trends

Adult Billing in Foreign Currencies

Alex Henderson
For many years, it went without saying that the U.S. dollar was the dominant currency of adult entertainment. The United States was the most porn-producing country in the world, and it was the country with the strongest currency in the world. But while many of the top adult companies are still U.S.-based, the American dollar has become weaker than the British pound and the European euro in recent years — and now, American adult webmasters who started out billing in U.S. dollars exclusively are giving more and more thought to offering billing options in other currencies.

Los Angeles-based adult entrepreneur Jeff Booth, president of EroticUniversity.com, said there are important reasons why it makes sense for American webmasters to offer billing in some non-U.S. currencies. First, Booth said, is the exchange rate; as long as the euro and the pound remain stronger than the U.S. dollar, he said, billing in those currencies can be profitable for U.S.-based webmasters. Second, Booth said, is the fact that adult businesses are operating in an increasingly global economy — and Ameri-centric thinking, according to Booth, can only hurt them in the long run. "A lot of countries are on the euro now," Booth noted. "The countries that are on the euro are a big market for porn, and people in those countries like to pay for things in their own currency just as Americans like to pay for things in their own currency."

One company that has been seeing more and more American adult webmasters offering billing in non-U.S. currencies is the payment solutions provider 2000Charge, Inc., which has offices in L.A. and Munich, Germany. Wolfgang Kring, 2000Charge's CEO, and Raphael A. Berkien (the company's business development manager) have — in various interviews — noted that they've been seeing a lot more euro-friendly, pound-friendly thinking on the part of U.S.-based webmasters.

And Moreno "Mo" Aguiari, founder/president of TranslationsXXX and an administrator for AdultItaly.com, has also been observing a greater number of American webmasters who have become more globally minded. Aguiari (whose TranslationsXXX specializes in translating adult sites into other languages) said that for American webmasters, billing in non-U.S. currencies can be an important element of the "localization" process — and the more localized an American adult site becomes in a foreign country, the easier it will be to attract customers in that country.

Aguiari (a native of Milan, Italy who is now based in Atlanta) said that if, for example, a webmaster's goal is to attract as many French customers as possible, his/her websites need to be localized as much as possible for French Internet surfers; American webmasters, he said, not only need to offer billing in euros (the currency France shares with a long list of other EU countries), but also, have accurate French-language translations of websites, reliable customer service people who speak French fluently, and billing methods other than credit cards. Aguiari stressed that even though credit cards have been the dominant billing method for adult webmasters in the U.S., many Europeans have been paying for Internet erotica by debiting and bank-based solutions.

"We work with a lot of billers, including Epoch and CCBill," Aguiari noted. "The goal of a membership website is to increase sales, and if you want to increase sales in other countries, you need to give them the currency that they prefer, the language that they prefer and the billing platforms that they prefer."

Similarly, Berkien has pointed out that the American webmasters who are the most mindful of, for example, German consumers' needs, will have the greatest advantage in the German market.

"Let's say you're from Germany and you are making a choice between a German website and an American website," said Berkien, who grew up in Holland. "Chances are the American website will lose out against the local one. So localizing the transaction is important. That means having a local phone number for customer support, a local e-mail address and customer service in the person's language. Localizing the transaction is going to make a huge difference."

When it comes to billing in non-U.S. currencies, American webmasters will need to view the world on a currency-by-currency basis. Booth pointed out that if adult entertainment is illegal in a particular country, it makes no sense for adult webmasters to offer billing in that country's currency. And Booth added that if a country has a currency that — unlike the pound or the euro — remains weak against the U.S. dollar, it wouldn't be profitable for webmasters to bill in that currency.

Although the U.S. dollar's reputation has suffered in Europe in recent years, not all developed countries have a bias against the U.S. dollar. Consumers in some porn-friendly developed countries have no problem paying in U.S. dollars.

Fiona Patten, executive officer for the Eros Association (Australia's equivalent of the Free Speech Coalition), said that Australia remains a U.S.-dollar-friendly country for online erotica sales.

"As Australia is such a small market, we are quite comfortable paying in U.S. dollars for everything from adult to Amazon," Patten said. "Most Australian online adult content companies charge in U.S. dollars because even on their sites, Australians represent a small percentage. That is not to say that there would not be some advantage in offering billing in different currencies."

Aguiari pointed out that a lot of adult affiliate programs have been offering payouts in euros. And Booth noted: "Because the U.S. dollar has been so weak in Europe, there are people who don't want to deal with dollars — they only want to deal with pounds or euros. In the U.S., we have a very U.S.-centric way of thinking about the porn industry, but I think that American webmasters are going to be seeing much more competition from Europe because their currencies are stronger."

American webmasters, Aguiari advises, should keep in mind that in a global recession, sales are going to be more challenging regardless of the currencies that one is billing in.

"If consumers in Austria or Italy are hurting financially," Aguiari said, "they're going to be a harder sell just as American consumers are a harder sell in tough economic times."

"This recession is worldwide," he added. "If the sales are down globally, they will be down in any currency. If the economy sucks, the economy sucks."

Because consumers in those foreign adult markets are being more tight-fisted these days, Aguiari offered, it is more important than ever for webmasters to do everything possible to close the deal — and if some consumers prefer to pay for porn in euros, pounds or other non-U.S. currencies, that billing option should be made available.

"To increase traffic in a country," Aguiari concluded, "webmasters need to localize their websites for that country — and one of the ways for American webmasters to do that is to work with billers who can provide billing in other currencies."

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