educational

Adult Dating Comes Of Age

J.P. Lawson
For Legendary Lars, the reason for the unparalleled success of adult dating sites is simple: It's all about interaction and community. Lars calls it a "lifestyle destination," a major part of what sets adult dating sites like AdultFriendFinder.com and SexSearch.com and others apart from regular adult content sites.

This sense of community is part of what drives up memberships, conversion rates and payouts for adult dating sites and their affiliates. It's also what many sites are looking to enhance in 2006, with innovative strategies and technologies designed to make the community experience more gratifying for the surfer and more profitable for the webmaster.

Mobile technologies such as podcasts that enhance the community nature of adult dating sites, and marketing technologies that provide lucrative partnerships with mainstream companies are all important. And while the success of adult dating sites is nothing new, many companies continue to raise the bar in terms of innovation and invention to keep the revenue ball rolling.

At AdultFriendFinder.com, partners Lars and Andrew Conru are marketing Cams.com with their numerous targeted adult dating sites. "We just launched the iPod podcasting, which is pretty exciting for us," Lars says. "We already have more than 10,000 models in our system doing live shows for members of AFF."

Much of the traffic on AFF and similar sites is repeat business of members who feel they are part of a community. But there also is a lag in communication within that community. Emails and even instant messages sometimes take a while to receive a response. That's where Cams.com comes in. "Synergies of the traffic is perfect," Lars says. "The people who go to AFF are the people who want a relationship with someone. They want that contact with someone, but maybe they are not fulfilled instantaneously. They can go to Cams.com and get that instant gratification."

While AFF's Conru and Lars note that some mobile technologies are slow to catch on with the public, others are staking this territory and hoping it will pay off in the near future.

"The business is going more toward community-oriented sites," IwantU Sam, marketing director at IwantU.com, says. "So you need community-oriented features."

Sam cites simple things such as Web Adaptive Technology (WAT) and SMS, PrivateCall and several new picture and video messaging services entire industries are currently sweating over.

Sites like Eroticy.com use the lure of sex polls, a lively community discussion board, EroticyTV and live cam shows and chat around the clock to boost conversion rates and maintain steady interaction with members.

"Communication is essential in a community, and with more and more sites appearing online all the time, people are demanding more features," he adds. "As an adult paysite, you have to push and impress a customer with the first screen, right away. We have a lot of time to attack the customer and convince them to sign up. That's the goal. The longer you can keep the member on the site, the better your conversion rate will be."

Blending In, Cashing In
The glass wall between the adult and mainstream web is no thinner than it is for dating sites. For the surfer, it is often difficult to tell which dating site banners are adult and which are mainstream. Many of the top adult dating sites are using this to their advantage, attracting members who might otherwise shy away from regular hardcore sites.

Tonda B., AdultDateLink.com's director of marketing and affiliates, explains: "I see it as a very fine line. Are you doing adult material? Yes, but it's really more mainstream adult. There's not really content that you have to worry about. As far as processing, the chargebacks are so minimal.

"You see hardcore porn sites out there and think of the risks they face on a daily basis. You have these [hardcore] sites where it's so hard to get people there. Then it's the same thing they've been seeing for years. [For adult dating sites] this is like 1997 for a regular porn site. Dating is hot; even mainstream sites. It's all hot."

AFF's Conru agrees. "The macro trend we're seeing is that adult dating sites are becoming more mainstream. It's becoming a less taboo way of meeting people.

"The key part is that now that we have more than 15 million registered members; there's kind of a validation that's starting to occur. You get the feeling there's more than just you out there."

Bring Your Friends
The sense of community extends past the surfer to include the webmaster, especially for companies like three-year-old DateApp.com. Aggressive outreach to new and prospective webmasters combined with an innovative strategy for increasing revenue streams has made them an interesting up-and-comer to watch.

One big push for DateApp is toward new webmasters. Like many big dating sites, DateApp operates as a backend for smaller sites. The company uses a dating site software script called Turnkey, for which they were nominated recently for the 4th annual XBiz Industry Awards.

Unlike affiliate programs, DateApp's Turnkey offers its partners the ability to "create a fully seeded, personalized and hosted dating site," which is how the company puts it on its homepage. The sites include chat, video, picture profiles, SMS, member search, admin, and billing by DateApp, and it goes up fast.

DateApp CEO and co-founder John-Michael Cataldi says his company is currently running more than 3,000 sites, promising that a new adult dating site webmaster can open an out-of-the-box site appealing to almost any niche within minutes.

The popularity of DateApp sites has a lot to do with offering free trial memberships, but unlike other free trial sites, DateApp is using the offer as a way to mine for valuable marketing data. A traditional site, Cataldi says, offers a conversion rate to affiliates of about 3-5 percent. So his company started Leadworks, a technology he claims converts 15-56 percent by offering free access time to surfers in exchange for marketing information that can be sold to companies, even, or especially, to mainstream ones.

Dating sites are particularly poised to take advantage of marketing data, Cataldi says, because of the likelihood that prospective members will give more accurate information. "Ask someone to fill out a survey," Cataldi says, and "they won't do it. But people are incredibly honest when it comes to dating."

Whether or not everyone's dating technique includes honesty, Cataldi notes that Google is pursuing a similar strategy. Google, Cataldi notes, along with other search engines, has acquired various web-based technologies, including Blogger and Dodgeball.com. Consumers can publish their own content and interact with other like-minded users with limited censorship. Google, of course, sees the content as a source of marketing information. And if Google wants it, Cataldi reasons, you know the big industries like auto, tobacco and entertainment do, too. "Who has all the traffic on the Internet?" Cataldi asks. "The adult industry. Who wants all the traffic? The mainstream industry."

Adult dating sites have the traffic. The only question, it seems, is what to do with it. With SexSearch, IwantU, AdultDateLink, Eroticy and the rest pushing to expand their online presence, no one is resting on their keyboards. Adult dating sites are on top, and they want to keep it that way. Of course, it's all about the money. "The reason why AFF is the largest adult site there is, period, is because it pays out the most," AFF's Lars says. "That's really the bottom line."

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