One might assume that successful brands of the DVD era would rest on their laurels during tough times and recycle their existing content as the basis of new digital download sites. While a large library of existing titles definitely does become available online, companies like Red Light District see their back-catalog as only the beginning of their web presence.
"Red Light District has been producing award winning content for years, and we believe it is essential to continue providing consumers with fresh content in the present and in the future" said Michael Santore of Red Light Revenue. "The expansion of the Red Light brand to include several new niche paysites as portals for our content has been made much more profitable for our affiliates by the simple fact that we produce six new full-length feature films every month … The new films our fans enjoy are what keep them coming back for more."
Successful online studios also see re-cutting existing content or ripping and copying scenes to multiple sites as a weak way to generate revenue. Few programs can claim to be as successful as the all-exclusive NastyDollars.com Reality Kings network of sites, and when they launched a new program with the Muffia.com brand this year, they opted to go completely original with it as well.
"Our experience over the years with the NastyDollars sites proved that exclusive content is what sells," said Clifton Millwood of Muffia.com. "Adult viewers rarely watch the same movies more than once, and retaining them depends on a constant flow of high-quality exclusive content. Our new Muffia program features nine totally exclusive sites for that reason. The results have been excellent so far, and while other programs might try to save a few cents remarketing used content, webmasters know they can earn more dollars sending their traffic to our exclusive content affiliate program instead."
As the economy muddles through a deepening recession, retention rather than sales is primarily on the minds of many astute webmasters and affiliate programs. Consumers are becoming better educated and increasingly picky about which sites are worth spending money on and which can be overlooked.
"This is a very competitive industry, and you have to offer loyal members quality content that retains," said Rhonda, marketing goddess at NScash.com. "Due to the economic crisis, people are far more conscious about what they spend their money on, and you have to give them a reason to maintain their monthly memberships. Otherwise they will not rejoin. Customers are very knowledgeable these days, and thanks to the Internet, they are all connected."
Anyone who has been active on industry message boards lately will notice a growing trend toward content that is harder for pirates to impact. Dating sites and live cam sites, along with white labels and innovative new tools to promote these kinds of paysites, have become increasingly easy to find. However, while going live may reduce the threat of having your content stolen, it is not a panacea for consumer boredom in all cases.
"Contrary to what some webmasters believe, live content providers also have to deal with the possibility of content becoming stale," said Tom of CamDough.com. "Showing the exact same girls with the exact same settings can dilute live content value just as easily as recycled video can dilute a paysite. We work very hard to provide our customers with fresh content, and it shows in our re-buy ratios. We have more than 200 new performers available every week for exactly that reason."
As the owner of the successful RoyalVault.com affiliate program and the content shooter for EastonContent.com, Easton is perfectly positioned to see this issue from all sides. Royal Vault has utilized both exclusive sites and non-excusive sites in the past, while Easton Content has provided original content to some of the most successful sites on the market.
"Exclusive content has never been more important than it is today," Easton said. "My production business has ballooned in the past two years as more of my clients seek out high-quality exclusive content at value-oriented prices. I think a lot of program owners realize that it is much more profitable in the long term to run an exclusive paysite, even with higher per-scene costs, as compared to licensed or recycled content. When you consider conversion ratios, membership retention and name branding — with so much free and poor-quality adult content already floating around the Internet — exclusivity matters now more than ever before."
Many of the other industry insiders I spoke with in researching this article are predicting that 2009 will become known as the year of widespread consolidation, as weaker companies sink and stronger ones evolve into larger, more stable entities. Since content prices are perceived as one of the largest costs of running a paysite, some owners believe that content is the first place budget cuts should be made. In fact, diluting content and weakening the final product may actually be the fastest way to get pushed into obsolescence.
Like any words of wisdom, the people I spoke with were also quick to point out plenty of exceptions to their comments. Classic porn sites, for example, are a perfect place for recycled content to do well because it is the nostalgia more than the videos themselves being sold by those sites. However, for the majority of the market, as one industry source who asked not to be identified said, "We are selling our content to the public. We aren't selling our desks. I'd rather have a cheap desk and high-quality exclusive videos to sell than be stuck doing business the other way around. Like any good carpenter can tell you … always measure twice before cutting once. The same is true for adult websites. People panic and focus on the gross numbers, but the net is really all that matters."
Put simply, who cares if you spend less building sites that can't earn anything?