Right now, as an industry and as individuals, we stand at a major crossroads. Our current choices will determine the future of this industry — and it's time we do what's right.
Congress, individual states, the Religious Right and the executive branches of government have been very clear in saying: "Clean up or we will clean you up."
Practices that are accepted as commonplace need to be re-evaluated before it's too late.
We each need to look at our business models and determine whether they are right for the members, the customers and ourselves.
The invention of the Internet has greatly affected the government's ability to control adult material being presented on a local level. But even more than that, it has created a gap between site members and target consumers and those providing the service. Because of this, the result is an industry that cares very little for its effect on local communities and exists as a sort of virtual Wild West without clear guidelines on acceptable business practices.
If you were a local store selling candy, you would not consider it OK to buy stolen goods and sell them in your store, would you? And yet every day, gallery builders use stolen content to sell memberships, and the affiliate programs don't terminate those accounts. Would you put a BMW emblem on a Yugo and expect to get away with selling it? The days of getting people to join at any cost have hurt us and continue to make it harder to make legitimate money.
It is easy to pass the buck and say we can't afford to make changes to our policies or we will be unable to compete against foreign webmasters or the guys who just don't care. But this is unacceptable thinking that needs to be changed before it is too late.
We all remember our moms saying: "If your friends all jumped off a bridge...," and as much as we may have hated hearing that, we need to take that approach when looking at the acceptable policies of our programs.
For those of us who were around in the golden days, we remember average conversion rates of better then 1 in 100. Now TGP traffic is at 1 in 1,500, which today is even considered good.
Is it because surfers are smarter or because the general public has less expendable income? Is it the huge quantity of free images or movies that can be viewed?
Maybe the answer is all of the above, although much of this reasoning is our own fault as an industry.
How many times will a guy be willing to join a site if he runs into issues such as re-billing after cancellations, cross billing to sites he didn't ask for, or advertised content that does not exist? Or how about false promises on size or quality that are not delivered?
Here are a few proposed guidelines:
The dollar is not king. Just because someone can send you 100 joins in one day does not mean you should accept them. If you run an affiliate program, look at the people that promote your product. Monitoring what your affiliates are saying in advertisements, or the manner in which they are gathering leads, needs to be addressed.
Know whom you're doing business with. Many people don't take the time to look into the backgrounds of the companies they are working with. Guys who have been banned from the boards, shows and sometimes the country are still running well-known companies. Why is this?
Think about tomorrow. If you live month-to-month chasing the newest, highest-paying PPS program, you create a slippery slope. One bad month using these programs can hurt you financially enough to start the dreaded thought process of, "How can I squeeze my traffic for a few more dollars?" When you're focusing on how to make a few more bucks, you often sacrifice your ability for long-term growth.
We as an industry and as individuals have the ability to control our own destiny. Take pride in your work and the planning of your program or site for the long haul, and you will see the money, the rewards and most importantly the respect, not just today but well into the future.
Charles Anderson is CTO for Karups.