Squeezing the Nickel

Q. Boyer
If you operate subscription adult sites, VOD adult sites, or any other manner of adult site in which content is your primary (or even sole) product, you’ve likely seen a decline in conversion ratios, member retention, and/or initial sales over the last several years. In seeking to reverse that trend, you have probably pondered the following question, in some form or another.

“Beyond shooting good content and offering frequent updates, what else can I do to attract customers and to keep them spending?”

When paysite operators are looking to draw more revenue from their sites, one natural course of action is to explore upsells that offer a good crossover appeal to porn surfers. Live cam feeds, chat, adult themed games — these are the ‘usual suspects’ people turn to when trying to squeeze more money out of their member base. What many site owners do not consider is how to derive more value from the content, itself — possibly because the means of directly enhancing content-based revenue is less obvious than the potential of swapping in a new upsell link or two.

So, how do you go about wringing more ROI from your content? Below, I’ve outlined a few methods that have borne fruit for some of the industry’s leading brands, approaches that can help differentiate your products from the crowd, and allow you to draw more revenue from your member base without necessarily having to increase the size of that base.

MEDIUM-SPECIFIC EXCLUSIVITY: If you offer products across multiple mediums (and you really should at this point in the adult industry’s evolution), like DVD, web and VOD, shoot content with the goal in mind of pushing your customers to purchase across all of those mediums. How do you accomplish this? By relying on the appeal of the talent you employ and putting a twist on what you already know about the art of cross-promotion and upsells.

The ideal porn customer is one slightly obsessed with the models they are drawn to, a man who simply must have every scene that Sunny Lane has ever performed in, for example. Such fans are not representative of the majority of your customers, true, but they are not entirely rare, either. To make the most of their obsessive nature, hold back scenes featuring your most popular talent, and release some of these scenes in limited fashion, only publishing those scenes in one medium or another, and then advertise scenes exclusive to one medium within the context of the other mediums you offer content in.

In other words, drawing on my Sunny Lane example, take a scene featuring Sunny on DVD and add to the beginning and end of that scene advertising frames that read something akin to: “Want to see the latest scenes we’ve shot with Sunny? You will only find that on our website at!” Replicate those steps across all your various mediums of choice, and you will find that customers previously impervious to cross-promotion might just be inspired to purchase product they had previously shunned. Please note that you needn’t maintain this exclusivity for eternity; you can always release those exclusive scenes in other mediums further down the road, just be sure that you wait a decent interval (say 12-24 months) before doing so, to allow for drawing the most out of the exclusivity period.

Put your customers in control (sort of). If the rise of social networking has taught us anything, it’s that your average, every day schlep loves to feel important. Inflated self-importance is the crux of the ego-driven success behind Facebook, which amounts to history’s largest collection of people simultaneously yelling “Look at me!”

As an adult site operator, you can put this ‘appeal to ego’ to work for you, and you can do it without incorporating an extensive, Facebook-style social networking platform into your sites. How? Offer your customers control, or at least the illusion of control, over your content.

A brilliant example of this is the custom clip creation tools offered by The simple act of allowing the viewer to control the contents of the clip and, more recently, offering tools that allow their members to create and share video mash-ups, VideoBox is tapping into the latent desire of many porn fans to “direct.” Sure, it’s far from the experience of actually being a director on a porn set, but it gives the viewer a measure of control, and something to play with aside from their own genitals.

True, VideoBox’s system is an impressive bit of coding, and not something easily copied or replicated, but the idea itself is what’s important here: by giving their customers a degree of autonomy in their viewing experience, VideoBox is increasing its members’ “buy-in,” and bolstering users’ engagement with the site, which in turn results in greater membership retention.

Authenticity sells. When so-called “reality porn” first hit the market, part of its success was tied to its believability. In the early days of and the other pioneering reality sites, many viewers believed that what they were seeing was what assorted beret-wearing, coffeehouse douchebags and film students might call “miseen-scene;” the notion that you are watching on film something that is depicted essentially exactly as it happened in the first place. Of course, on the industry-side of the fence, we always knew reality porn was staged; otherwise the producers in question would have some real problems where little details like 2257 and model releases were concerned. Most consumers didn’t know reality porn was fake though, and while reality porn continues to sell now that the veil has largely been lifted, it isn’t the cash cow it once was.

How does one achieve believability in the post-reality-porn age? The answer is as stunningly simple as it is rarely employed: simply be authentic.

If you are shooting gonzo porn and you conduct presex interviews with talent, don’t script that portion of the action, at all. Ask the performers for their opinions, their real perspective, and live with it if the results aren’t what you, personally, find interesting. The shy, barely audible responses from a young model that drive you nuts from a production standpoint may, in fact, be absolute marketing gold from a psychological perspective. Porn fans want to know these people; they want to get a glimpse of their hopes and fears, their dreams, and their vulnerabilities.

This article really just scratches the surface where squeezing your content nickel is concerned. In coming up with your own ideas, focus on putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, while maintaining that diabolical streak that led you to becoming a member of this industry in the first place. If you don’t understand your customer’s mindset, then it is incumbent upon you gain that understanding, and to wrap your head around their kinks, so to speak. Knowledge, as they say, is power, and to know your customers is to know how to sell to them — again and again, from all angles.


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