Executive Seat: Hooked Up

Stewart Tongue
One of the fastest growing membership markets in mainstream or adult online marketing is the dating niche. In recent years consumers have seen the dating market dissected into very narrow niche segments, promoted as a way to find fleeting love, casual sex, lasting friendship or the perfect spouse.

Now, with the launch of HookupBucks, MaxCash one of the oldest and most successful paysite affiliate programs of all time, has started to carve out its own successful new dating affiliate program.

The HookupBucks brand gained even more credibility when it was announced that long-time industry veteran John Skorik, known to many as the former director of business development at Jettis and CEO of WegCash, would become the man at the helm, bringing more than a decade of experience in the fields of payment processing and program management to lead the new venture.

XBIZ sat down with Skorik to discuss the current climate of the affiliate marketing business model, the timing of the HookupBucks launch and the many ways that affiliates can leverage their existing paysite traffic to earn even greater rewards from the dating niche instead.

XBIZ: With more than a decade of experience in the adult online marketplace and so many doom and gloom predictions from webmasters, what gave you the courage to launch HookupBucks at this time?

Skorik: This industry, like many, has always faced adversity and it has always faced doom and gloom predictions. Be it obscenity issues which pre-date Internet, copyright infringement or processing woes, the issues are not going away but neither is the product demand. Bearing that in mind, we view this as an opportunity to expand into a growing market at a time when others may be looking to consolidate or even exit.

XBIZ: Your career path in adult spans more than a decade and seems to be much more varied than most others. How does your past experience benefit HookupBucks affiliates today?

Skorik: Naturally, the length of time I’ve been in the industry has allowed me to see many things, experience many things and, most importantly, learn many things. I’ve seen many companies, ideas and trends come and go and I believe that puts me in a position to better gauge what our core focus needs to be as an affiliate program. In addition to longevity, the positions I’ve held are at the core of the affiliate program business. From processing to running a major program the type of experience I have, not just the length, is crucial.

XBIZ: The modern marketing of dating sites and other online membership businesses seems to be changing from the affiliate centric model of the past. Where do you see the best opportunities for webmasters to profit in today’s marketplace?

Skorik: While it is true that many companies are diversifying their traffic portfolios, there are very few, if any, who do not market to affiliates. Innovation is key not only for affiliate programs but also for affiliates themselves. There are still many affiliates out there who are innovating and either closely following or possibly leading the way consumers interact with content. The business of affiliates may be changing but it isn’t going away.

XBIZ: Recently a few well known affiliate programs abruptly closed, including one of your former employers. Meanwhile HookupBucks has pursued affiliate support aggressively on industry message boards and in other ways while gaining significant momentum. What makes affiliate marketing the right approach for HookupBucks?

Skorik: As I alluded to earlier, the affiliate business is not going away, it is simply changing. While marketing as an affiliate has certainly grown more competitive, the number of consumers purchasing online continue to grow as well and that holds no truer in any market than in online dating. Our goal is to help our affiliates attract the growing number of consumers seeking this market. In order to do so we work hand in hand to create customized tools to fit the specific need of the affiliate. We have also had great success converting member bases who, in the past, were more suited for the adult membership market, over to the adult dating side of things. The days of splashing out a few basic tools are over. While we have the basics, our emphasis is on customization.

XBIZ: Dating is an increasingly competitive field, both in mainstream and adult. How does HookupBucks stand out from the crowd to differentiate itself in the eyes of webmasters and consumers?

Skorik: I have no doubt that what sets us apart from an affiliate’s perspective are two things. Our experience in multiple markets, not just dating, and our insistence on working with affiliates to customize solutions for their traffic. While what works in different markets varies, there is large degree of crossover and that helps us stay ahead of the curve. From the consumer perspective, the first step is of course to ensure there are other like-minded individuals participating in the match making process and we’ve been diligent in conquering this step. From there we feel it is important to not just allow others to interact, but interact in fun and unique ways and we are constantly working on new bells and whistles to facilitate this.

XBIZ: Where do you see HookupBucks years down the road from now?

Skorik: In late 1999 on an interview call with my future boss he asked where I saw myself in five years and I told him “in your chair.” I have the same attitude with this program. But we’ll be in “their chair” in well under five years.