Crossing Over

Brandon Shalton
All new technology finds itself starting in adult and moving toward mainstream.

The launch of was no different in its growth process, and in looking back, I wanted to share some experiences that go beyond what I learned during that initial launch period and address the issue of the "crossover" — adult companies trying to get into mainstream and, similarly, mainstream companies trying to get into adult.

Going to conventions is certainly the best way to get your product introduced to perspective clients outside of your given industry. Both adult and mainstream have similar structures of industry and niche events. The differences between the two are very interesting, not just in the difference of the products but of the attitudes toward peers and competitors.

I have been going to both mainstream and adult conventions for the past eight years and the differences are very noticeable.

The first most noticeable thing that an adult industry person runs up against is the vocabulary difference.

The non-adult industries don’t call themselves "mainstream," but everyone in adult refers to "non-adult" as "mainstream." I get caught up in using the term "mainstream" when attending mainstream events, and those who have already made the crossover into adult, or are aware of the adult market space, can quickly identify who is from "adult."

In mainstream, the differentiating label is "adult" if referring to adult content/entertainment, otherwise the term mainstream means all businesses that are essentially non-adult.

Affiliates Marketing
Affiliate marketing in mainstream is very different, yet similar to adult. In adult, sponsor programs promote their own paysites, with many products for affiliates to promote. In mainstream, the affiliate program is typically to promote one single product or through an affiliate network such as Linkshare, Commission Junction, etc., which aggregate product offerings. The closest thing to an affiliate network in adult was the now defunct

There are far more than a dozen acronyms to describe pay-per-click, per impression, etc. In addition, there are terms like "publisher," which refers to affiliates, and "advertisers," also known as the merchants. Merchants are the companies that are selling a product and enticing affiliates to promote them.

At mainstream conventions, the competitive nature of companies is very evident in the way people interact with each other. Every communication connection is a selling opportunity to pitch its company product. If a person bumps into a competitor of theirs, they avoid them like the plague. I have chatted with a few adult industry folks who now work for mainstream companies and have noticed immediately the difference in attitude the moment the other person finds out they work for the competitor.

In adult, the attitude is much more relaxed. Competing paysite owners can sit down and talk shop with each other; they even do traffic trades in sending consumers to their competitors.

Mainstream business people also seem to think that adult conventions are wild and crazy — maybe they were in the golden years prior to 2000 — but these days, they are much more business oriented.

Sales of have been good in adult, but not as great as they should be, and I attribute that to a difference in how the two sides look at their businesses. In adult, a company might not have any problem with shelling out thousands of dollars for a bar tab but would think it strange to invest money in marketing intelligence. But since mainstream is so competitive for finding affiliates, they have grabbed on instantly to the notion of using any kind of tool or information to find them and get ahead of their competitors. There is definitely a thirst for competitive data in mainstream that seems to be a missing DNA strand from adult businesses, which in general have a much more laid-back approach to their overall business conduct.

As adult content becomes more universally distributed, there are increasing opportunities for mainstream companies to enter the space, bringing along with them the corporate culture that will initially make them stand out as wallflowers. But as they are joined by other mainstreamers, they will find themselves forming into mainstream vs. adult groups, ultimately segmenting the industry.

Whether crossing over into adult or mainstream, there certainly are those moments of realizing we are all just small fish in a big pond. Given these distinct and separate experiences, we can all certainly join in the crossover as along as the dynamics are understood and mutated to fit the environment.

Brandon Shalton is the creator of and as a hobby advocates against patent abuse at