opinion

Staying Up to Date

Stephen Yagielowicz
As an industry, we spend a lot of time these days talking about the escalating need to "adapt or die!" These discussions have become so commonplace as to now be almost trite in the way they offhandedly simplify and dismiss the dire situation faced by thousands of once-successful adult webmasters who now struggle to compete — and indeed to survive.

If there is one thing that 2010 amply illustrated it is that the days of profiting from the same old porn are over. While there will always be an audience for compelling erotica, it may be a mistake to assume there will always be a market for it. This isn't just semantics, but the fact that folks will look, but they may not pay.

There are of course myriad reasons for this, from piracy to tubes, the economy to the deceptive antics of fraudulent webmasters that will prevent a consumer from ever trusting a porn site again. All of these factors and more have conspired to kill the Golden Goose — and we now face the choice of either feasting on its carcass or of trying to hatch some of its few remaining eggs. For my part, I don't want a mouth full of feathers — so rather than focus on the past and gnaw on the dead goose; it's time for me to look for fledgling opportunities for future successes — and I am not alone.

Key to this process of looking forward is an emphasis on the value of keeping your skill set current — after all, you won't move far ahead if your feet are glued to the past.

At its simplest level, this involves learning about new techniques and technologies. For example, I've been trying to polish up my webmastering skills by working with the latest HTML 5, CSS 3 and jQuery coding, using these techniques to develop advanced WordPress templates. While I have no desire to build sites for other folks, knowing even a little about these technologies makes me a better-rounded operator that is of more value to XBIZ — even if it doesn't really improve the market appeal of my old text-based TGP.

This leads into the realization that an investment in updating your skill set may not be as focused today as in the past. For example, I am not a programmer and have run into a few confounding problems with my JavaScript. I could spend a lot of time and energy on becoming a JavaScript guru, or I could Google up a solution and then have more time to study the latest website traffic generation techniques. I may not become a master of the long-tail keyword, but I know a bit about them — and a bit about JavaScript, too.

"Economy" isn't just something happening around us, but the watchword of skill-set development today — especially in an age of rapidly transient technologies, where by the time a technology is mastered, it may be obsolete. Specialists and experts have their place — but when your responsibilities may include ownership and providing brand guidance, knowing something about everything is better than knowing everything about something.

Thus, "adapt or die" means different things to different people. A designer should be adapting by studying marketing; color's impact on emotion; eye-tracking and heat maps — not just learning about the latest Photoshop plugins. Website traffic hunters need to learn about Facebook business profiles and social search; while advancements in cloud computing, power management and air conditioning, can easily occupy hosting mavens.

Regardless of the skills you learn or your motivation for doing so, one thing is clear: staying up-to-date will give you the best chance of finding profits in 2011 — and beyond.

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