Porn.xxx Domain Expected To Fetch $50,000 At Auction
After more than ten years of very vocal opposition by nearly every company potentially affected by the new .XXX top level domain (TLD) extension, on March 17th 2011 ICANN approved .XXX despite numerous concerns. Chief among those concerned was a prevailing consensus that the creation of the .XXX domain was an simply an underhanded attempt at a money-grab by ICM Registry, the backers and owners of the new domains. Now, the truth of that concern is finally coming to light.
.XXX History And Widespread Opposition
The theory that ICM Registry  would use their new .XXX domains to fleece owners of existing .com domains has become commonplace. The addition of a new extension with no other redeeming value according to opponents, serves solely as an attempt by ICM Registry to extort large sums of money from companies interested in protecting the purity of their existing brand names. Primary domains like Sex.xxx, XXX.xxx ,Porn.xxx, Hustler.xxx, Playboy.xxx and others were thought to be the most likely targets.
Several leading companies from all facets of the adult entertainment industry banded together to take part in the creation of DotxxxOpposition.com, a news resource and community forum backed by the Free Speech Coalition and many industry insiders. The site hosts a parody style video that satires the efforts of ICM Registery and stars Larry Flynt (Huster CEO), Allison Vivas (PinkVisual CEO), John Stagliano (Evil Angel CEO), Joanna Angel (BurningAngel.com), Ron Cadwell (CCBill CEO), Peter Acworth (Kink CEO), Mitch Farber (Netbilling CEO), and a host of other adult industry leaders. The film was written directed and produced by Wasteland.com CEO Colin Rowntree. 
Industry communication among online message boards and trade shows has also been decidedly against the creation of .XXX, and ICANN itself stated serious concerns that lead to a denial initially and a half-hearted approval eventually.
"Upon first blush, a .xxx sTLD sounds like a brilliant idea. But once one factors in the real world implications of such an easily blocked, censored, marginalized, and manipulated domain suffix, it becomes far less appealing" according to DotxxxOpposition.com "When a business with no ties to the online adult entertainment industry decides to “protect” it by cornering the market, aggressively pushing for the domain, rewriting history, treating our representatives and press with marginal respect, brushing our concerns aside, charging $60 per registration — and telling us we’re lucky that the price is that low — even beer goggles don’t make it look kissable. For these and other reasons, we believe that, in spite of panicked domain preregistrations, the voice of the industry is soundly raised in opposition to what would ultimately become Stuart Lawley and the ICM Registry’s company store."
Limited Market And Curtailed Reach
As if the opposition to .XXX from within the industry it seeks to consolidate was not enough of a headwind for ICM Registry to overcome, major regions of the world including India and the Middle East immediately stated their intention to block all .xxx domains when word of their approval by ICANN was announced.
According to a report published by The Economic Times: "India along with many other countries from the Middle East and Indonesia opposed the grant of the domain in the first place, and we would proceed to block the whole domain, as it goes against the IT Act and Indian laws," said a senior official at the ministry of IT. "Though some people have said that segregation is better, and some countries allow it. But for other nations transmission and direct distribution of such content goes against their moral and culture." 
Michael Humphrey of Forbes.com also picked up on the myriad of economic problems that would unnecessarily be caused by the release of .XXX stemming from exorbitant domain registration fees, ghettoizing of adult content chilling free speech, and he concluded " Whatever your stance on porn might be, you can see why the industry thinks those “x’s” look more like a mark than a market." 
Domain Pricing Expectations
While ICM Registry has already set the wholesale price for 'standard' .xxx domains at approximately $60 per year, with markup charged by each associated domain provider at the consumer level expected to bring prices up to the $200-300 dollar range for newly purchased domains, ICM Registry has also chosen to hold back a large number of 'premium' .xxx domains in the hope of generating much higher selling prices at auction.
It should be noted that much of the intrinsic value of some of these domains can be directly attributed to the fact that the underlying .com version of the same keyword has already been used in the marketplace successfully for years. In that way a strong legal argument exists regarding copyright infringement if companies decide to litigate rather than capitulate when acquiring the '.xxx version' of their own existing brand names. While the windfall profits may fall far below the desires of ICM Registry, the costs projected still make litigating appear to be inexpensive in contrast to purchasing premium domain names that may be garnered easily via court order instead.
According to EllitotsBlog.com, a leading community of domain speculators, a poll recently posted asked what price domainers believe movies.xxx may bring as part of the auction at an upcoming TRAFFIC trade show. Two telling facts can be taken from the poll. On the one hand, the lowest option listed by editors was 'Under $50,000', creating a bias within the results of at least a five figure sale price. The other fact is that more than 40% of respondents at the time of this writing have made 'Under $50,000' the clear winner, with almost twice as many votes as any other price bracket. 
Approval of Many More Top Level Domains
When the initial ICANN ruling authorizing .xxx domains was announced, many onlookers were shocked by the decision. The 16 member panel had seemingly allowed the creation of .xxx in direct conflict with the industry most affected by it and opened what some believe to be a Pandora's box of free speech problems in the process. Two months later, on May 30th 2011 ICANN may have expressed it's reasoning through its own action in a way much more profound than any of the earlier rhetoric.
A major barrier to completely revising the way the internet is managed was forever discarded by a 13 to 3 vote in favor of introducing an unlimited number of new top-level domains to compete with .com, .net and .xxx. The new process requires a $180,000 application fee and a fair amount of bureaucratic red tape, but for the first time it sets a clear path for anyone interested in creating their own new TLD quickly. For the mainstream market this means a company like Disney may soon own the TLD .kids or a company like Dreamworks might choose to create a .Movies extension. However, for the adult industry and .xxx specifically, the impact may be much more immediate and profound.
If the price of creating the entire .Sex or .Hardcore TLD is only $180,000 and includes every domain name under a comparable adult TLD extension, why would any company choose to spend more than that amount seeking to secure the .xxx version of their own .com domain from ICM Registry? It is a question that domainers seem to be answering with the silence of their checkbooks.
Analysis And Summary
After a decade of battle to bring .XXX through the ICANN process and millions of dollars in expenses, ICM Registry may be left holding the bag on an entire set of domain names that lose value as each day passes.
"We can unequivocally say that the industry does not support it," said Diane Duke, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, at a press conference covered by PCMag.com during a formal protest attended by many top industry executives during ICANN deliberations. 
The fact that seems to have eluded ICM Registry is that the number of companies willing to explore business opportunities in the adult entertainment market has always been very limited. Most so-called mainstream companies won't even purchase traffic from massive adult sites or allow their affiliate program traffic partners to use explicit content to generate sales. With such a small list of potential buyers to begin with, the systematic efforts of ICM Registry to confound industry insiders and overlook industry concerns may have poisoned the well before .xxx ever had a chance to take root.
Resource Links & Sources
This Op-Ed by Stewart Tongue is based on information from private discussions with industry professionals, domainers and numerous credible resources. Some of the more prominent resources are linked below for your conevenience.
National Broadband Map
If you have ever wondered who has what level of broadband access, or wanted to look into new places to live but didn't want to do all the legwork to see whether or not bandwidth was available - you are not alone.
Thankfully the US government is now tracking the roll-out of broadband across all 50 states and reporting which areas have what level of connectivity available for local residents.
Take a look at the official National Broadband Map government website to learn more.
Sponsored Links Ignored - UserCentric Study
Recent algo changes by Google, news of the JC Penny penalty and attempts by all of the search engines to hamper SEO efforts have combined to put pressure on decision-makers designed to make 'sponsored links' seem more attractive. Why bother working diligently to acheive quality organic ranks when you can 'just buy an ad on the side of the page' right?
A recent study by UserCentric.com gathered data from twenty-four Internet users between the ages of 18 and 54. Each participant conducted an average of 48 online searches per week using both Bing and Google, with at least five searches per engine. The participants’ eye movements were recorded with the Tobii T60 eye tracker integrated in a 17-inch monitor to record metrics capable of allowing researchers to determine what human page visitors look at most or least during searches.
As the study points out: "Overall, Bing and Google were comparable in terms of participants’ hit rate on the different areas of the search results interface. Regardless of the search engine, visual attention was mainly focused on the middle column of the page, with all participants looking at the organic search results and almost all at the top sponsored results. The right and left panes attracted considerably less attention. Only about a quarter of the participants looked at the sponsored results to the right, and very few looked at the left pane which contained filters, related searchers, search history and other links."
Put simply, whatever number of impressions you are getting on the sides of search pages, your placements are likely being ignored by more than 3 out of every 4 human visitors. Similarly, ranks toward the bottom of the page also tend to be mostly ignored which provides anecdotal evidence that being 11th may in fact be perferable to being 9th or 10th for most search terms.
According to the UserCentric website, this research was managed by Aga Bojko, Associate Director and any questions about the study should be directed to Pamela Stoffregen-Gay at 630.320.3900.
JC Penny And Algo Changes - SEO Fallout
For many, the JC Penny article is their only window into what SEOs do every day. For that reason, the concepts and ideas stated in the piece become amplified and decision-makers with little understanding of what is allowed or disallowed by search engine guidelines are sure to get a distorted view of the things that SEO can or can not do for their companies.
At its core the article explores the danger of purchasing a massive amount of unrelated backlinks from sites with little relevance and no other discernible value. Yes, adding thousands of backlinks per day on landing pages with no real content of their own can and should eventually get your site sandboxed. However, that does not in any way suggest quality sites backlinking other relevant content sites will have any negative impact on your ranks. In fact, getting many backlinks from high quality relevant sites is exactly what Google has asked site owners to do all along.
Some SEO educated webmasters have done extensive work within systems like LinkSpun and its new mainstream spin-off counterpart TradeSpun. The system allows site owners to search for and find many relevant sites with a similar content focus for the purpose of backlinking them and getting links back from them.
"With LinkSpun and TradeSpun, the goal is simple" said Jdoughs, the owner of both sites. We want our users to be able to rapidly expand the pool of sites they work with together. Finding relevant sites for you to link to or arranging backlinks to your own content from other webmasters can be difficult to do without some kind of meeting place. Our system is capable of allowing members to sift through thousands of sites, match up relevant ones and identify other worthwhile publishers. It's very different from what JC Penny is alleged to have done and the results our webmasters achieve for thousands of keywords with their terrific content proves it is both safe and effective."
Couple that with Googles recent announcement that a major change in their algorithm is affecting as much as 15% of all search results and the paranoia about doing anything that positively affects search ranks grows to a fevered pitch. The change was designed to reduce the impact that 'content farms' had been having on search results. Sites like Mahalo, EzineArticles and eHow have been singled out by analysts suggesting that trying to cash in on trending search results with timely 'junk content' may no longer be an effective method of climbing to a top ranking for key terms.
EzineArticles.com CEO Chris Knight went to great lengths on his blog to post a new set of rules designed to raise the standards of the publication and require higher quality longer content to obtain publication approval. He stated in part: "While we adamantly disagree with anyone who places the “Content Farm” label on EzineArticles.com, we were not immune to this algorithm change. Traffic was down 11.5% on Thursday and over 35% on Friday. In our life-to-date, this is the single most significant reduction in market trust we’ve experienced from Google."
The content requirement changes posted by EzineArticles mention an increase in minimum article length to 400 words or more and a number of other moves designed to weed out submissions that use 'morphed' text or 'text spinners' to generate seemingly original work from a sample that was published previously.
As with any change, this one will come with plenty of winners and losers. The biggest losers are likely to be those who give up on SEO completely for fear that it may get them banned or sandboxed. The winners will be the writers, designers and content providers who have been generating real worthwhile source materials all along as the cheaper and less noteworthy 'articles' of bulk text uploaders finally gets tamped down by an algorithm less likely to be fooled by merely changing the word 'black' to 'green' when describing a pair of shoes in a prerecorded sentence.
PIMPROLL Expands Parody Niche To Single Celebs
Notable entertainers like Ron Jeremy have appeared on reality television shows, book tours and become a recurring part of the mainstream zeitgeist for more than a decade or two - but now the cross-over between mainstream and adult marketing is finally becoming commonplace. Stars like Sasha Gray have done stints on Entourage and major Hollywood film releases, Charlie Sheen has used his fame (or infamy) to make household names out of several other starlets including Bree Olson and the steady stream of parody DVD titles has revamped vintage media from TV and Theaters to create hardcore concepts from familiar characters established by well known studios.
With porn parodies already covering pretty much every television series or movie title worth mentioning, a new site from PIMPROLL is helping some adult affiliates cash in on the 'star making' marketing machine used by mainstream to pump out pop stars and promote them extensively. For years, it can be argued, that the music industry has been dominated by American Idol winners and celebrity icons whose notoriety comes more from the media outlets that produce them than from their own performance abilities.
Perhaps no company is foreshadowing the future of what is to come better than PIMPROLL with their recent faux-celebrity reality site MileyXXX starring Brynn Tyler as a fantasy version of Miley Cyrus. The site does a brilliant job of accurately stating it is a parody while portraying the star in an immersive way - allowing fans to live out their wildest celebrity porn dreams without any obstacles to the believability of what they are watching.
Going beyond the reach of a xxx movie made to look like the Dukes of Hazzard or Avatar, PIMPROLL is tapping into something much more real for their fans. The connection that many feel to a particular star or celebrity icon. It's a very interesting approach and will likely spawn imitators quickly. Why parody Charlies Angels when what many fans really want is a 'reality porn' site that lets them explore the possibilities of living a rockstar lifestyle with Cameron Diaz as their guide (whether it's really Cameron Diaz or another close facsimile).
"The move to add MileyXXX.com to the offerings of Porn.com has been very successful already and is showing us that there is a lot of opportunity to blur the line between mainstream entertainment and adult content" said David K. of PIMPROLL. "For us the most important thing is finding the right talent, the best scripts and the highest production values. Our fans expect only the best from Porn.com and we believe the merger with mainstream only works well when the content is believable and truly immersive."
It seems we may not be too far off from seeing sites that let fans fantasize about their favorite celebs in a whole new way. Yes, the parodies will be obviously fake to anyone who looks at them critically - but a 'fake Anna Kournikova played by Pornstar X' with an immersive diary, behind the scenes pics from the road and fan interaction is a lot sexier than no Anna Kournikova.
Mobile Porn Taking Over Hotel Room Audiences
"As we transition to this new platform, adult content will be off the menu for virtually all of our newly built hotels" said the Marriott official statement. "Over the next few years, this will be the policy across our system."
In seeking feedback about the decision from actual porn buyers on my own sites, one anonymously remarked "Who cares, none of the GOOD porn was available on hotel systems anyway and everyone already has mobile access now anyhow."
"Frankly, I was a little shocked by Marriott's stance and feel bad for the companies that will lose out on this decision" said Mitch Boucher, Director of Development for MyiPlayground.com, a leading provider of mobile traffic to optimized adult content sites. "On the other hand, new opportunities will arise in adult entertainment, as travelers who previously might have checked the hotel movie system will now have to revert to using their laptops, tablets, phones and other mobile devices. Therefore, consumer viewing and purchasing habits will be redirected in the favor of personal and discreet portable devices."
"The Marriott family is known as being very conservative, partly from their Mormon background," said C. Patrick Scholes, a senior gaming and hotel analyst with FBR Capital Markets according to The Washington Post.
Scholes and John Arabia, managing director of Green Street Advisors, went on to say the loss of revenue to Marriott would be minimal based on their speculation that in-room adult video has declined with the proliferation of new technology - which reasonably infers that mainstream financial analysts are also well aware of the growing impact that mobile porn is having on the hotel travel market.
"In reality very little will change. The same large providers who have had content on hotel systems are the ones that have been pursuing mobile porn all along as well" said David K. of PIMPROLL. "We expect our share of the market will continue to grow as fans are encouraged to get access to the complete catalog of our sites with their mobile devices using our proprietary technologies to enhance their user experience. Whether a traveler watches our content on their hotel television set, their tablet, laptop, smart-phone or any other device, we are there for them with the best quality adult material and the lowest pricing available. For us it has always been about satisfying our fans wherever they go, and no move by any hotel chain would ever change that."
So the questions remain: Did Marriott refuse past requests by conservative advocacy groups to drop adult movies from their hotels because there was too much money in the market for them to earn at the time? Have they now suddenly reversed course simply because mobile porn has eroded their in-house profits to the point where they aren't earning enough to make it economically sensible for them to continue putting up with the political backlash? If so, this development may be the best indicator yet of just how rapidly mobile porn is growing and how quickly the viewing habits of fans are evolving.
Analyzing The XBIZ Award Nominations
Nominees must be recommended by industry insiders first, and then those companies who have gotten enough credible recommendations are sorted by expert XBIZ staff to create the final nominees list for the year. When I look a the list, the first two things I look for are longevity or new names.
In an era where payouts are inconsistent, affiliate programs are closing and affiliates are looking for safe places to send their traffic - finding companies that get nominated or win awards year in and year out makes good sense. No, it may not be a guarantee that these companies will all still be here paying on time every time in 2012 or 2013, but in a world without guarantees, kind words from friends in the industry backed by the research of staff at XBIZ is a good place to start.
Perennial favorites like PIMPROLL, Hustler, TopBucks and Gamma Entertainment are all on the list again. With PIMPROLL announcing earlier this year that they surpassed the 400 weeks of consecutive payouts milestone (more than 7 full years), Gamma announcing it has made big new deals with hot companies like BlazingBucks and TopBucks at the forefront of many industry initiatives regarding content protection and expansion into new markets - it's no wonder these companies earned nominations and it makes perfect sense that if you plan to trust your joins with anyone in 2011 these companies are some of the most stable 'blue chip' sponsors worth considering.
When looking at some of the new names on the list, other important information can be gleaned from the nominees mentioned. For example, Linkspun has earned its first nomination and is a company founded in 2010. Linkspun was born out of the dysfunction that befell the thunderball link trading system of the past. With a sleek interface, hundreds of active webmasters and more than 200,000 completed link trades, Jdoughts has built his new site into one of the most significant SEO tools ever created for adult companies and individuals. On top of all that, the entire system is free for your use thanks to generous sponsors and very discreet advertising. If you haven't checked out linkspun and you own a website, you can thank XBIZ for highlighting this amazing new tool for you.
In the highly competitive Solo Girl and Pornstar Affiliate market categories companies come and go each year, but this year there are a few worth giving some additional attention. For starters, Latin Teen Cash is nominated again this year for an award, which is their third time up for the honor, while their spin-off program Pacino Cash has also earned a nomination as well. That goes to show you that during the difficult and exciting period of expansion during 2010, Kellie and her crew have managed to maintain the high standards of their original program while also producing top quality sites and marketing materials for their new brand as well. Not an easy task and one that shows you Pacino Network is clearly taking a long term approach to creating sites worthy of your affiliate traffic.
The other Pornstar program that stands out is BlazingBucks, with a lengthy track-record of top quality management in a clearly defined niche, the recent news that they are teaming up with adult industry giant Gamma Entertainment demonstrates their desire to take things to a whole new level. The deal makes terrific sense for anyone knowledgeable about the strengths of each enterprise, putting Gamma's global reach behind the award nominated niche content and personal touch BlazingBucks has mastered is enough to have smart webmasters looking for new ways to push traffic their way.
These highlights are just a short sample of the information that can be found in an extensive nominations list. The awards will be won and the winners will get most of the attention, but I tend to focus every year on the names of nominated companies much more than who won. After all, if you are in this business to earn money rather than win a trophy, the results of an industry-wide opinion poll like the XBIZ Award Nominations is very valuable data for you to sift through.
The Race Goes On
Holiday Seasons past brought posts about huge gifts, special seasonal content for fans, discount promotional pricing and a number of other marketing moves aimed at finishing the year with a bang and getting the new year off to the best possible start. While slacking sales and a reduced number of meaningful traffic providers have gutted most of the gift-giving among affiliate programs, the dearth of new worthwhile promotional materials and a complete lack of innovative marketing tools from many programs is allowing a few to step forward inexpensively and quickly.
VideosZ recently announced a new set of video banner ads that custom-tailor their content based on member viewing selection trends, the result is a much higher CTR and simple point-and-click quality content that virtually any webmaster can embed into their own traffic sites. Along with their Video Wall, White Labels and massive amount of marketing content available for affiliates VideosZ is quickly positioning itself as one of the easiest sponsors to work with - and one that is continuing to evolve its enterprise for webmasters looking to progress in the new year.
DukeDollars has taken significant steps to amp up their brand recently and they appear to be cultivating a very loyal group of marketers and traffic providers by fiercely protecting the exclusivity of their content. Aggressively pursuing illegal providers of their videos and getting their content removed, generating their own SEO network of sites to relegate content traders of their vids into obscurity and producing fresh new scenes unlike any that have been posted previously helps keep their new updates some of the freshest anywhere on the net. While this does create a bit of a marketing material shortage because they are averse to having even small amounts of their content used for free online, it does give webmasters one of the more 'kinky' brands to promote with a much lower barrier to bring in sales from free sites and tubes. At the very least, it shows the folks at DukeDollars are awake and alive, rather than asleep at the wheel like so many of their competitors.
PIMPROLL made perhaps the biggest moves of 2010 when they reduced the monthly purchase price for Porn.com below $10.00 per month and then followed that up with one dollar trials on all PIMPROLL sites that convert to monthly memberships priced at just $14.95! Even the most 'thrifty' consumer would have to admit that the quality of content, exclusive videos, interface innovations and media player upgrades found on their sites makes them worthy of a few bucks more than what the tubes are presenting. Positioning their content as the 'next step up' from free to quality content is already generating increased sales and exceptional retention numbers according to the company and several affiliates in the know.
TotemCash has added new downloadable executable file based sites to go along with the wildly popular VirtuaGirl site to expand their brand. Gammae continues to hire new marketing professionals while expanding their mainstream interests. AEBN and others are gradually getting deeper into manufacturing products like the Blu electronic cigarette and RealTouch device.
If you aren't thinking of new ideas and pushing new products into your own pipeline, it isn't because 'porn is dead' or because 'the tubes suck' or because 'nobody is making any money.' The fact is, complacency is a lot easier than innovating and it takes even more self-motivation to roll up your sleeves and push the rock up hill than it used to take when every slope was in your favor. Consolidation has been the hallmark of recent years but the feeding frenzy also seems to be slowing. Those who allow their brands to stagnate may not even be able to find willing buyers for them in the new year. It's time to get moving again.
In years past, studios competed to put out the best exclusive content. As years have gone by, so much porn has been produced that only the most ardent adult film enthusiasts have seen even a small percentage of the entire catalog. The glut of back-catalog films has spawned several 'all you can eat' style sites with tens of thousands of videos available for one monthly price - while other boutique studios continue to put out new exclusive videos that can not be seen anywhere but on their own solitary websites.
Recently Porn.com announced a bold move, lowering their monthly signup price on type-in traffic to under $10.00 per month. Affiliates are able to set their own price with set of link codes that include or exclude variables like cross sales, consoles and trials. According to PIMPROLL (the company that owns and promotes Porn.com), retention numbers have been tremendous as a result and the new pricing is here to stay.
Some, on industry message boards have been quick to claim that the lower pricing is a bad thing and that they would never even think of selling their prized content at such a low monthly price. In most cases, those comments are coming from site owners who produce much smaller boutique niche sites with very specific content that they do not license elsewhere. What we may be seeing is the emergence of tiered pricing much the same way mainstream stores have operated for years.
If Porn.com is soon to become to 'Target' or "Walmart' of porn with can't-be-beat pricing, and others intend to try to offer higher resolution harder to find more extreme content at a higher price point, consumers will quickly find ways to take the path that suits their own interests the best.
Arguing that tube sites are here and all porn is free really do not carry much weight. The fact is, 'free porn' never comes at a quality even close to that of paid porn. Lower resolutions, nagging ads displayed, interface gimmicks and other tools used by free tubes to monetize traffic definitely degrade the viewing experience for visitors in contrast to what most paid sites now offer.
When evaluating the price of your own site, keep in mind what your potential customer can get for his or her porn dollar these days. If you site is no better than a free tube, it won't be getting many signups... but if it has something to offer beyond the grainy images found for free the price needs to make sense as part of the larger landscape of sites online.
It's no secret that PORN.comdecided to make pricing changes after investigating the success of mainstream counterparts like NETFLIX. Very few sites these days are truly unique. Review sites and other compilation sites will help you get a good broad view at sites similar to yours and their pricing structure. While site owners look for clues on competitor tours and join form styles to improve sales - it seems many try to price their sites based on their own independent costs or hopes and dreams. In a competitive marketplace, making sure you are priced in a smart way relevant to your niche may result in better sales and retention. As others change their prices and adjust to the economy, market trends and external factors... your price needs to flow accordingly... or it may be the thing holding you back the most.