opinion

Mainstream Maneuvering

Stephen Yagielowicz

For Internet marketers seeking the sweet spot, “diversification” has been high on the list of business requirements for some time now. Evidence of this can be found amongst adult webmasters currently operating, or contemplating, mainstream websites and offers. This move is often chosen in hopes of finding a panacea for piracy, questionable payouts, low traffic and lagging sales — or simply to avoid having all of their eggs in one basket.

“Adult or mainstream?” does not have to be an either-or proposition, however, as one type of site can carefully direct traffic to the other; bridging the gap between both worlds — and seeking new opportunities in one arena, does not make you a failure in the other.

My gut feeling is that 2013 will be a 360 degree swing back to where I was in 1993 — wondering how I could “put billboards on the Information Superhighway” to promote my photography and wondering where all this porn stuff I hear about might fit in the mix.

I, for one, hate being a quitter and do not want to fail at anything. But over the years, there have been occasions when I have given up too easily or quickly on any number of endeavors, initiatives or relationships. This long history progressively forged within me an occasionally irrational tenacity, preventing me from just walking away from situations that may no longer be viable — even long after any sensible person would have bailed…

I call it faith; some call it optimism; others, stupidity.

Take my claims on Whiskey Creek, for example. Countless ounces of gold, worth millions of dollars, have been recovered there — from the ‘49ers and their followers that beat her hard, to the Chinese miners that picked her bones, to poor, depression era camps where desperate mentried to hold off starvation, to the wave of dredge operators and metal detectorists in the 1980s that brought new technologies to the area — and now me, many have sought (and some have found) their fortunes there.

Many others failed, and some died trying.

I’ve toiled in her waters and on her hillsides since acquiring the area eight years ago; placing myself in harm’s way, becoming battered and injured, and on occasion, facing a life-threatening situation. Poison oak and brambles, predators, claim jumpers, criminals, forest fires, rattlesnakes, dangerous drop-offs and other threats complicate every step.

But every year, winter storms replenish the creek’s placers with fresh pay dirt, in a way that is not unlike the constant flow of new users onto the Internet, which brings new audiences and new opportunities to light every day.

And I do find some gold; but these days I’m running at a loss. Throwing money at the problem might improve results — but the extreme heat, steepness of the terrain, the lack of a road onto the main areas of the property, and stringent environmental regulations that preclude the use of the heavy equipment needed to open her up, place an insurmountable ceiling on the amount of revenue I can recover from my 40 acres — with no limit on the amount of backbreaking, dangerous work it involves to mine it manually.

I persevere, perhaps foolishly, while some of the old-time miners laugh at me for still being out there. Others smile at me, however, because they know there’s good gold there.

They had their chance, but are now simply unable to grab a share for themselves.

It’s a situation that is echoed within the world of adult webmastering, where smaller companies, while battling against challenges and changes in the operating environment, see enough revenue to keep on going; even if it is at the farthest margins of profitability. As long as hope remains that things will get better, the sites will continue cranking along — even as more experienced or larger operators scoff at the futility of their feeble efforts.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. You just have to be clever and work smarter and harder than the next guy.

Or so I keep telling myself.

Once again I am facing a couple thousand dollars in old domain name renewal fees — the bill for having perennial possibilities for “someday” projects, which there simply are not enough hours in the day for — and with the fastchanging marketplace, these sites are unlikely to ever see completion. Having such a collection of domain names in 2003 was one thing, but in 2013 it’s another thing entirely; and I’m no longer inclined to flush additional resources down the drain, year after year, thinking “I’ll get around to that one.”

No, I won’t ever get around to that project (or the other 10).

Perhaps you’re facing a similar situation and wondering what to do.

I then started thinking about which if any of these names would see another year or be developed next. Looking over the list, it is a mixture of adult and mainstream domains.

One typical “package” of names (a single site theme that I own both the “combined” and hyphenated two-word domain name versions, in .com, .tv and yes, .xxx extensions), would cost me at least $350 to renew for another year.

I looked at it in terms of the old paysite pitch: “get access for less than a dollar a day” — bringing me back to a standard I’ve always espoused: Would you join your own site?

Would I pay $1 a day? Sure, but I won’t pay $10 per day, with no hope of profiting.

You see, adding content and other expenses changes the math; putting these projects in competition with mainstream options that might require less investment in content and traffic for a potentially similar or greater return.

There are many ways to look at this value proposition, because we all have different ways of defining both opportunity and liability presented by our projects, as well as what level is “worth it” — and those definitions tend to change over time or with technology.

Holding on to legacy projects in hopes that the clock will turn backwards is foolish.

For many marketers, it’s a matter of what a website visitor costs to acquire and how much that visitor is worth as a customer. At that point, where you find him, or what you sell him, or who you sell him to, may be fairly unimportant, as long as the sale is made.

For me, it’s about creating and making money from digital media. Whether it’s babes or buffalos doesn’t really matter to me. I used to shoot my dear, now I shoot my deer — the trick is to be able to profit from my art, using the Internet as a sales vehicle.

Mainstream marketing opens new traffic channels through less stringent advertising, search and social media promotional restrictions — but adult entertainment is more fun; though increasingly difficult to profit from in today’s extremely competitive marketplace, given the traffic stranglehold being exerted by the major players.

And traffic is everything.

While I hate to “give up” on any site, or even an undeveloped domain, cocking a fist of futile defiance against the forces of change isn’t a recipe for success — but it is a path that many optimists seem to be treading as they clamor for a slice of the porn pie in 2013 — a time when they are clearly outgunned and “free” is the name of the game.

The trick is to not be passionate about what might have been, or what “has been.”

My gut feeling is that 2013 will be a 360 degree swing back to where I was in 1993 — wondering how I could “put billboards on the Information Superhighway” to promote my photography and wondering where all this porn stuff I hear about might fit in the mix.

Having weathered years of adult webmastering, the ravages of Google’s heavy hand and a few bad decisions, I’m curious, as are many of you, how “mainstream” is treating the little guy these days, and may diversify my projects as a way of finding out.

Or maybe not — we’ll see what I have left after this next round of renewals is over.

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