For those unfamiliar with the practice in today's "scan and swipe" economy, bartering is the exchange of like-valued goods or services for one another, with or without the use of a fixed-value currency as an intermediary instrument. In other words, the basis of the barter deal doesn't necessarily revolve around money changing hands, although partial cash payments are often part of modern bartering; where the trade of goods or services simply offsets, rather than replaces, a cash outlay.
In the world of the adult Internet, bartering may be more common than many people might think. For example, as an old-school amateur, like many other girls, I've traded my content for the content of other amateurs so that we each might offer larger, more diverse and satisfying member's areas. This can be a win-win situation for real amateur operators with little budget but a selection of exclusive, quality content.
And it's content that seems to form the basis of adult bartering, with some savvy content providers willing to trade photos and videos for everything from design work to hosting, from traffic to advertising and beyond.
The benefits of these content trades can be enormous. For instance, consider a brand new "starving artist" designer trying to enter the marketplace and facing the Catch-22 of not having the portfolio he or she needs in order to secure work because all of the money went towards a copy of Photoshop, and not some photos. The content business isn't what it was, so perhaps the content owner will swap some images in exchange for design work, with the artist now having a licensed library that can be used to make banner and tour samples in an effort to win new clients — and hopefully a good referral from the content provider.
Banner exchanges are another easy example of adult webmasters engaged in bartering, where a snippet of code is placed on each exchange member's web page, which displays other member's banners — with their pages likewise displaying your banner — in a swap intended to drive equal amounts of traffic to all participants in the exchange in proportion to the amounts that they themselves contributed.
It's the "equal amounts" bit which tends to complicate the process, however, and which led to the development of money as an intermediary. For example, if the barter was to be "fish for grain" in an effort to diversify the diet of early merchants, then the question will become, "How many fish does it take to purchase x amount of grain?" Obviously, other factors come into play as well, such as the freshness, type and size of the fish as well as the freshness, type and quality of the grain. Was the fish skinned, boned and dried for easy storage and transport without refrigeration? Was the grain winnowed and milled? All of these factors can influence the equation, but for a fisherman with no money and a desire for bread with his dinner, bartering may be his best option.
It is this equalization of value that proves the sticking point in a bartering transaction, when each party places an exaggerated worth on his or her own product or service while devaluing the others.
In our previous example, it's easy to imagine our farmer telling the fisherman that all he had to do to get his catch was cast his net and reel it in, while the fisherman counters that God makes the grain grow and the farmer only had to harvest it…
So it was that trade groups formed in an attempt to standardize value and in most cases assign an internal currency to be used as an intermediary. The "display credits" used by banner exchanges serves as a modern example — as do traffic trading metrics such as "productivity," as well as measures such as click-through ratios (CTR) that are used when comparing creatives, traffic sources and the like.
Bartering can also be used for the value-added exchange of "gifts in kind" that can be used to dramatically increase the desirability of a deal.
One organization that has pursued a variety of opportunities in this arena is the adult industry supported Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP).
While relying on the direct financial support of its members, ASACP has found a number of ways in which it can benefit from other forms of support. For example, several adult performers have produced public service announcements (PSAs) in support of the ASACP backed Restricted To Adults (RTA) website label and received considerable exposure in return. This is a win-win barter that provides benefits for both parties, with a large number of viewers being exposed to the performer's brand and the increasing chorus of attention provided to RTA with a minimum expenditure of association funds.
For adult website operators, extending the concept of bartering can prove most beneficial. When you consider that the process is simply one of "giving something and then getting something else in return," it opens up whole new possibilities in the realm of Web 2.0-style social networking.
For example, a website might make a limited amount of content freely available to its visitors and then barter services from those visitors for more. In this "clicks for pics" model, which leverages bartering, viral marketing and social networking, a promo page could offer a sample gallery (or a portion of a larger gallery), which includes a front-end script allowing for instant user login/registration and 'recommendation' link generation. When a predetermined number of new visitors hits this link, the referrer receives credits that can be exchanged for more content, such as the rest of a gallery — a great way to tease with clothed/undressing pics, and receive fresh surfer traffic in exchange for your in-demand "happy ending" images. For the visitor's part, he just needs to add this link to his MySpace and Facebook pages, blogs, Tweets and more, as well as have access to a page that allows him to check his credits and redeem them for the desired content. Think of it as an affiliate program for your surfers.
There are a lot of ways to leverage your offers and deal making through bartering, and they really are only limited by your imagination, as well as the law, which may include tax obligations on profits and losses from bartering. If you're interested in learning more about organized bartering today and how the Internet has resulted in explosive growth, the National Association of Trade Exchanges (www.nate.org) will tell you everything you need to know.
With an uncertain economy and intense competition leading adult operators at all levels to look for ways to enhance revenues while mitigating expenses, the benefits of bartering are hard to overstate and the practice provides a great way to extend both your business-to-business and consumer offers. Try a little trading and see for yourself!