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TopBucks Takes Mobile Porn to the Top

Stephen Yagielowicz
While many online adult entertainment companies are bemoaning the overall economic malaise along with a raft of other factors that are currently putting downward pressures on their bottom line, one veteran porn producing powerhouse is reporting a perhaps surprising level of success in the domestic adult mobile market — and bringing its affiliates along for the ride.

The company is TopBucks and its new affiliate portal, TopBucksMobile.com, is set to redefine the way in which mobile affiliate marketers interact with, and promote, their sponsors' websites.

According to TopBucks.com President Allison Vivas, one of the primary reasons for launching a separate site that focused on mobile products was to make it much easier for webmasters to promote the company's mobile product line. But the company's intentions go beyond this.

"There's also an aspect of signaling the emphasis we're placing on mobile as a company," Vivas said. "This is not a side project for TopBucks — this is a whole new product line different from anything we've done before."

Although the notion of targeting adult content to mobile platforms is not a new idea, it is the "arrival" of the U.S. market for mobile porn that the company largely credits for the recent growth burst in the popularity and profitability of its mobile offerings.

"It's not an exaggeration to describe the growth of the U.S. market for mobile porn as an 'explosion' in the last year," TopBucks.com Director of Marketing and Sales Lea Busick offered. "No joke, we've seen an increase of over 850 percent in monthly sales to our flagship mobile site, iPinkVisualPass.com, between October 2008 and May 2009.

"We haven't seen that sort of sustained growth in sales for a single property since we first launched MILFSeeker.com back in 2002," she added.

But what could cause such a dramatic increase in the domestic popularity of adult content on mobile devices? Vivas cites one not-so-surprising major factor:

"The iPhone's popularity has been the key to driving the U.S. mobile porn market to this point, and all the available data indicates that it continues to be the most commonly used device among our mobile surfers," Vivas told XBIZ. "That's why our development to this point has been so iPhone-centric, so to speak."

The choice to focus its initial efforts on iPhone users was an easy one for the TopBucks team, supported by data collected by AdMob.com and from TopBucks' own server logs and other proprietary sources, which found that although the iPhone represents less than two percent of global Smartphone sales, its web browsing market share is around 65 percent — which strongly suggests that iPhone users are substantially more likely to use their phones for browsing purposes than are users of other devices.

Vivas cautions, however, that shifting market forces don't allow for complacency or a total focus on one platform to the exclusion of others.

"Obviously Apple's competition isn't going to simply surrender the fight for mobile browsing market share," she said. "So we're keeping a close eye on the Palm Pre, various Blackberry devices and development of the Android OS, as well."

The TopBucks team confided that thus far, retention is better, and both chargebacks and credits are substantially lower among mobile members than with the company's web-based subscription sites. Doubtless much of that performance is attributable to the quality of TopBucks' offers, but the different demographic presented by mobile users also plays a role in the story.

"Mobile users are in many ways a more attractive consumer demographic than is the web consumer," Vivas said. "The mobile market has fewer underage surfers, higher average disposable income than the general web user market — they can at least afford to buy a Smartphone and the requisite data plan — and tends to be more accustomed to paying for content accessed through their browsing device of choice (think App Store)."

Some of this may seem a little far-fetched to affiliates and others that have tried to profit from the mobile market in the past — and perhaps seen little success. But times have changed, Busick says, and the time for ramping up the heat in the domestic mobile market is now.

"I can understand why a lot of webmasters and adult business owners might be skeptical about the mobile porn market; after all, for years we've been hearing that mobile was the 'next big thing,' and those predictions have never really come true, at least not within the U.S. market," Busick opined. "What convinced us of the mobile porn market's viability were the data, the sales and the continued upward trend.

"This is no longer speculation, though, and people in the adult industry who don't jump on the opportunity are going to be kicking themselves," Busick said. "The market, the consumers, the revenue — it's all happening now.

"As the old saying goes, 'he who hesitates is lost,'" she added.

But is reaching and satisfying a mobile audience the same as targeting a web-based one; or will webmasters and affiliates have to learn a repertoire of new tricks?

"One thing we've found over the last couple years is that the mobile adult market is very different from the adult web market, and the mobile consumer has different expectations and different habits as a consumer," Busick told XBIZ. "You have to rethink price points, you have to consider the limitations presented by the various devices, and you have to deal with a broader spectrum of cross-platform compatibility issues than we deal with on the web side of things."

According to the company, the TopBucksMobile.com program offers affiliates $15-$20 per signup on $1 trials or a 60 percent revenue share. Sales tools include a mobile redirect script that automatically detects and redirects mobile users to a mobile-optimized site, a white label system, RSS feeds, web applications and mobile wallpapers to go along with the usual banners and promotional content.

"What you see now on TopBucksMobile.com is just the beginning, really," Vivas concluded. "The mobile adult market is expanding quickly, and we're working hard to stay at the leading edge, so you can expect to see new products, applications and promotional tools being added to the site on a regular basis."

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