Paysite Power: Making the Switch to a New Content Management Platform
I was recently asked by an industry pioneer and someone reviewed by many as a production legend to give my feedback on a new design in the works for modernizing of his heavily branded paysite.
Everything seemed standard until I saw a comment on the designers’ client feedback portal and saw one from the site owner that read, “We are not on a CMS that can automate updating these pages, it will need to be done manually in HTML.”
When we surf paysites we erroneously assume that everything we’re seeing is automated. It’s shocking to think there are still many sites being updated manually despite the availability of automated management platforms. I know because since 2006 my company Elevated X has been one of the leading providers of this kind of paysite management automation technology, and in that timeframe we have seen countless site owners in this predicament.
I asked the owner of that above how married he was to his current platform and if there was any sensible way of getting the content and data onto one that was automated. His answer was that the site was “a mishmash of static HTML dating back to the mid 1990s with some sections on Wordpress.” He described moving things as “a task of biblical proportions” and if I had less experience with this stuff I might have agreed.
This is the dilemma many older site owners are finding themselves faced with. The equivalent of the baby boomers of the paysite generations are in a precarious spot. Many are still well recognized, heavily branded and still producing great content that’s in high demand. And many are still generating healthy profits and plan to continue producing content and running paysites for years to come.
They know they need to be more automated, more dynamic, offer more site features and be mobile optimized. They know they’re being held back by a lack of technology but are stuck with an outdated management setup or none at all and see the task of changing that as nothing short of biblical proportions.
The only way to move forward and continue to be competitive and stay successful is to adopt new operating methods, but how?
If you’re stuck on an outdated system, a static hand-build site or a combination of different scripts and CMS program, the first step in modernization is to choose a new site management method.
Start by evaluating commercial CMS platforms (or going custom and developing your own if this is best) and select the one you believe will meet your needs at least for the next few to several years. Once you’ve decided on the platform of choice, find out what methods exist (if any) for importing content and data either in bulk or from another database.
Once you’ve selected a CMS platform, these are your options for making the switch:
Do It By Hand
We’ve all heard the saying “no pain, no gain,” so it comes as no coincidence that the least enjoyable method of moving is also the one that yield’s the best results. It’s like spring-cleaning vs. moving into a new home. Starting fresh affords opportunities an automated process doesn’t. This includes things like being able to edit or rewrite a site’s page URLs, content titles, text descriptions and keyword tags for SEO and really do in depth QC (quality control) to ensure that all content is presented the best way possible.
This option isn’t usually sensible for larger sites due to the unreasonable timeframes it creates. For a site with less than several hundred updates it’s not an impossible feat and for a site that size, one person working close to full time at a decent pace may be looking at several months to a year to migrate a site by hand.
Automate The Migration Process
This is easiest, cheapest and most attractive option is to migrate a site or multiple sites automatically by way of automatic conversion scripts or server-side processes. This moves the content and data from point A to B. The upside is that it requires very little heavy lifting or manual work on the part of the site operator. The downside is that generally this type of move is only an option for those with a site already using a database - typically a MySQL database in our industry.
With Elevated X we handle this a couple of ways. Recently we began offering to move clients from competing commercial CMS platforms for free using custom written processes on our end. This takes nearly all the work out of it and requires little more than a commitment from someone to use our software and their willingness to wait patiently while the move is in progress.
When someone wants to use Elevated X and move themselves, we provide them an Excel CSV template they can use. From there, either a developer or the customer’s web hosting company (not all web hosts will do this) takes a database export of their current site and converts it to our format or to the CSV template for bulk importing in one shot. All that remains is to make any desired design changes and wait for server-side processes to complete for things like resizing photos and encoding videos into modernized formats.
When possible this is the preferred route to go and can take as little as a few weeks for a small site. The major flaw is that it’s a lazy process and resulting site quality varies. The temptation is to just click around the new site for a few minutes, confirm that things look good, breathe a sigh of relief, maybe pop some champagne and replace the old site. This leaves a lot of migrated sites still lacking in things like SEO, good copywriting and a better quality feel even though the site is more modern in other ways — but the new site is still far better than the old and that fact can’t be denied.
Create An Archive
When a site is run by a combination of scripts, CMS programs and/or static HTML pages or is really old and has a massive amount of content, the decision on how to move or whether to move at all becomes much bigger.
In these cases it’s not uncommon for everyone to arrive at the conclusion that it doesn’t make sense to move. Maybe a lot of the old content was shot on tape no longer available. Or maybe converting the masters won’t result in a big enough quality upgrade to justify it. Or maybe the content library is just so damn big that without an army of minions working around the clock it would take years to migrate everything.
What I suggest in these cases is to purchase your intended CMS platform and manually move either the last year’s worth or the last 200-300 updates. This creates an easy to manage work plan and a light at the end of the tunnel over a period of several months. Once done, the new site replaces the old one and the old one is left intact as an archive available to all members. Once the old site is in an archive state, you can gradually add the old content to the new system in a linear manner without feeling rushed and work at a comfortable pace of say 10 updates a week knowing that you’re gradually modernizing more and more of your old content.
One reason I particularly like this method is that during the switch to the new site it gives you the option of taking some of the older “gems” of your content library and deleting them prior to re-processing or remastering them and releasing them. The result is often improved formats of what might be content more recent site members have never seen before and a win-win situation since no site has ever failed to benefit from a higher volume of new updates.
A site that’s over a decade old can use this scheme to its advantage by advertising access to the video vault and remastered scenes not available anywhere else.
Regardless of which of these methods makes the most sense, when it comes to moving a site, time is always of the essence. The longer you wait, the more work you’ll have to do and the longer it will be before your site is modern, competitive and making the most sales possible. If you’re on a legacy system, stop reading and get moving!
AJ Hall is a 15-year adult industry veteran and CEO of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult site CMS software. Hall has spoken at industry trade shows and written for several trade publications. Elevated X software powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for more than a dozen industry awards and won the 2012, 2014 and 2015 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.