The Rise of the Hybrids

Stewart Tongue
When porn first came online it was much less centralized than it is today. Most people earning money in the digital market didn't even know who their competition was, and the majority of site owners worked in solitude. The advent of affiliate marketing changed all of that as site owners sought to find affiliates capable of generating traffic for them, and as affiliates sought to find site owners with the ability to monetize their traffic effectively. From that evolution came a much closer online business community supported by well-known message boards, industry magazines, tradeshows and a common approach to doing business together. Recent trends seem to suggest that the affiliate model is falling out of favor fast, and that has some site owners transitioning to a new era in adult marketing where the paysite network generates its own traffic more efficiently than most affiliates.

"I have sent traffic to many programs as an affiliate and monetized my work mostly by payouts for the sales that my traffic generated," well-known affiliate and SEO guru MarkE4A said. "However, times are definitely changing now. Many program owners of top-tier sites who have seen the value of my SEO skills are hiring me on a monthly consulting basis to earn ranks for their sites directly instead. Building in-house traffic and the position of their paysites in the SERPs are more cost-effective for them and a steadier income for me, as well."

Many industry veterans are well aware of the effect that SEO has had on the industry. Frequently even a well-known and properly branded paysite doesn't rank first in search engines when you search for its own domain name. For years, affiliate bloggers, review-site owners, TGPs and others have worked hard to rank thousands of sites and gain access to well-filtered search engine traffic, which could be sent to paysites in a targeted niche capable of monetizing it. Now paysite owners are applying many of the same techniques to their own sites and capturing a much larger portion of the traffic for themselves directly.

In the past, most paysites either had no warning page or a very simple one designed to steer away people who found the site accidentally. Today, a look at many modern warning pages demonstrates that they have become powerful tools for traffic generation. Detailed contextual keywording, intelligently designed link structures, properly fine-tuned meta data, search-engine-friendly descriptions and page titles all lend themselves nicely to the paysite becoming its own traffic source. Some paysite warning pages are starting to look very much like the blogs others use to generate traffic. Some tours are now many pages of extensive, exclusive text and other amenities designed at least in part to satisfy search engines.

There are definitely still some affiliate programs interested in working with large or small affiliate traffic providers.

"At NScash we have always worked hand-in-hand with our affiliates, and we have also worked on the affiliate side of the industry with other sponsors," Rho of said. "There is definitely a trend toward [fewer] small part-time affiliates in the industry now, and things are shifting toward larger affiliates and sponsors, but honestly, if someone can send one sale a year I'm still very happy to work with them."

In other instances however, bold, well-known paysite owners have made posts on message boards belittling the efforts of affiliate marketers and suggesting that they are entirely unnecessary in the modern adult-marketing industry. The arguments over 'tube sites giving away too much' have given way in large part to tacit acceptance as paysite owners develop their own traffic tubes with varying degrees of success.

The prevailing belief of the past was that successful affiliates will eventually become paysite owners, and that in some ways an affiliate program was a way for paysite owners to inadvertently spawn and enhance their own future competitors. That formula seems to be reversing itself quickly as an increasing number of paysite owners appear to be entering into direct competition with their own affiliates instead. In some situations the examples are so stark that it is strange most affiliates seem entirely unaware of the enormity of the change taking place.

Many paysite programs offer a variety of tours for their sites with different price points, cross sale and console options. A closer look at some suggests that affiliates are often promoting sites at more expensive prices and with less favorable terms than the type-in tour offered to consumers. For example, a tour that lists a site at $29 per month with no cross sales and a $3 trial via type-in direct traffic may show up on an affiliate site listed at $34 per month with no trial and two pre-checked cross sales for the exact same content.

Some paysite owners I spoke with suggested it was necessary to include less favorable terms on affiliate tours in order to sustain the high PPS payouts that many affiliates demand, but the same differences in pricing can also be found on 'revshare' tours in many instances. If one looks at the new dynamic with a cynical eye it would appear that 'screwing the surfer' is a far more palatable business model for some paysite owners when that surfer has arrived from an affiliate site specifically.

A world without affiliate marketers is undoubtedly difficult for most affiliates to imagine. However, a look at the most popular affiliate message boards shows far less interaction from well-known site owners and a much greater amount of spam from bots, paid posters and part-time affiliate program reps. While there are definitely many honest paysite owners seeking to assist their affiliates and share the fruit of their combined labor, the window on 'small-time' or 'part-time' affiliates may be closing quickly and quietly.

Demands for custom promo materials, complaints about poor account support and requests for changes in billing practices by many small-time affiliates on message boards frequently go entirely ignored these days. Meanwhile some still cling to the notion that affiliate marketing will never go away. For those living with a blissfully ignorant belief in the word "never," it is worth noting we live in a time when the word "never" is being redefined almost daily. General Motors was never going away, a black President was never getting elected and the Arizona Cardinals were supposedly never going to be Super Bowl contenders.