As we end another year and the excitement of 2016 lies ahead, a lot of people are already in cruise mode, focusing on their holiday shopping and getting ready to relax.
For others, however, this is an exciting time and they’re busy working away on new site project to release in the new year. Enough can’t be said for making best efforts to do things right. After all, everyone wants to succeed and the paysite business is tough.
Those who remember the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ can still hear the chill-inducing whisper from beyond, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Unfortunately with businesses, this is not the case.
Even those with well-established sites are not immune to the difficulties producers and site owners face when it comes to keeping product demand high and obtaining the traffic needed to maintain good sales levels.
I wish it was a rarity but over the years it hasn’t been uncommon for an email to arrive in my inbox from a CMS software customer telling me they need to shut down their sites because they make no money and haven’t made a sale in months.
Usually these emails also include the heartbreaking tale of the amount of money the person has lost or is in the hole for due to the failed venture. The most recent one was a loss of close to $50,000.
Of course most of us will have two reactions: We feel bad for the person who lost so much money. Then we wonder how or why someone would invest so heavily in something when they clearly had no idea what they were doing.
When I look up these accounts, there are usually a few consistent trends that lead me to conclude that the person would have been much wiser to invest in real estate or a rental property or in some cases spend an hour a day gambling at the horse track:
1) The Wrong People Are Involved
In the case of the CMS account of the guy who lost $50,000, his main contacts included himself (the owner) and a fairly well-known long-time webmaster who has been doing free-lance site building and management for years but who in recent years has had a sketchy reputation for either disappearing or taking money and not delivering.
Sometimes it’s a shady character, other times it’s a neighbor, a brother in law, a boyfriend, a friend … someone not skilled enough, knowledgeable enough or experienced enough with adult websites to have any real chance at succeeding despite how intelligent or well intentioned they are or how good they may be at mainstream or other equivalents of running an adult paysite.
2) There’s Little or No Demand for the Content Being Sold
My first question to someone who says their sites don’t make any money is “Can I see one of the sites?”
I’m no longer shocked to see content that’s well shot but that in all honesty would have had a very hard time selling even in 2005 when people would still pay to see almost anything. I see people still investing heavily in things like non-interactive solo sites and generic lesbian video content sites. This is stuff that would pull few clicks on a free tube site let alone command a premium as a membership, yet the site owners are baffled by why they can’t make sales.
Those who remember the movie “Field of Dreams” can still hear the chill-inducing whisper from beyond, “If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately with businesses, this is not the case. Even Disneyland needed publicity when its doors first opened. Generally speaking, unless you invest in a massive amount of hype beforehand, people don’t just magically appear at the entrance of a business or a website clamoring to get inside. They have to know about a business and want to get inside and buy the product.
3) They Try Too Hard
A number of the failed sites I’ve seen over the past decade share the commonality of a very unconventional, totally unique design unlike anything I have ever seen before. In fact, some don’t resemble a paysite at all, not in any way.
This isn’t a science fair, talent show or art contest. There’s no award given for creativity. Unless you’re running a paysite just for fun or for charity, the goal is to make money.
Someone I got an email from who recently lost tens of thousands on a failed paysite venture had a tour page that loaded as a giant full screen video. It stretched to fill my entire monitor at 1600-plus res. The navigation was entirely icons, none of which gave you any idea what you were clicking. As a surfer, I probably would have closed the site. In all honesty I might have even closed it the instant the giant video loaded and assumed it was just an advertisement or some kind of a pop-up ad window.
A very unconventional tour, almost entirely unique from any other paysite is almost never a good move. I say almost never because I’ve seen few of these work ... maybe a handful in 10 years. Maybe 1 in 1,000 works, It’s not something anyone should be gambling on when they’re so heavily invested in a business.
If you’re building something new, here are three of the biggest ways to avoid wasting your time, money and avoid failure:
1) Understand What You're Selling
Does anyone want it? What’s your competition? If you spend an hour on Google and a few big tubes and see lots of your type of content all over the place for free, you may want to rethink things or at the bare minimum, come up with a unique marketing spin. Water companies do this by saying their water is “purified” or “mountain spring” knowing most consumers won’t do their research and realize this means little and is just creative sales fluff.
Before you dump tens of thousands into something, unless you’re 100% positive there’s a market for it, consider promoting a site in your niche as an affiliate. If you can’t make sales for someone else’s site, chances are slim that you’ll be able to do it for your own site either.
The same goes for granular niche/sub-niche content. Make sure enough people are into whatever you’re selling that even with totally dominating your market, you can make more than a trickle of sales each month.
2) Know Who You're Working With
Is your web host, designer or site builder or webmaster proven? Do they have long term and recent references you feel you can trust? Is their past work success consistent with what you’re doing e.g. does the person have a list of other paysite work for sites that have succeeded long term?
3) Have a Long-Term Plan
Be realistic. Don’t assume your site will magically attract visitors to as if it’s surrounded by a magnetic force-field. Even with a solid plan you might be looking at 3, 6 or 12 months of heavy promoting to see major returns or to realize a profit. Have a budget and a Plan B from the start in case the response to your site isn’t what you anticipated or you need to make changes in order to make sales.
As tough as the paysite business may be, with the right approach and a solid game plan, anyone with good content still has a great shot at running a highly successful paysite operation.
If you want free unbiased advice prior to investing in a paysite, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t promise to tell you what you want to hear but will steer you in the right direction, even if that means referring you to a Realtor or your local racetrack.
AJ Hall is a 15-year adult industry veteran and CEO of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult site CMS software. Hall has spoken at industry trade shows and written for several trade publications. Elevated X software powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for more than a dozen industry awards and won the 2012, 2014 and 2015 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.