opinion

What Adult Marketers Can Learn From YouTube

Stephen Yagielowicz

Whether you are a porn fan or an adult entertainment business owner, the impact of so-called “tube sites” on the marketplace is hard to overstate. For some, these websites, which emulate popular mainstream video sharing site YouTube, are a welcome creative outlet for “sharing” their passions and an endless source of free pornography. For others, they represent a piracy-laden pariah responsible for draining profits from pre-recorded digital media — adult or otherwise.

“Only idiots pay for porn,” is a common sentiment these days and one generated in no small part by the YouTube-inspired adult tube sites, but whatever your view on the issue or whether you run a tube site or not, there are many things that adult marketers can learn from this massively popular site — and money to be earned by making use of its features.

No matter where you fit in the online video publishing ecosystem, Google offers you a way to profit from your content.

Let’s take a closer look: YouTube owner Google (www.google.com/ads/video/) offers a variety of programs for managing video advertising businesses and for earning money from viewer-friendly advertising. These programs include DoubleClick for Publishers Video, which provides publishers with a technology platform that maximizes online video content effectiveness; AdSense for Video, which allows video publishers to show viewer-friendly advertising in their own video player, enabling users to monetize content hosted on their own websites; and the YouTube Partner Program, which delivers a range of targeted ad solutions for those who host their videos on YouTube.

Adult tube site PornHub.com and other enterprises have been quick to deploy similar partner programs, providing convenient distribution channels for adult content producers.

According to YouTube, its Partner Program provides creators with the resources and opportunities to improve their skills, build larger audiences, and earn more money online.

This free service uses YouTube’s exclusive development programs, video equipment and other tools to improve partner’s production quality and distribution skills; helping them to build brands and fan bases through a slate of online and offline promotional techniques.

No matter where you fit in the online video publishing ecosystem, Google offers you a way to profit from your content. Of course, if your product is porn, there are additional factors to consider, including prohibitions against sexually explicit materials.

Savvy adult content promoters will leverage their performer’s fan appeal with bikini-clad playtime videos and innocuous interviews, as well as other “sexy,” but not “sexual,” presentations designed to build brands and gain market share while driving new revenues.

This can be so highly effective that not only are adult promoters seeking to use these techniques to market to mainstream audiences, but mainstream marketers are also using such methods; taking a page from adult’s book to give their own offers a little sex appeal.

For example, this author has become a fan of SnapChick — an attractive young lady that produces a series of photography videos for YouTube, and who runs a website that is akin to a good amateur porn site, minus the porn (although she can appear “scantily clad” when serving as her own model). It’s not sex, but “visual interest” or plain old eye candy, along with her personality, that sets her website apart from other photography sites — and like a good amateur adult site, SnapChick provides extras that draw you in; such as the “blooper” (staged or not) where she is sitting poolside in her bikini when an errant ball knocks her tripodmounted Nikon into the pool — or her sexy little pout when she accidently dropped a camera into her bubble bath.

SnapChick videos are entertaining and convey her engaging demeanor, serving as an excellent example of the value of creativity, interactivity and personality when driving paid website memberships.

SnapChick told XBIZ that viewers are often surprised that she answers their e-mail and responds to their questions — a key ingredient of a performer’s approachability.

“I even reach out to my most loyal members every once in awhile, just to see how they’re doing,” SnapChick said. “They are interested in my site and help to support my mission… there’s no reason not to keep tabs on them to see if they have any questions.”

She has mastered the process of promoting personality via YouTube videos; bringing a sense of lightheartedness to her clips that helps fuel her fan base.

“I’m upbeat with everyone — lovers and haters. It’s a good policy and it makes it more fun,” SnapChick explains. “There are frustrating moments when I think a video was good, but it gets many dislikes. The important thing is to keep looking forward.”

SnapChick listens and reacts to feedback she receives from her audience, leveraging social media to gauge the appeal of her videos.

“When I do something they don’t like, I hear about it,” SnapChick says. “I’m open with them — if I’m frustrated that they didn’t like the video, I’ll express my frustration constructively, solicit advice, and then may choose some of the advice to follow.”

“I’m always the boss,” she adds, “but YouTube comments, Facebook comments and e-mail assure that I will get real-time feedback on my decisions.”

For fans that want more, a VIP section for her site at SnapChick.com, is available for a monthly membership fee of $7.99. Other offers, such as an e-book, strengthen revenues while rewarding her most loyal fans with more material — all while maintaining her core brand identity.

“When I started my separate VLOG channel,” SnapChick notes, “it gave those who wanted to learn more about me another venue, while keeping my main channel (mostly) on topic.”

It is compelling content that can serve as an example for any performer seeking to build a fan base via YouTube — with one key being her appearance on preview images: it is the perfect balance between “cute” and “sexy” — a look easily slipping past censors.

The same principle extends to some of the other personalities whose photography videos I watch — from Matt Granger’s seriousness (thatnikonguy), to Kai’s snarky ways (DigitalRevCom), and to big-haired Jared Polin and his “Fro Knows Photo” video series, each one of these photographers offers interesting, unique (and branded) perspectives — with t-shirt sales and other audience monetization means.

While thorough viewing means I might view each clip, when searching for a video on, say, the Nikon D4, Kai’s review shows a thumbnail image depicting an Asian girl in a sports bra punching a “heavy bag” during a location shoot with the D4, while Polin’s D4 review preview image depicts him in his wild “Afro” hairdo, holding the camera.

Round one goes to the boxing girl.

Thus one tip that marketers can take from clever YouTube sales masters is to never underestimate the pulling power of a good thumbnail image to accompany the video clip.

This isn’t news to many adult webmasters, such as those that profit from sites using carefully cropped, purposefully polished and especially selected thumbnails, rather than relying on a script’s auto-thumbnail feature. Sure, prepping thumbnails manually is time consuming, but the image’s click rates will rise astronomically when a little care is used.

Back to my YouTube photography channel example, I find myself clicking on, say, videos detailing lighting setups, or other mundane topics, when the thumbnail depicts a pretty model in a provocative pose — rather than a bowl of fruit sitting on a window sill.

The subject doesn’t matter: “sexy” thumbnails get clicked, because sex sells.

Sure, the info may be similar or superior in the latter example, and I may also watch both clips, but I’ll click on the one with the bikini babe first — as will many other folks, as evidenced by the viewing statistics posted alongside each YouTube video.

But it takes more than a sexy preview image to gain attention on YouTube, especially since the company began its shift away from highlighting videos with the most raw views — a metric that is easily manipulated with provocative previews — to primarily focus on the length of time a clip is a viewed; which is a far better gauge of quality.

According to YouTube’s Eric Meyerson, the company updated its discovery features such as search and suggested videos to better surface videos that viewers actually watch, rather than those that they click on and then abandon, using the move as a retention tool.

“Our video discovery features were previously designed to drive views,” Meyerson explained. “This rewarded videos that were successful at attracting clicks, rather than the videos that actually kept viewers engaged (cleavage thumbnails, anyone?)”

The updated suggestion function focuses on videos that increase the amount of time the viewer spends on YouTube — not only on the next view, but also successive views.

“If viewers are watching more YouTube, it signals to us that they’re happier with the content they’ve found,” Meyerson added. “It means creators are attracting more engaged audiences [and opening] up more opportunities to generate revenue for our partners.”

This switch in approach signals a change that adult tube site operators could adopt.

Another lesson that adult marketers can learn from YouTube goes deeper than it first appears and revolves around the pre-roll advertising contained on some YouTube clips. For the uninitiated, the “roll” is the playback of the viewer’s desired video, while ads that are set to run at the beginning and end of that clip are known as “pre-roll” and “post-roll” respectively. Commercials set to run during the video clip, are known as “midroll” ads.

While there’s nothing new to these ads, YouTube adds a “You can skip to video in 5” multi-second countdown feature using a graphic overlay at the bottom of the ad.

Designed to help limit advertising to the most likely prospects while enhancing the user experience, this technique allows viewers with no interest in the product or offer to skip past it — once they’ve viewed the ad enough to understand what is being promoted — a brief window of five seconds, to be exact.

Some companies use that five seconds wisely, while others waste it.

Interestingly, Hollywood seems to have the worst time with this, as a generic MPAA rating banner runs before many movie trailers, so the “skip” link becomes active before the ad actually begins running. If adult ads were allowed, a warning screen would likely pose the same challenge.

The important takeaway here is that whether you have a 15-30 second ad spot or not, be sure to mention your site name / URL and offer within the first five seconds, to at least get some branding in before the viewer dismisses your ad — a technique that will serve all adult marketers, whether they are promoting video content on tube sites or elsewhere.

Other items of interest include YouTube’s new interface and apparent clampdown on copyright infringement.

Upgrades include more robust channel searching and subscription tools, with a guide on the homepage and elsewhere that lists new videos from the user’s favorite channels, along with recommendations and enhanced sharing functions. Whether it is viewed on a PC, mobile phone, tablet, game console or connected TV, the video displays are cleaner and more prominent, allowing viewers to browse for other videos while watching a clip.

As for moves on potential copyright infringement, in addition to photography videos, I also enjoy listening to old rock music on YouTube. This takes the form of authorized distributions of official versions of a music video; of unauthorized copies of the same and other incarnations such as live concert clips; as well as bootleg copies of original albums.

With the release of the new YouTube App for the iPad, much of this pirated material seems to have disappeared; supplanted in the search results by live concert footage clips — accompanied by new, bigger and brighter thumbnail images.

There are many lessons that adult website operators can learn from YouTube, and this article has barely scratched the surface. Take a long look at the site and see if it offers any features that will help bring your own product to light — and be sure to play by the rules — or at least know when it’s OK to break them.

As ZEFR, co-founder Rich Raddon notes, YouTube is very different from any other medium that has come before it. His company provides solutions for professional content owners on YouTube and has a long history with the platform.

“It is not simply a small television,” Raddon explains. “Original content created for YouTube can be more immersive, more compelling, and more affecting than anything we have seen on television, in the movies — or even on YouTube channels to date.”

While Raddon admits that it’s easy to dismiss the ‘premium’ original content that is now available on YouTube today, he has hope.

“If you conducted the same exercise with early cable content, early broadcast television content, or early movie content, you would have come to the same dismissive conclusion,” Raddon concludes. “Just as the content on those media evolved, so will the content on YouTube.”

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