Hustler's online division has undergone a major makeover since its FlyntDigital days, and with a name like HustlerCash — which the company smartly adopted in 2005 — there's no question why the company's web presence has grown exponentially.
LFP President Michael Klein was put in charge of the company's Internet group just a year after coming on board to develop its broadcast division, and once the brand was renamed with a more recognizable stamp, he brought all of its business in-house, where the growing team could more closely monitor its progress and have a hands-on approach to its development.
Our ecommerce group has found new marketing avenues through major mainstream Internet sites and businesses
"I always felt it is better to control your own destiny," Klein said. "We have a reputation of a company that Larry Flynt started 35 years ago and built into now the largest adult entertainment company in the world, and we have always needed to make sure that we maintain that reputation."
Klein said that within a few months of bringing its ecommerce in-house, the company matched its site earnings, and by the end of this year, he anticipates the monthly number will more than double from what it was when the sites were handled by a third party.
"Our ecommerce group has found new marketing avenues through major mainstream Internet sites and businesses that I would never have guessed would be promoting and offering content from an adult ecommerce site, and they have a couple more being finalized," Klein said. "I thought they were crazy at first when they told me that they were going to work a deal with them. The results of bringing ecommerce in-house have so far been phenomenal."
Klein brought Brad Eells on board in 2005, and together formed a team of talented marketers, salesmen, programmers, designers and business minds. In August 2006, affiliate sales and marketing rep JMK joined to focus on sales and marketing, and after HustlerCash's official launch two years later, the program was in full swing.
"The initial launch encompassed a big effort in redesigning all the tours and member sections," JMK said. "We also migrated our backend to the MPA3 affiliate program software. The next steps were the integration of state-of-the-art promotional tools, as well as the launch of reality-based paysites. We also pursued a number of new strategic partnerships."
These partnerships resulted in sites including Hustler3D.com, a virtual erotic 3-dimensional game; HustlerGirls.com, a desktop stripper application; and HustlerPersonals.com, a dating site. Hustler has further plans to infiltrate new markets, JMK said, and developed sites like these sites to supplement the success of its flagship online entities, Hustler.com and BarelyLegal.com.
JMK also said the company recently launched specialty niche sites, such as ScaryBig Dicks.com and TooManyTrannies.com, which features content shot exclusively for the web, something Hustler began doing once its sites needed content catered specifically to its growing niche sites.
"It is very important to shoot exclusive Internet content because that is what the end-users demand, and it helps affiliates more effectively promote sites," JMK said. "Consumers are way more educated nowadays than, let's say, in the hay-days where the offerings were rather limited and every site had more or less the same porn. I also believe in order to stimulate them and grab their attention you need unique, high-end content and present it in a compelling way."
Klein said the ways of the past — shooting for DVD and making it work for the web — are long gone, and will not supply a company with enough of the right kind of content to keep its multiple sites moving and updated. Shooting exclusive, now in its own studio, is the way of the future for HustlerCash.
"In the past, the movie was shot for DVD release and then any Internet or broadcasting revenue was gravy," Klein said. "Now we shoot content with the site in mind and make sure that we have new content to refresh all the niche sites and our main bread-and-butter, Hustler.com."
This is one of HustlerCash's big focuses for this year and beyond, Klein said, and seeking out new methods for content delivery is a necessity. The company currently is looking into variations of IPTV delivery, and is testing some new technologies that, if successful, could completely change the way consumers view porn online.
"One of the bigger benefits of having such a strong brand is that we appear to be one of the first places that people go with any new ideas or technological advances," Klein said. "We become somewhat of a testing ground and hopefully we make the right decisions on the ones with follow-through and the ones that we pass on."
A trend Hustler picked up early on and continues to profit from is the parody, which has brought consumers a variety of sexy-but-still-funny spoofs from some of their favorite public figures and TV shows, including "Who's Nailin' Paylin," "This Ain't Gilligan's Island XXX," and most recently "This Ain't Star Trek XXX."
The company began experimenting with webisodes last year with the series devoted to former Alaska Governor and almost-Vice President Sarah Palin.
Using these webisodes, Hustler consumer hub HustlerWorld.com, and the slew of social-networking sites and services running rampant online, the company markets its new releases to let the mainstream world what it's up to, and even has a rated-PG channel on YouTube. This way, mainstream media outlets that pounce on adult-related material, such as TMZ.com and entertainment TV "news" shows, are more likely to take note and inadvertently assist in the promotions process.
"The webisodes have been a terrific boost in bringing traffic to the site and have had a high conversion ratio," Klein said. "The first we did was for 'Who's Nailin' Paylin' and our traffic went through the roof and our revenue was at an all-time high for that year."
Klein said following the success of these preliminary webisodes, the company has several more planned this year to promote its upcoming DVD releases, with special bonus scenes shot for the web.
"Promoting your product through every product available is definitely a key in being successful in this industry," Director of Affiliate Marketing Nick Amoroso said.
Amoroso was brought on board in fall 2008 and played a hand in HustlerCash's most recent incarnation, HustlerCash v2.0, which made its debut at the start of this year. Amoroso said that the team made several key updates, including a new user-friendly interface for affiliates to easily find promo tools and analyze user stats to better keep track of their traffic and sales patterns.
"One of our strong suits is that we work with each affiliate trying to fill any request that they have in making customizable tools to support their traffic to our sites," Klein said. "We are fortunate that [JMK] and [Amoroso] are well-known in the industry and, even more important to us, well liked. We want people to feel comfortable with our team and at ease to ask for whatever they think will work."
HustlerCash keeps up with its affiliates with a wide open communication stream, inviting and encouraging its webmasters to offer feedback via ICQ, email and phone calls, and makes sure everyone has what they need to effectively promote and drive traffic.
"[Affiliates] are the bread and butter of our business so the more we know what they want and need, the better job we can do," JMK said. "[Communication] helps us understand their side of the business and we can provide tools strategically tailored to their needs and traffic sources. We love to hear from them and embrace their ideas and wishes and encourage them to meet us in person at trade shows."
Maintaining a stellar — and spotless — reputation is also essential to HustlerCash's and LFP's bottom line, and Klein said that knowing there are constant eyes on the company, with the celebrity status of Flynt and his renowned 35 years in adult entertainment, keeps the company double- and triple-checking each and every one of its moves, from something as major as launching a legal tube site to something as simple as crossing every "T" on an invoice.
The company utilizes legal tube sites as marketing tools, making sure each clip is no longer than two minutes and is only posted on sites that legally obtain content. The company has no problem sending its lawyers after companies posting content to torrent or illegal tube sites, and hopes that eventually companies supporting these programs will realize there's little ROI by doing so.
"Our belief is that eventually people will realize that most of the content on tube sites is of poor production quality and if you want something decent, you need to pay a little premium for it," Klein said. "You would like to see the big companies in the industry work together to take down these illegal sites and there are some efforts now and hopefully those that are supporting or running the illegal sites will just see that in the end they are doing just way too much damage to the industry."
JMK said the company utilizes the services of third-party partners to remove illegal links from search engines, blogs, illegal tubes and torrents, only using its legal forces when necessary.
And at a time when attracting and maintaining customer signups has become harder than ever, it's as important to offer consumers a taste of the milk without giving away the whole cow, as it is giving them a reason to stick around.
Utilizing cross sales for additional revenue remains a hot topic on the webmaster message boards, and as many other industry leaders have touted, there's a right way and a wrong way to use them. "Shady" cross-sale practices not only put a company on the industry's warning list, but they also can damage consumer relationships and in turn cancel sales. This is something HustlerCash keeps well aware of.
"We make sure to provide fast and satisfying customer service and we do not over-promise our offering; what you see is what you get," JMK said. "Once you screw over a customer you will never see him buy from you again, and he might even lose his trust for the entire online adult business."
Klein said HustlerCash is very selective about the companies it chooses to do cross sales with, and makes sure they're offered to consumers clearly and fairly, so as to avoid chargebacks and ruffling feathers.
"If done correctly," Klein said, "it is a nice additional revenue source that we would not want to see go away."
In the coming years, HustlerCash will continue to build its international presence via mobile, IPTV and online channels, being sure to offer content in a variety of download speeds and content platforms, and purchasable using billing methods that match the consumer's local preference.
"Our content and brand has always been a strong performer in Europe and Latin America on the mobile platform, and we think we have the right partners now to make it even stronger and have added even other territories now in Eastern Europe and Australia," Klein said. "New markets like Canada will open up for mobile soon and eventually a U.S. market will be there once a sufficient age verification system is in place."
The cam and dating site trend will continue, Klein predicts, and though HustlerCash has its own white label deals in place for some of its own cam and dating programs, the company is keeping its eyes peeled for the next big thing.
"You always have to stay on top of what the industry is doing and what is working and what has seemed to be a fad that is now over," Klein said.
JMK echoed Klein's sentiments, and though current trends are proving to be successful and lucrative, they can only last so long.
"Over the last couple of years there have been very few big improvements in the online adult world and the business slid a bit into following other markets rather than coming up with innovative ideas," JMK said. "I believe there will be new ways of marketing and capitalizing the current traffic trends soon. Hustler is keeping its finger on the pulse of current trends and new technologies, but we also thrive to improve the overall business and be a market leader rather than a follower."