The success stories of the adult entertainment industry are not only the companies that produce standard vanilla erotica; there are also many adult companies that have done extremely well for themselves by focusing on certain niches or micro-niches and catering to a specific audience. Whether the niche has to do with BDSM, gay or lesbian sex or alt-porn, niche erotica can be quite lucrative. But niche marketing requires considerable expertise, and the companies that go for authenticity are the most likely to prosper with niche erotica.
There are a wide variety of success stories in niche erotica, ranging from the Los Angeles based alt-porn site GodsGirls.com to the Miamibased Flava Works (whose popular site ThugBoy.com offers hip-hop-themed gay erotica) to the New York-based amateur BDSM site AmateurBound.com. Those sites differ considerably in terms of content, but the thing they have in common is authenticity. It is obvious that GodsGirls leader Annaliese Nielsen understands what makes alt-porn audiences tick, just as it is obvious that Flava Works lives and breathes both hip-hop culture and African-American gay culture. And Styles’ enthusiasm for amateur BDSM has earned AmateurBound.com a very enthusiastic following.
Niche marketing requires considerable expertise, and the companies that go for authenticity are the most likely to prosper with niche erotica.
Colin Rowntree, founder of Wasteland.com (one of the top BDSM websites), stressed that webmasters who decide to explore a particular niche really need to do their homework and have a thorough understanding of the audience they are going after; otherwise, their content will come across as inauthentic. Rowntree said that experienced BDSM players can be very discriminating when it comes to kinky erotica and have little patience for content that lacks authenticity.
“There is nothing quite so offputting to BDSM enthusiasts as watching traditional ‘porn performers’ try to fake it in a corporal punishment scene,” Rowntree asserted. “They just don’t have the experience or know the paradigm to make it work. One approach for someone just getting into this niche is to find an experienced fem-dom that is willing to not just perform on camera, but basically, direct the scene from in front of the camera. Once you have her, she will often know of a submissive from within her groups that she can bring along to shoot with.”
Rowntree said that for BDSM consumers, it is obvious when a content producer isn’t really interested in BDSM and is just hoping to make a quick buck. Asked to identify some of the dead giveaways, Rowntree responded: “There are dozens of tip-offs ranging from cheap costuming from local sex shops to performers that obviously have little experience in playing out a scene. But perhaps the current biggest one is the ‘flog and fuck’ cookie-cutter approach that so many producers are now following. It’s an easy formula to shoot: whack away at the female submissive for a while and then segue right into a three-position porno film sequence for the grand finale. This rarely, if ever, happens in ‘real BDSM’ and is the current mistake that many directors and producers are making when trying to produce this sort of content.”
The need for authenticity is equally important when it comes to lesbian erotica, which is an area in which the L.A.-based Girlfriends Films has done extremely well. “There have been a lot of attempts to capitalize on the lesbian niche,” explained Dan O’Connell, Girlfriends’ founder and CEO. “But most lack the perseverance and intense consumer interaction necessary for longevity and loyalty.”
Girlfriends, a leader in the lesbian niche, was founded in 2001 — and O’Connell pointed out that the adult industry in general has grown much more competitive since then. Content producers who don’t have a thorough understanding of the niche they are going after, O’Connell said, will have a difficult time surviving in today’s competitive adult industry.
“The lesbian market has continued to be the biggest niche in the adult-movie market, although it has now gained such a wide acceptance that some niche lists no longer include it,” O’Connell noted. “Today, I don’t know that there are any significant niche markets left that haven’t been claimed. If there are any, a potential producer should construct a comprehensive business plan and have a nice pile of money. It’s a tougher market than when I started. With DVD distribution as difficult and expensive as it is today, any new venture would probably have to get its start on the Web. And with the huge population of websites one must compete with, a new venture needs unique, high-quality content in impressive quantities in order to stand out and make the necessary strong splash upon entry.”
O’Connell has thought about starting a lesbian BDSM line at Girlfriends, but he said that he wouldn’t undertake that type of expansion unless he were certain that his company could do it right.
“Producing a niche line of adult movies is something best left to those who have a highlevel passion for that type of sex,” O’Connell asserted. “For example, I’d like to produce a good line of girl/girl bondage movies, but I am not in the bondage lifestyle. I know there are many purists out there who know all the intricacies of bondage and would recognize what I could do as a total fake. While this doesn’t prevent people from jumping into a niche for which they are ill-suited, a lack of truism does present limitations.”
Although consumers of niche content are known for being discriminating, they are also known for being downright obsessive about their interests— and the fact that the adult market is so saturated with heterosexual vanilla content can make niche marketing an attractive alternative for adult entrepreneurs.
“Good niche content has been more successful than the regular boy/girl content over the past few years,” O’Connell noted. “I don’t think this has had as much to do with the economy as it does with the huge amount of boy/girl content that is growing by hours and hours every day. Consumers have only so much time to watch video. For the most part, adult movies are not time-sensitive, and something good that was done 20 years ago can be enjoyed just as much today. Consumers want the best stuff they can get their hands on.”