Poking at Pay Sites

Stephen Yagielowicz

Yesterday I ran an article entitled "Would YOU Join a Pay Site?" which discussed the results of a recent XBiz Webmaster Poll asking that same question. I received several responses to this piece (one of which is reprinted below), and they got me thinking:

Thinking isn't something new for me, as I spend much of my time staring blankly at a wall, or looking out over the ocean, immersed deeply in a swirling pool of thought; most of which has been recently directed at developing a few new innovative and profitable pay site operations. This is a departure for me, as I have preached 'the evils of pay sites' for quite some time, insisting that (especially newbie) Webmasters were better off sending their traffic to a decent sponsor than trying to compete with one.

Many of my anti-pay site comments were directed though at those who thought "Hey, I've bought a new copy of Homesite and Photoshop: I can be the next Cybererotica!" Even if their hot porn mongering goals were not quite so lofty as that, they were still usually better off sending their traffic to a reputable sponsor, than trying to directly sell their content to the surfer. The exception to this of course was single model amateur pay sites who could profitably market the exclusivity of their content.

For several years my opinions centered around these beliefs, fostered by the concurring opinions of others in the industry whose 'trial and error' experiences met with both good and poor results. "Heck, if you want to charge an admission, build an AVS site and have all of its benefits as well!" I continued to drum. 'The times they are a changing' though, and so are some of my opinions, which all remain flexible and evolving, just like our increasingly competitive marketplace:

With this in mind, you will see more articles concerning pay sites, and pay site operations, here at XBiz in the near future — something that you won't find elsewhere as those who are successful do not wish to share many of their secrets, and indeed, I won't share all of mine either! However, like a good sower, I will toss out a few seeds here and there and see what kind of soil they land in. If you wish to build or improve upon your own pay site, you'll want to follow along, starting with "jah's" comments below:

Interesting article, especially as I am a newbie and have found myself working for a pay site.

I too thought the figure for those choosing No, are you Kidding! would be much higher. I have only been in the business for a few months and have researched numerous companies, to find like you say misleading "content advertising", but also quite often the same content on nearly all the sites. This is throughout the Industry, and not just within a Companies "family" of sites! However, I have to say that some of the plug in content is fantastic, even if some of the live feeds means that all I see are empty rooms or girls sleeping, due to being on European time!

Within your testing purposes section, you failed to mention those looking at their competition or future competition. I made sure that I looked at several competitors to get an idea of who I was up against and what they were offering, basically to find the same points reiterated above.

To top it all off, I was overcharged by two of the sites I joined, even though I had followed their misleading cancellation procedures. Trying to get your money back from "robot like" call center workers has been hysterical from my point of view, as it has been a lesson learnt. I wonder whether the porn surfer will see it that way. I hope so, or we may see some serious repercussions from industry watchdogs (if there is such a thing!) and/or surfers.

There are some interesting points in this post, that are worthy of a closer look: The author of this post works for a pay site, and my first comment goes to that, since given the relative maturity of our industry, and the consolidation that can be found within it, our increasingly corporate nature points to a future with fewer, but much larger, players — all of whom need talented individuals to further their growth, and this provides varied opportunities for those who are more skilled at say, creating Flash tours, than they are at running a business. Even if your desire is to have your own mega site "someday" you might wish to apprentice in a larger shop, rather than take on the headaches that a successful site (or more so an unsuccessful site) will bring:

He then mentions that many sites seem to have the same content, and indeed they do. Many if not most of the current "mega sites" incorporate much of the same high-quality content, from the same few high-quality content providers — and do so as a perceived competitive necessity — or so they seem to believe, given the similarity of content offerings. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as more savvy consumers will evaluate the offerings of several sites before making a purchase decision, and the presence (or absence) of even one item might make the difference between a sale, and a waste of tour bandwidth. And yes, plug-ins can be fabulous sources of easily integrated, virtually maintenance-free content. Despite the best efforts of the FTC and other US governmental groups, there will always be scam artists beyond their reach who will continue to operate this way.

The comments about "empty rooms" due to his " being on European time" illustrate one of the areas where Webmasters will need to focus much more of their attention. As English continues its rapid decline as the dominant primary language of Web users, we need to come to grips with the fact that there is an enormous market beyond the borders of North America; a market that many operations either totally ignore or pay simple lip service to with a Spanish join page or some such. Even Lady Jag noticed on her previous amateur pay site that more than half her member base was from Europe, and tailored her site accordingly:

As far as joining a pay site for competitive purposes goes, I agree. I have seen the member's area of several popular sites, and what I found would make an entire article, so I'll save that for another day. For right now, let me say that if for no other reason than this, you should find the top Web site within your targeted niche, and buy a trial membership in order to see what you're up against. Just don't be lulled into a false sense of security if you find a simple back-end that you believe can be improved upon with a few whiz-bang graphics.

As far as misleading or hard to find cancellation procedures, and fraudulent billing practices go, this is a very unfortunate area of our industry, and despite the best efforts of the FTC and other US governmental groups, there will always be scam artists beyond their reach who will continue to operate this way, and that can only mean bad news for our industry, in the form of increased charge backs, increased regulation, and increased consumer apprehension over purchasing our products. In fact, I now believe that those scum bags having a "take the money and run" attitude are the worst enemy this business has:

In any case, the operation of any adult site, and pay sites in particular, entails more than selecting which pictures to post in a gallery, and I hope this article gave you some food for thought. If there are any comments that you wish to share on all of this, click on the link below:
~ Stephen

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