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Solo Boys Online

Solo Boys Online

April 8, 2008
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" Even in the gay market, most major stars don't have their own paysites "

The adult Internet is all about niche content. It's different strokes for different folks, and it's long been established that most of the stroking audience is male — straight or gay. However, one niche that seems sadly underserved is membership sites featuring solo guy content.

So, while there are endless variations on ClubJenna, if sexy guys are what you're looking for, you won't find ClubBob, ClubJohn or ClubSteve. In fact, for a lot of male porn stars, you might have to satisfy yourself with a Wikipedia entry.

Even in the gay market, most major stars don't have their own paysites, opting instead for MySpace pages or studio-hosted free sites that offer information but little else in terms of interactivity.

But as the guys get hotter — both gay and straight — is it only a matter of time before studios and stars try to tap the market for surfers that want a little beefcake?

For gay performers, the idea of having a membership site is almost a no-brainer.

Capitalizing on men being the focus of the fantasy is taken for granted in gay culture and often comes with a loyal fan base that has expendable income to spend on monthly fees.

One young gay performer who has established his web presence is Ralph Woods, former Falcon Studios exclusive model, now with European studio Bel-Ami.

"I started with my own website when I was about 19- years old. Two years ago," Woods said. "I was with [performer] Pierre Fitch and he had been working for Falcon, and he stopped when we started going out together. So I had a website and he had his own personal website, too."

Woods began his career as a dancer, but after meeting Fitch, found that running his own paysite was more lucrative than being a go-go boy in Montreal or even working for smaller studios that wouldn't pay competitive fees. He also discovered that by owning his own website content, he could reap 100 percent of the revenue generated by members.

"I know the game. Small companies don't pay much — I make more money with my website," Woods explained. "They shoot content and that goes on to make money forever, but you only make the money once."

Aside from his work for Falcon and Bel-Ami, Woods has found other creative ways to promote himself — with the help of his washing machine.

"I woke up one morning and I had this fantasy in my mind," he described. "I have this dildo and it's a replica of [performer] Chad Hunt, and I adapted the thing on the washing machine spinner. It's an old washing machine — and I sat on it and did the whole cycle. It was really amateurish, but I thought it was a great idea.'"

A year later, members on Woods' site still click on the video link and screen captures from the clip turned up on Xtube. Woods laughed and said sometimes he'll get recognized in a store and a fan will ask if he's done his laundry lately.

Woods also has a free blog site, RalphWoodsBlog.com, where he has daily interaction with old and new fans; he uses the blog for advertising purposes and also to drive traffic to the paysite. He also has plans for an affiliate program that will launch soon.

COLT Studio Group is maximizing its use of solo guy sites for its exclusive models. Featured models include Gage Weston, Luke Garrett, Skye Woods, Dean Phoenix, Mitch Branson and Darin Hawk.

"Our fan sites have been a huge success," COLT's director of online marketing Sean O'Brien said. "The members love the personal interaction with the models through their blogs, forums and especially the live cam shows, which are highly personal. The shows allow the fans to ask the models questions and get an immediate response."

According to O'Brien, the three most visited model sites are Mitch Branson's, Gage Weston's and Luke Garrett's, though he said each model has a diverse and consistent fan base.

"Our models are very dedicated to their sites," O'Brien said. "They all give live cam shows at least weekly and are very good and keeping their blogs and forums active."

The design template for the models' sites highlights the COLT brand. Members can access the models through COLT's flagship site under the "Live" tab or at each model's individual URL. The content also is offered through the COLT Cash affiliate program.

But where do heterosexual male performers fit in this picture? Up until just a few years ago, only a handful of male performers had earned enough recognition to be called "porn stars" in their own right, usually out of sheer longevity or exceptional physical attributes that made them stand out from the pack.

And since performing in masturbation scenes was misconstrued as "gay," most straight male performers decline to do solos, afraid to be stigmatized as less-than-heterosexual.

However, as the male performers on the straight side of the industry have become more physically attractive, there is an unspoken reality at play.

Many straight male performers have a gay fan base and either don't realize it or fail to acknowledge it, with very few straight performers willing to leverage the market by building websites that cater to their gay fans (or the smaller female market).

Jack Lawrence is one of the most "gay-friendly" straight performers in the industry. A veteran of more than 500 titles — all of them straight — Lawrence is one of the few male adult stars to have his own paysite and said that more than 80 percent of his members are gay men.

"I actually had a fan approach me at the AVN convention in 2004," he explained. "He said he had started a Yahoo fan group for me and it already had a lot of members and that I should check in on it."

To his surprise, he found several Yahoo Groups hosted by gay fans of straight performers.

"I've gone on Yahoo groups and seen that there are 'straight guy' groups," Lawrence said, "that are basically gay fans of straight performers that just post pictures and everybody talks about the performers, but the performers don't even know that they have a site.

"When I do run into those performers on-set, I'll say, 'Hey, you have 2,000 fans that would love to hear from you,' and basically, they kind of shrug their shoulders and go, 'I'm not really interested in talking to my gay fans.'"

"I try to explain to them — you know, it's gonna create traffic for your website, it's gonna help your sales, and there's a large demographic of gay men that buy straight porn, so part of your paycheck's coming from them. So, whether you want to or not, you kind of owe [them to] say 'hi' and make yourself accessible," Lawrence said.

At his paysite, JackLawrenceXXX.com, there are thousands of photos of Lawrence and video clips of scenes with female performers that often are shot as a content trade for their own websites.

Lawrence also has several webcams set up in various positions in his residence, including an "under-the-desk" cam so that he can sit at his computer and perform live solo shows for members.

Since all of his activities are heterosexual, Lawrence said that being stigmatized is not an issue for him and that he welcomes attention from gay fans.

"[Male performers] should just loosen up and say, 'Hey, gay guys are going to watch your stuff, too," he said. "You're taking off your clothes. You're getting paid to get laid and, you know, people are going to watch.'"

Men magazine's Man of 2007 and performer Johnny Castle has gone beyond Lawrence by choosing to almost exclusively cater to the gay audience, even though he is straight and currently engaged to female performer Jeneveve Joli.

Castle started his career in New York, shooting photo layouts for magazines like Torso and soon discovered his muscular, athletic build looks had a strong appeal for the gay audience.

Though he has worked for all the major straight companies including Vivid Entertainment, Digital Playground and Wicked Pictures, his work on the straight side has not prevented Castle from appearing in solo scenes for gay studio Channel 1 Releasing, in a few titles directed by Chi Chi LaRue.

"I know what my fan base is and they're providing a lot of my support. Why not cater to them? I think it's a good decision," Castle said.

His relationship with Joli ultimately is what inspired him to create a larger niche in the gay market, since both of them no longer perform with members of the opposite sex except when they work together.

"I do live dance shows and events of that nature, print work, solo stuff, and I do work with my girlfriend and that's as far as I go," Castle explained.

Castle also has aligned himself with gay talent agent David Forest, to recruit and represent male talent; several of the new models will be featured on Castle's new website, JohnnyCastleXXX.com, which launched at the end of January.

His plans for the website reflect what could be an emergent trend, as more male performers realizes the potential of capitalizing on "cock-centric" audiences of gay men and the women's market.

The site will feature photo sets of Castle, video clips of him performing with Joli, and solo content. He also will include 12 young men who will be showcased in a "hot guy of the month" format.

"I've kind of built a team, because otherwise, it's just a one-guy site," Castle explained. "These are guys that I hang out with and we go to different places, so it's kind of a different feel.

Castle has chosen to avoid labeling the performers on his site by sexual orientation. In his own career, he has used the mystique around his image to his advantage. His fans either don't care that he is straight or keep coming back, titillated by the idea that one day he may "come out," so to speak.

"I definitely wouldn't put any labels — they're just good-looking guys, looking to have fun and make a career out of it, and see what kind of road they choose," he explained.

"The content that I've shot so far — like they'll do a solo, and then the next scene will be with another male or a female, and progress along those lines. So, there's going to be a variety and hopefully we can appeal to all audiences."


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