Turning to Turnkeys

Stephen Yagielowicz

Over the weekend I received an email from an XBiz' reader asking for my opinion on 'turnkey adult sites.' This wasn't the first such question I've received lately, and the response I sent was much the same as usual: "There's no one that I can recommend, and indeed, you are likely doing yourself a serious disservice by wasting your money this way. Rather, take the time to learn the business, and build your own Web site:"

The offer sounds quite tempting: "Grab your share of the multi-billion dollar online porn industry! No experience necessary!" Intrigued, the prospect gets worked into a frenzy with visions of dollar signs and a "big-pimpin'" lifestyle dancing in their head, as they continue: "Be your own boss! Work from home! No computer skills needed!" or even "No computer necessary!" and "All for a low, minimum investment!" Blah, blah, blah:

At the outset, let me explain that I am not referring to legitimate design companies who provide professional graphics services such as pay site front ends, Flash tours, and banner ad packages to busy adult Webmasters who may have neither the time nor the skill to produce competitive results. I am referring to those few scam artists who prey on the bottom feeders: opportunity seeking 'get rich quick' types who will gladly fork over their next car or mortgage payment in the belief that they will become the next Larry Flynt.

Given the way in which the popular media has portrayed the online adult industry, it's no wonder that many outsiders are pre-disposed to believe that a turnkey site is the fast track to easy wealth, and in these times of economic uncertainty, fear and desperation can lead to unwise 'investments' in the hope of providing a sense of security for one's family and future.

Unfortunately, it is often those that can afford it least who are taken in by these scams and schemes, and I hope that this article will provide some serious food for thought for those who may be considering such an option.

A 'Personal' Story
While I have never bought a 'turnkey,' I do have a bit of experience with them: Once upon a time, I worked for a very popular sponsor, and I was also an affiliate, making me well versed in this prolific sponsor's many free marketing tools. It surprised me then when I found this sponsor's full page ads (FPAs) and other tools for sale on 'ebay,' marketed as 'turnkey adult sites.' Hmmm: "Is this kosher?" I asked. Well, there wasn't anything in the current T&C about this use, and with a shrug, the default attitude was "more traffic for us!"

"Okay then, if you're not worried about it, then neither will I be" I said, as I contemplated just how brilliant the fellow doing this was. And then the emails started pouring in: You see, the folks that were selling these 'web sites' were doing ok for themselves, and had managed to convince hundreds of people to spend over $600 each for an FPA they had downloaded for free. The greed didn't stop there however, and due to other 'policy' decisions, they had several other revenue streams to profit from.

For instance, once you bought your new adult site, what would you do with it? You need to host it on the Internet, right? Well the company will provide that for you; with unlimited bandwidth and no maintenance or technical skills required on your part, all for the low price of only $49.95 per month! The problem, as always was that the devil was in the details: The turnkey company had signed up all new "Webmasters" with the sponsor, ensuring that they would receive the 10% WM referral bonus payouts...

You see, not only were you paying $600 for your 'site' (the FPA), but you weren't really 'buying' it, you were leasing it. You had no control over the site, could not edit or modify the pages, and had to pay $49.95 a month for a directory on their virtual server! You were 'partnered' with this company, who would handle all of the 'technical stuff,' and split the profits with you — all you had to do was send traffic to your site!

And that's where the emails started to come to me, with clueless new "Webmasters" wanting to know how to send traffic to their site. Hmmm: That's the only thing they needed to do now to make money, but how? No decent traffic source will list a sponsor's FPA as a 'free site,' and since the "Webmaster" cannot edit or change the page in any way, there's no chance of adding any reciprocal links. These are folks without other sites generating traffic that they could send to their 'new site,' so where would they get traffic from? Spam was likely the result of many of these futile searches for traffic:

And for those who were able to beg, borrow, or steal some surfer traffic, and convert it into sponsor sales, checks were indeed coming in the mail, but with a catch — there's always a catch: the turnkey company had signed up all new "Webmasters" with the sponsor, ensuring that they would receive the 10% WM referral bonus payouts, but listed themselves as the payee, then charged their clients an additional 10% 'payment processing fee' on top of everything else!

A heck of a business and marketing plan: dangle the allure of instant wealth in front of the bottom feeders, and sell them stock FPAs for $600 plus $49.95 a month, and if they managed to make a sale, take 20% of that as well: While I must admit, I was seriously tempted to out scam these scammers, I have to look at myself in the mirror, and there are some things that just aren't right. In many cases, 'turnkey' sites are one of those things:Think twice before spending your hard earned money on something you will likely regret later.

If there are legitimate turnkey adult site providers out there, I more than welcome your response to this article, and will gladly provide you with a forum here to explain why and how 'the average Joe' can profit from owning a turnkey adult site. ~ Stephen