While many entrepreneurs in this market enjoy a level of success beyond that seen by webmasters who target a more general audience or less personal niches, the amateur scene is not as easy to operate in, nor as profitable, as it once was. Beyond an increase in competition, a new complication has entered the equation in the form of trying to comply with the expanded 18 U.S.C. § 2257 federal record-keeping requirements — a complication that could cause many amateurs to exit the market rather than make their personal information publicly available.
But even though success in the amateur market today doesn't come as quickly, easily or profitably as it once did, there is no foreseeable end in sight for the demand of homemade porn, nor an end to the number of new models and performers willing to enter this segment of the online adult entertainment industry.
Here's a little insight into the current market from three of today's top single-model-site and affiliate-program operators — Sammy of SammySmack.com, Lori Anderson of LotzaDollars.com and Naughty Allie of NaughtyBank.com:
AYRORA: How popular is the amateur market today, and is it as profitable as it once was?
SAMMY: The amateur market is still profitable, but a lot more work and money is required to stay alive in the industry today. Due to the new 2257 regulations, I would imagine that the influx of girls running their own sites will start to level out if not decline.
LORI: As we all know, the amateur market today is very competitive. It's all about marketing. It's just as profitable as it was in the past, but it takes talent to bring in revenue, and when I say "talent," I don't mean sitting behind a video camera all day.
ALLIE: I think the market in general has become quite over crowded. That being said, there's still great potential in amateur if you do it right. It's really all about the marketing.
AYRORA: What does it take to run a profitable single-model site today?
SAMMY: There is a need to brand your site and your affiliate program to webmasters so they trust you and know you are in business for the long haul. I also think it is important to go to the various conventions and meet your affiliates and other webmasters. There are some advantages to starting a site today. There are a ton of resource sites out there where a newbie can ask pretty much anything and someone will walk them through the process.
LORI: Submitting your one or two galleries a day to five TGPs in a matter of 15 minutes back in the day and getting 20 signups are long gone. You have to be more creative. You have to have something that you can concentrate on, like a niche. Do you have something special to offer? You need feeder pages, hubs, FPAs, search engine traffic and members-area traffic trades.
ALLIE: These days you really need to have a strong affiliate program. Like the saying goes, "Traffic is King." You can only generate so much traffic on your own. The time and resources spent doing so take away from keeping your members happy and retaining them. If you give your affiliates what they need to be successful it will only make the site they're promoting that much more profitable. I also think a lot of people in the industry spread themselves too thin. Maintain a focus on perfecting a single site with exclusive content rather than trying to do 30 sites all half-assed. Our motto is, "One program, one site, one focus!"
AYRORA: What do you see as the key to your success?
SAMMY: Dedication to my members and to my affiliates has helped my site grow consistently over the years. I give my members daily interaction through my journal, a message board and a private messaging system. My members get to be involved in my everyday life and interact with me at many different levels. I take their suggestions for my weekly photo shoots and video updates. As for keeping my affiliates happy, it is important to me to give them top-notch customer support and make sure they have fresh content to promote me with.
LORI: One suggestion: Take care of your customers; they're too smart these days [not to]. Take care of your affiliates as well, or they'll just go promote someone else. I'm always available to my members and spend a lot of time online, either with my members, chatting on some of the boards or taking care of business in general. It's a job, a full-time job. My husband and I also have programmers and designers to help out with our affiliates.
ALLIE: The key to success for NaughtyAllie and any genuine amateur site is personal interaction. I see my personal interaction with my members as the ultimate in customer service. You also have to offer a superior product. For example, our videos aren't the usual one- or two-minute clips that surfers are used to viewing; they are full-length downloadable videos anywhere from five to 25 minutes long.
You won't find any duplicate or out-of-focus photos in my members' area. I also write an erotic story to accompany each of my photo sets. My members really enjoy reading what was going on in my head while the photos were being taken and I'd say that it's one of the more popular things on my site. It's just one more opportunity for me to make my site more personal.
AYRORA: How will the new 2257 requirements affect your site and/or affiliate program?
SAMMY: The part that is affecting us the hardest is giving the secondary producer the personal information for everyone. I am prepared to take the responsibility for handing out Brett's ID and my own to affiliates, on a case-by-case basis, but I will not be giving out anyone else's personal information. Of course, this affects my affiliates, especially the ones who have been promoting the girl/girl or swinger aspect of my site.
LORI: We're prepared, if that's what you mean. Will the new law stick? This all remains to be seen. I really believe that the new 2257 is a good thing. Just like when the Visa fees came out, we lost a lot of idiot webmasters out there. Some people just get in the way and make it harder for the real webmasters.
ALLIE: The only portions of the new regulations that will really have a serious effect on our site and program are the changes regarding secondary producers. We have always been, and will continue to be, in full compliance with all 2257 regulations; however, we are not in a position to provide those records to our affiliates in order for them to be compliant as secondary producers.
Basically, that leaves our affiliates and us as program owners to come up with more creative ways to entice the surfer without the use of sexually explicit images. I don't necessarily believe the use of only softcore images for promotion will have an impact on overall sales. I just think we all need to learn how to tease the surfer a little better.
AYRORA: Do you have any concerns over posting your personal information online? Have you had, or do you fear, stalkers?
SAMMY: Yes, I am very concerned about placing my personal information online. Our members are dedicated fans. They really feel a bond with us, and if some of them knew where they could find our home addresses, they would be knocking on our door as soon as they could get there. Not only do I worry about fans finding my address, but I also worry about crazies or people who hate porn finding out my address.
LORI: I don't have a problem giving my personal information to my fellow amateur girlfriends, and my good affiliates either. [But] the last thing anyone needs is to have some guy outside her doorstep calling their name or even hiding out down the street and following them when they're alone.
ALLIE: As I mentioned earlier, personal interaction is the key to success for any amateur site. Unfortunately, it's also the same thing that may encourage someone to "cross the line." I've gotten some pretty obsessive emails in the past; however, I've never had any stalkers. Let's just hope it stays that way.