High Performance Publishing

Stephen Yagielowicz
With its roots steeped in the traditions of the lone entrepreneur toiling away at what was most likely a hobby at the time, the online adult entertainment industry has come a long way; and along this fast-paced journey, the sophistication of the audience and the competitiveness of the marketplace have both risen dramatically.

In an effort to address these shifting demands, successful adult publishers have had to move away from being do-it-yourself operators; expanding their outsourced chores to a widening range of professional service providers: No longer is the company's web server sitting on the office floor; nor is a free, downloaded template or homemade logo design representing the top online brands. Website owners are not begging each other for links, nor are they writing affiliate checks by hand.

Instead, professional hosting companies provide the uptime reliability needed to anchor a company's online endeavors, while website design firms provide a mix of eye candy and marketing know-how to move audiences to action. Traffic is purchased from brokers and affiliate commissions are automatically paid by reputable billing companies.

These symbiotic relationships extend throughout the online adult industry at many levels and are at the core of high performance publishing — allowing entrepreneurs to leverage a professional's strengths in their core competencies.

This process is as much reliant on internal factors, such as a willingness to accept the fact that oftentimes someone else can do things better, cheaper and more quickly than you can; as it is on any given techniques or technologies. Indeed, many top players have embraced the fact that it is often vital to rely on outsourced professional help to aid an operation's key infrastructure segments, as a necessary step in the pursuit of excellence.

For example, a high performance publisher might employ a high end design firm to help it achieve better conversions, and thus an increase in direct and indirect revenues. While the direct benefit of being able to make more money from the same number of visitors is apparent, it's the indirect benefits of better conversions that are harder to gage and where having a high performance designer can come in handy.

Programs that convert better are able to pay more per click to their affiliates, making them more competitive among productive affiliates, who continually monitor revenues on spreadsheets or through automated systems, using that data to redirect traffic to programs that are making the most money for them in exchange for each visitor they send.

Thus, for a program to remain profitable and growing, it is vital that it convert traffic at an optimal rate; simply because affiliates will discuss your program both publicly on the boards and privately amongst themselves — and happy affiliates will become the power program's best promoters — resulting in further traffic gains from new affiliates.

Given this, a redesign that results in a 25 percent increase in the site's conversion rate not only adds that 25 percent to the bottom line, it could also open up previously closed traffic sources, further fueling growth and sales — which could rise tenfold as the whales hear about the improving conversion ratios.

Even without the historical performance data collected by power affiliates, some may send traffic to a new site based upon a personal belief that it will be popular with surfers.

"Design boosts perception and reduces the friction to try out a tour," Bruno Dickman of Dickmans Design told XBIZ. "Affiliates who aren't sure about promoting a tour may give it a try just because it looks like it will convert. This is crucial, because without this first attempt, the real conversions don't even matter as there will be no traffic sent in the first place."

"Having a tour that feels like a winner is very important for the successful launch of an online property nowadays," he added, underscoring the importance of appealing to the needs of affiliates as well as to those of the end consumer.

Dickman observed that a site's design in general shows how polished its publisher's own self image is, and how much it cares about the details — important considerations when an operator is engaged in business dealings built on trust and credibility — such as soliciting the online transaction process required to purchase paysite subscriptions.

"Your brand and the design of all your key interaction touch points both in b2b and b2c tell the world who you are and how you carry your points across," Dickman opined. "Nobody wants to be Acer. Everyone wants to be Apple. There's a reason for it."

There are many other benefits to having a professional design, such as broader cross-platform compatibility and multilingual capabilities that can boost conversions by making it easier for customers who are not part of the core demographic — such as mobile and international visitors — to access and understand the site. This fuels the ongoing cycle of improving conversions, resulting in happier affiliates promoting the site more heavily.

None of these benefits and boosts to business would have been possible however, had the website's owners not sought a professional design solution for their high performance publishing needs.

Having a professionally designed website is by no means the only requirement for a successful adult ecommerce venture; however, it is one major ingredient of excellence.

It's also important to note that web "design" doesn't end with an artist making pretty pictures, but is an ongoing process of market testing and tweaking text, along with the graphics and their placement, and refining the site's operation in response to user activity. This requires the assistance of a design firm that understands these needs and that can work alongside of (or even help provide) the marketing team, among others.

Fortunately, in the adult community, a small handful of companies with consistently demonstrated excellence dominate each market segment; they know each other, and can usually work together to help clients achieve their own level of excellence. It is even here that the ability to network with others in the industry extends the concept of design, by selectively exposing those with creative responsibilities to an ever widening circle of influences and the resources to be relied upon.

While the reign of the independent webmaster may not be quite over yet, the market is increasingly dominated by a consolidating number of high performance publishers that are raising the bar of excellence — both in design and beyond.