opinion

Paysite Power: It's 2016 and It's Time to Stand Out in the Crowd

A.J. Hall

As we look ahead to a new year, many of us find ourselves amidst the annual period of reflection that’s become a requirement for any full time member of this business.

Along with it comes the question of what’s on the horizon for us in the 12 months to come.

The upside to what may be a negative trend overall is that amidst saturation, it’s much easier to stand out. A bright orange spot stands out a lot more against a light color backdrop and it’s always easier to see a spotlight shining in the dark.

We can of course expect things like 4K and virtual reality to become more prevalent in 2016 and onward. From a purely tech perspective I don’t see too much changing since the availability, affordability and benefit of emerging technology is still years off of being widely adopted by a large enough vertical to give something mass appeal or a major sales advantage for adult site operators. I believe most of the changes we will see will be small and we’ll see lots of very incremental improvements in things.

Adult companies are consolidating and it’s no surprise to most of us that many are still dropping like flies as they’re gobbled up by larger prey in the form of mature site networks and free tubes. The biggest change I’ve seen in 2015 among my own customers and the trend I expect to see the most in 2016 is a change in production, both in methods and styles.

The blanket statement about piracy and its effects is one few of us can disagree with. What few people do, however, is digress and begin to dissect piracy in an in depth examination of cause and effect. Piracy in itself isn’t the root cause of a lot of what we’ve experienced, it’s simply been the catalyst and the accelerator for the cause to emerge — difficulty to make adult content sales. The root cause is boredom.

Customers are bored. Hell, if we’re honest, most of us are bored too. After 15 years it’s rare for me to see something and say oh wow, that’s original, amazing … it’s (insert adjective here). But when I do, it blows me out of my fucking chair, and even with my ready access to thousands of paysites Elevated X CMS software powers, damn if I don’t find myself joining at least five or six paysites every year just to check them out.

The novelty wore off for consumers almost as fast as a kid losing interest in a new toy they got for Christmas. As an industry, we rode the bike until the wheels fell off. We cleaned out the all-you-can-eat buffet. We’ve exhausted it, and if you join a site like Videobox or visit any big tube site it’s apparent.

Dare we say that porn has become boring? Could this really be true? In some ways, it is. We reached this point through a very gradual progression. It’s akin to humans using up a natural resource. Once it’s used up, it’s gone. It’s been in progress for about 20 years in our industry and in this case, what’s been used up is consumer tolerance.

At one time seeing anal sex or multiple men or DP or anything even slightly extreme was taboo. It was edgy and raw and exciting because it was uncommon and it sold like crazy. But then a funny thing began to happen.

After a couple of years, two-thirds or more of what was being produced included things like anal or multiple people or some other taboo in every scene. Then we moved onto reality and we exhausted that one. Then we moved on to more taboos in the form of borderline videos that rely on cuckold or incest themes and within a couple years’ time we’ve gone from a couple studios putting out such themes to several with more following suit month by month. And on it will go until that too has been exhausted.

Customers get bored. There’s only so much we can throw at them. And so the trend we’ve been seeing and will see more of in 2016 than ever before is the further narrowing down of production to overcome customer intolerance.

I wish this was an article full of tips, guidance and answers but unfortunately when it comes to long term pay site survival strategy the best I can offer up is that it’s good to stand out in the crowd and that’s the best way to ensure short term success as well as longevity in this business.

The upside to what may be a negative trend overall is that amidst saturation, it’s much easier to stand out. A bright orange spot stands out a lot more against a light color backdrop and it’s always easier to see a spotlight shining in the dark.

When evaluating what they’re selling online, every producer or site owner needs to look at what’s out there en masse and try to satisfy a need that’s being ignored or fill a hole nobody else is filling (no pun intended). It’s easier said than done but customer intolerance has opened the door to niches and sub niches and fueled a big demand for high quality content fitting new themes and memes and subsets of others.

This isn’t a strategy per se but a mindset of wanting to be found. I like to think of it like being lost in the forest. If you can find a way to stand out from above, you’re more likely to be discovered.

Producers still going strong have figured this out, and they’ve figured out ways to get in front of and stay in front of their target customers. They look at tube sites and review sites and think, hmm … amidst a huge wall of thumbnails or a big list of videos, how can I stand out.

If you haven’t done this experiment, go try it now and you’ll see. I’m not naming names but go on any big tube site known by name by most men and women under 50 years old — you know, YouPorn, PornHub, blah, blah — and click around a bit and see whose content stands out.

The article was a short one and I apologize for not having more words of wisdom or encouragement for a new year … except to figuratively suggest you dress brightly in 2016 and stand out in the crowd!

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 Awards for Software Company of the Year.

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