If you take only one thing from this article with you, let it be this: Launch is the last thing you do when creating a paysite. The work you need to do, the effort and expense and analysis that will determine your potential success all needs to be completed before you reach that magic moment when you unveil your new paysite to the world. You only get to make a first impression once and being able to use that great first impression as a foundation for future development is infinitely more profitable than having to try to overcome a terrible first impression after your site has already become public.
Market research is an overly elaborate way of saying 'look at what everyone else is already doing.' Getting a good grasp on the sites that are coming out, the niches that are hot, the SEO methods that are being used, the keywords that are being competed over most aggressively and the content that your would-be competitors are offering is essential to developing your own paysite. I am not suggesting you copy an existing site, in fact that is unlikely to be a solid plan because unless you are offering something truly innovative you'll be competing with a similar site that is already well established. On the contrary, I'm suggesting that if you don't bother to seriously investigate your own site idea by doing some market research, you won't even know what you are competing against or who you might want to be working with.
For starters, set aside at least a day or two to sift through the numerous Review Sites that are rating and commenting on all of the existing paysites and programs already on the market. Reputable review sites like TheBestPorn.com, WebmasterScore.com, RabbitsReviews.com, TheTongue.net and SirRodney.com provide a wealth of information to surfers seeking to buy a porn site; that same information is also a fantastic research tool for paysite owners as well. You can sort Review Sites by niche, find the niches that most closely match your own site idea and see what they have to say about of the sites that will soon be your main competitors. Is there something all of the niche sites you will be up against lack according to reviewers? Would adding that slide-show or video format or member's area extra feature be cost effective for you and give you a way to stand out from competitive sites? How would your site score if it launched with the content you plan to offer? Some Review Sites provide a comprehensive explanation of their rating criteria in full detail. For example, here is the link to the way RabbitsReviews assigns scores to paysites: http://www.rabbitsreviews.com/criteria.aspx
Rather than launching your site and then trying to see what you can do to get your scores on Review Sites raised, why not take a look at how they plan to score you and adapt during the content creation phase of your site development to achieve higher scores right from the start. Honest reviewers have looked at thousands of paysites already… why not use them for quality free advice?
Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Content
One of the first decisions every site owner must make is whether to go with exclusive content or non-exclusive content or some mix of both. Sites that opt for 'member submitted' content are a hornet's nest of potential legal calamities for reasons as widely varied as a lack of '2257 compliance to civil action by people appearing on the site or other content owners suing for copyright infringement. If you think you have the army of lawyers, clandestine offshore operation and strength of conviction necessary to manage that sort of site, best of luck. For everyone else it comes down to buying licensed content or hiring a shooter to film exclusive content for you.
The answer at first would seem to be that using non-exclusive content is wise. However, consider the competition. When you launch a non-exclusive content site you are immediately competing with the huge well-entrenched and technologically advanced big boys like VideosZ.com, VideoBox.com and studio sites like ZTOD.com Unless you have some amazing new innovation or a viral marketing scheme in place, there isn't a whole lot you can offer on a new site with a few hundred DVDs that would make your customers prefer your site more than other larger and better funded competitors.
That brings you to the notion of exclusive content. With individual scenes ranging in price from around $500-3,000 each as compared to a (6) scene DVD license that can be obtained for a hundred bucks, the up front cost of exclusive content is far more of a barrier for most webmasters. Again, "with all the good domains already taken" it becomes unlikely that a vanilla exclusive site will manage to stand out from similar competitors and that leads many to look for interesting new micro-niche ways to explore human sexuality on film.
Standing Out Without Standing For Trial
Anyone who has been paying attention to adult industry news over the past year is already well aware of the recent spike in obscenity prosecutions in the United States. The MaxHardcore, RedRose, ExtremeAssociates and Stagliano cases are each intended to expand the parameters of government control and to shrink the variety of sexual experiences that site owners are permitted to legally depict. That makes non-exclusive content seemingly safer because it has already been marketed uneventfully and it makes "pushing the envelope" with a wild new exclusive content site a lot more risky for legal reasons.
Add in the costs of procuring traffic, designing marketable tours, coding or licensing a quality content management system, obtaining billing approval and Visa approval, arranging processing, developing worthwhile marketing materials, attracting affiliates who are capable of sending traffic and who will actually send the traffic they promise… and you quickly start to see why being a paysite owner is not as easy as many message board keyboard warriors claim it to be. All of that doesn't even take into account the myriad of problems presented by the proliferation of free content, pirate tube sites, declining consumer credit markets and claims that unscrupulous scumbags are committing rampant carding or cross sell fraud daily to make a fast buck.
Entering the paysite arena in today's market may seem easier than it did in the past, but when a webmaster starts to look more deeply at the prospect of launching a new paysite, one finds that the misconception is due to the fact that the pitfalls have changed — not because the pitfalls no longer exist. Sure, bandwidth is much cheaper these days and the potential to launch a successful new site undoubtedly exists. However, when you take out your wallet and consider launching a new site, keep in mind, the real barrier to entry these days as compared to the past, is that the industry has had a chance to mature and you will be forced to compete with people who already know exactly what they are doing.