opinion

Paysite Power: Define Content

AJ Hall

If you’ve been in this business for more than five minutes you’ve probably heard the adage “content is king.” After all, it’s the most overused cliché since “porn is dead” or “the tubes destroyed adult” so I’m sure you must have heard it at least once.

Well the king just called. He said it’s time for paysites to get with the program or they might be dead … and the tubes might destroy them.

The goal of a solid paysite tour should not be to sell the content. Good content will sell itself and your pre-sale chain should already be doing some of the work of pre-selling your customers, well before they lay eyes on your site for the first time.

When the word “content” is used in a discussion about paysites it’s almost always describing photos and videos. How surprising would it be if nonporn content actually helped sell more memberships?

It does.

About 14 years ago I was building and running paysites for a studio called Shane’s World. The company was one of the pioneers of “reality porn” as we know it today and their paysite was unlike most others. The site catered to just about everyone and had a massive demographic that encompassed men, women and couples age 18-45. The site had the same photo and video sections every other site had but also had sections of erotic stories, humor, video tours of porn star homes, behind the scenes footage and mini “series” of exclusive productions. They also had a “before they were stars” section that showed amateur content of the big stars of the day when they were just starting out in adult. The site was a complete mess (hence my being hired) but the content was pure brilliance.

Shane’s World’s average member retention was 6-12 months longer than that of any site I encountered since, and I worked with hundreds of them in the 14 years that followed. When I dug into the stats, at first I thought it was an error or some bug in the reporting. Baseline averages like that were not common for a whole lot of sites even in the glory days. I went on to work with sites doing hundreds of sales a day but never came across a site with that kind of retention.

I wish I could take credit for the impressive numbers but I can’t. All I can take credit for is being smart enough to recognize the site’s uniqueness and analyze the hell out of as much data as I could get my hands on and now I’m going to pass along some of what I learned.

Website analytics and member surveys revealed that customers enjoyed nonporn sections of the site as much or more than they enjoyed the photo and video updates and live cam shows. The more we stayed consistent with updating those parts of the site as well, the better the site retained members. The more I got into the usage stats the more it made sense. Some of the most popular content, although not “porn” by definition, were still very much adult oriented and sexual in nature – and – it was content that few if any other sites were offering. The irony is that some of the most critical content on the site from a customer perspective was also being produced or procured at a tiny fraction of the cost of the porn scenes.

By the way, this is not unique to Shane’s World; 14 years later, some of the strongest performing paysites the Elevated X CMS software powers are those that offer more than just photos, videos and live cam shows.

If you’re a paysite owner, here are five ideas to help get your creative juices flowing and turn your site into a sale and rebill powerhouse:

Give customers an inside look.

Humans are a curious bunch. We love to know how stuff works and see the “other side” of things. Universal Studios built a whole theme park business upon this alone. Decades before they had thrill rides you paid a hefty sum for a studio tour and it was fascinating.

If you’re a producer, it’s not difficult to shoot some behind-the-scenes stuff and build a BTS section on your site that shows how you light the sets, how you direct the models. Video of a photo shoot and pre and post-shoot model interviews are always a hit with members. Maybe talk about how you hire the models and shoot the scenes and explain the process. If you’re a solo model or porn star or run solo sites, consider a day-in-the-life video journal that follows you or your models and sees what goes on while prepping for a shoot e.g. mani/pedi the shower, the makeup, the drive to the location, etc. People love to see how it’s done.

Keep it real.

Year after year the TV lineup proves that people just can’t get enough of reality. One of Shane’s World’s most popular segments was a porn star version of MTV Cribs titled “Pornstars at Home.” Members ate it up. They just loved seeing the porn star’s homes, especially their bedrooms and what was in their refrigerators. The kicker here is that this content is not only insanely cheap to product but it’s extremely easy to produce. And this is the kind of stuff you won’t see on many sites so it will make your site stand out. If you think the canned scene on a lot of popular solo sites of the girl peeing or painting her toenails is coincidental, think again. Reality draws people in and you can play on this in a variety of creative and fun ways.

Sharing is caring (about your wallet).

Before they were must-have marketing tools, blogs were little more than online journals. People love to read about other people and what they’re doing. This is especially true for porn stars, models or someone a customer feels a connection with. As long as the writing is interesting and entertaining people will read it. You don’t need to be a professional writer and your posts don’t need to be long.

The goal is to create something for people to follow and make them look forward to keeping up with you when they come back to your site. Make them want to see what you’ll do or say next. If you produce, talk about models you’ve shot, models you’re shooting, scouting, your latest shoots and your success and frustration. If you’re a model talk about how pleasant (or annoying) the director and other models were, how much you enjoyed the on screen action, what you ate for breakfast that day, your breakup with your boyfriend. Erotic stories are also a great (and inexpensive) way to promote sharing. Keep your members connected and they’ll keep coming back. Making your fans feel like friends is one of the best ways to build customer loyalty.

Incorporate interesting and off-the-wall stuff.

People like weird, funny, off the wall stuff. A well maintained page listing bizarre or humorous sex toys with funny reviews may get more mileage than adding a white label toy store to your site. Instead of publishing the same generic bio for each model, have every model you shoot provide a detailed Q&A where they answer a dozen provocative questions. Have them tell a joke (Esquire magazine features a joke by a hot woman for a reason) or a funny story. Ask your models, friends or even paysite members to submit their best or worst sexual experience and publish it as a blog. Ask each model to provide a narrative of their virginity story. How many competing paysite tours do you think are advertising stuff like this? I would wager it’s close to zero.

Stand out.

Believe it or not, your site is not likely to be the first link a customer clicked and chances are it’s not the first paysite he’s ever seen. I say “chances are” and stuff like that because it’s proper and I don’t want XBIZ to get hate mail about “AJ the asshole know it all” but I’m going to level with you on this one. I will tell you with absolute certainty that you are competing for every sale you make. For years the number of repeat visitors and bookmarked referrers in any decent traffic paysite’s access logs has told us a lot about user behavior prior to purchase. Your customers are seeing other sites and you need to STAND OUT as much as possible and in positive ways that differ from other sites.

The goal of a solid paysite tour should not be to sell the content. Good content will sell itself and your pre-sale chain should already be doing some of the work of pre-selling your customers, well before they lay eyes on your site for the first time. A tour’s job is to make the customer say YES!

You want them to say YES, I like this! YES, now this is something different, YES, this is the one I’m going to go for and say what the hell and join and check it out.

By using the ideas listed here as inspiration you should be able to brainstorm and come up with several types of “content” you can introduce to your sites to help you stand out and get your sites competing better than ever before.

AJ Hall is a 12-year adult industry veteran and the co-founder and chief executive officer of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult CMS software for the online adult entertainment industry. Elevated X powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for industry awards 11 times and won the 2012 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.

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