing of the industry in general. I often hear people claim that the adult industry no longer drives innovation as it did in the past but I don’t find that to be entirely true.
XBIZ: What’s a typical work day like?
RAKOWSKI: My work day starts the same way it ends, irritating my wife by checking stats and emails in bed on my phone. I typically head into the office around 8:30 and try to respond to emails and IM’s prior to the daily standup meeting that I have with my development team every morning. The rest of my day is typically a blur and can go in a lot of directions. I’m still very involved with crafting new site features and marketing campaigns but I’m lucky to have a super talented team that can take rough ideas and transform them into polished realities with little oversight. This allows me to spend more of my time focused on PR, partner relationships and new business development.
XBIZ: When not thinking about the biz, what do you like to do?
RAKOWSKI: Travel. Cook. Play with my daughter. Zone out in front of my aquariums. Not necessarily in that order. I’ve also occasionally found myself at a blackjack table.