An Interview With Lensman: Part 1
Lensman is the founder of perennial favorite Amateur Pages. Expanding on his experiences and user base, other programs were soon to follow.
He is also the founder and owner of the wildly popular GoFuckYourself.com (commonly known as "GFY"). Lensman is a mover and shaker who has had a profound influence on our industry with his rapid expansion into multiple arenas.
Recently, Lensman took a few moments from his busy day to sit down with XBiz's own Lori Z for this exclusive, one-on-one interview:
XBIZ: How did you come up with the name Lensman?
LENS: Back when it was pretty much a one or two man operation I did the photography, and the first thing I did like everybody else, I went on the YNOT board and started posting and did some stupid newbie stuff. I said, "You know, I’m going to re-register, get a new handle." And I thought, "Well, I’m doing photography, what should I call myself?" That's how I came up with it.
XBIZ: When did you get involved in the adult business and why?
LENS: I got involved seven years ago. I came from a computer industry and design background and saw the opportunities. I saw some of the early success they [adult webmasters] were having and thought, "Well, if they can do it, I can do it."
It's a fun business that we all can do. A lot of us do it from home. When I started, I had a business at the time with a partner and ended up selling him my share of the business and doing it from home for a while. That was a lot of fun. So, I mean, it's just a really fun and dynamic industry.
XBIZ: What was your first adult site?
LENS: Amateur Pages and it's still our biggest adult site in terms of traffic and the number of members. It was a good launching pad for a lot of other things for us and we have a really good following. Back when nobody could make money off Thumbnail Gallery Posts (TGPs), you would see Amateur Pages as the primary sponsor for that traffic. The TGP guys and I go back a long way! Back to when traditional sponsor programs were shunning TGPs on the boards and saying, "This traffic stinks. The traffic quality stinks." They didn’t realize where things were headed.
Back in the old days a lot of people relied on new users and new surfers and things like that; new entrants to the Internet to get their customers. Now the whole dynamic has changed. Typically everybody already has Internet access. The number of new Internet users in the United States is not growing and so the sophistication level of the users is much higher. Consequently what they've demanded and what they want has become more extreme and harder to convert and harder to sell. So Amateur Pages is an intricate site. It's a 700-page tour; its own unique animal. But there have been a lot of products out there that have come out and defined their own space and gone into unconventional tours and done really well. In fact, I think unconventional tours are pretty much the hottest thing right now. What I mean by unconventional tours is the reality sites, etc.
XBIZ: How did you come up with the name, "GoFuckYourself.com?"
LENS: I registered that domain the first day they started selling the fuck domains. So I went on there and I said, "Okay, Fuck.com, that's gone. Okay, FuckYou.com, that's gone. Okay, GoFuckYourself.com, hey, it's available."
Some people think that GFY is over-moderated and some people think it's under-moderated. I mean, we hear both. We hear, "It's a free-for-all." All kinds of stupid shit going on. Blah, blah, blah. "Why don't you moderate that thing tighter?!" And then we hear, "This is Nazi Germany. We can't say anything. It should be a complete free-for-all."
Somewhere there's a happy medium in there, and hopefully we've achieved that. The funniest thing about GFY is what webmasters don't see that goes on. The people we prevent from doing foolish things. Because really, if you think about it, here's a place with, oh, I don’t know, what is it now, like 300-400 active threads a day? You would think there would be a lot more nonsense and spamming and a lot more other things going on. Our engineers have done some really tight things behind the background to keep the morons and the jerk-offs off the board.
XBIZ: Is GFY what you envisioned it to be when you first started?
LENS: I knew that there were just a ton of our affiliates that were not posting anywhere for lack of any direction or any interest in being there. So we really created it to be a place where the guys could discuss traffic, talk about where it goes, screw around and talk about last night's football game or whatever. It's definitely done that. Hats off to the guys that post there. The regular guys that post there are great. I mean they're really the ones that make the board great.
XBIZ: I was going to ask you about the rules on GFY and are there any besides spam?
LENS: We tried to make it pretty low in the rules category. The primary rule we wanted to have was respect for the forum. If you go in there and if you're a spammer spamming your site relentlessly, we're going to say, "Hey, knock it off." If you continue it, we're going to deactivate your account. But if you contact us and say, "Sorry, didn't mean it." We'll say, "Okay, that's fine. Just don't do it anymore, all right. You're back on." But these 'sigs for sale' threads and 'anybody wants to sell their sig threads' and stuff like that, I think is detrimental to the board. We don't want people posting in there for cash. It's not a pay-per-post board. Some other rules are, you know, just obvious signature sizes. We constantly have that problem. And guys, you just don't seem to understand that when a new chick comes on the board, don't ask her to flash her tits.
XBIZ: The environment on GFY can be heated, to say the least. I don't know if that was the direction chosen for GFY, or did the community create that energy itself?
LENS: I think that ever since the boards have been around that pissing occurs. I remember the old pissing matches on YNOT and pissing matches I've had on other boards. These things happen.
XBIZ: Have you noticed a shift in posts at all from quality to just basically hanging out? Has there been a shift since the beginning of GFY?
LENS: Not really. Some people say, "Oh there's too much goofing around, or whatever." The ratios remain pretty much the same. If there's something important going on in the industry, it's getting posted there. If there's an important announcement, if somebody is getting sued, if Visa/Mastercard have a new regulation, or whatever the case might be, it's getting posted, it's getting discussed.
XBIZ: What came first? Can you give me a little timeline and tell me a little about Adult.com?
LENS: We bought Adult.com almost three years ago. As opposed to being like a Sex.com, which is a portal for traffic and a surfer destination, we wanted to use it as a branding thing for our programs and a company name sort-of-thing. It's definitely catchy. What I love about it is that it really personifies our business because we're really in the Adult.com industry. So that's really where that came from. What we've done in the past is we've had diverse programs. We've had a partnership program on this, and a percentage program here, and the Amateur Pages program here, and partnership cash here, and those sort of programs.
What you wind up seeing from us, as we start to move forward, you'll start to see all of our programs and sites merge together. I don't know if I could hold that true for Playboy Cash, because we run Playboy Cash as well, which by the way we should talk about that in a minute. You will start to see our programs merge. We've got great new software developers in-house. We've always been in-house on software development, but we've got great new software developers who have totally rewritten our affiliate system. New stats. Sexier stats. More intricate stats. We think we have the most intricate stats of anybody right now as far as hit tracking, counting, breaking down your traffic, breaking down and showing it to you, contextually, as well as chart-based. So we're going to have all those in one interface, one place to bring it all together. We will still have various programs, but you'll be able to access all your stats and monitor how much money you made with Adult.com yesterday all in one place.
XBIZ: How many programs do you have?
LENS: We have Amateur Money, which is our amateur pages program, the biggest per-click program out there. We've taken our partnership cash program, which is our Amateur Pages partnership program and we moved that to a per-sign-up. We actually haven't announced it, but we privately announced it to all the webmasters in that program because we've dropped the price point on Amateur Pages to the point where we only charge $9.95 per month for access, which is a chargeback-proof number. Great retention, but it's not a real viable number for a partnership program. Then we have AdultPlatinum. Our hot new thing with AdultPlatinum is the $10 cash program, which has had the most amazing conversions I've ever seen. I've got three accounts myself to it and one of my accounts is like 1 in 21. Our webmaster programs also have Eraser Cash, you know Eraser? It's a leader in the privacy protection software industry. I think that's about it.
The last one I want to talk about is Playboy Cash, because Playboy Cash is a joint venture between Adult.com and Playboy.com. We did Playboy Cash 1.0 and one thing webmasters have to understand is that Playboy is the preeminent men’s entertainment brand. They're probably more like Sports Illustrated then they are, you know, Oui Magazine. So they have to understand that the surfer and the brand itself is something completely different. Our utmost function there is to protect the brand. It's not the Wild West. We don't want Playmates getting fucked in the barn by, you know, a horse or something. We don't want that kind of advertising, and so consequently it's a really great program for guys that specialize in that kind of traffic.
There are some things we won't let webmasters do. Mailer guys have to be pre-approved for example. We don't want it advertised right next to two teen sluts getting nailed by the football team. We don't want it advertised there. It has to be advertised in a classy way. But for the guys that do it, it works great. But we've done some things differently. We have Playboy Cash 2.0 coming out and we've addressed virtually every area that we think we need to address. We're doing that and, as well, we're coming out with a Spice Hardcore site, because you know they own Spice TV.
XBIZ: Right. That was my next question.
LENS: So, a lot of people say, "Do you have hardcore? I want to do hardcore. I want to promote hardcore with the program." We haven't had a product that they can use, so if they want to put it to two teen lesbian sluts, they can advertise Spice Raw, which is the upcoming Spice Site and it's got Spice Behind-the-Scenes stuff from TV. All kinds of exclusive TV content. It's gonna be kick-ass. It's a reality style tour.
XBIZ: What are the biggest changes that you've seen in online adult?
LENS: I think the proliferation of TGPs. I think that's the biggest change in the industry. You know, you can love it or you can hate it. Make no mistake if there was no free porn they'd all have to pay for it. I know virtually all the big TGP guys, they're all really good friends of mine and TGPs are the way to get traffic these days. I think that is the biggest change in the industry. Certainly processing regulations and fallout and all those sorts of things that we have to concern ourselves with every day, but it's really the dynamic of the traffic and the sophistication level of the user.
In the old days when somebody got their new computer on Christmas Day and hooked it up to AOL or Netscape and typed in 'Adult," you know, we got the hit. Nowadays, Microsoft gets the hit, okay because they didn't type in ".com." Or they've had a computer for a couple years now, so they're visiting The Hun every day, or whatever else, so I mean, they can get porn for free out there. Don't blame the TGPs because they can get it on Kazaa too. I know a lot of webmasters who get their MP3's, or whatever off these sites, but those things are bad for our business. Not that webmasters not using them are going to put us under. I mean, we're obviously a small segment of their base. But these guys are dishing out, I mean, I refuse to use those sites because they're using a lot of my stolen product.
XBIZ: With the abundance of free porn on the Internet do you feel that it has affected the present affiliate model?
LENS: In the old days, the webmasters that have been around for five years or more will remember what it was like. I mean, I could build a site, get it listed on Yahoo!, have five free pictures that were buried about five pages deep and it's like, "No thanks. Continue. No thanks. Continue." Or you put a little tiny text of free porn here, you know, somewhere on that page and it was like, "Find the free porn thing."
Our goal was not to send any traffic. We had to have something to get the Yahoo! listing, so you know that was the old days. Now you're not going to get any traffic that way. I mean, I could virtually create as many sites as I wanted and get them listed. It was just a matter of time. That’s all changed. Now if you go surf the big TGPs, you'll have the paid traffic listings. You'll have all the rest of the listings, but it's these guys that put down everything. They leave no-holds-barred. I mean, there is everything-to-cum-shots on these things. Personally, I'm against that. You won't see any Adult.com galleries go that far. We don't do triple-X galleries.
Stay tuned for Part 2.