Audit Your Paysite for Better Dividends

A.J. Hall

When we think of paysites we usually think of content, design, traffic and how to make sales. Rarely do things like user experience or customer service rank high among a paysite owner’s as site operators are not generally dealing with customers directly on a one-to-one basis. Sadly, it shows in the way some sites are treating customers.

Customers are anonymous, and so are site owners as the only identification a customer has is with a website and its brand, not the owner or manager personally. Personality-based, solo, adult video director, porn star sites and the light walk a finer line but even then, typically the customer is not dealing directly with the person the site is built around. The sign-up process and most customer service issues are automated by the billing company, making it very easy for a site operator to act in ways they never would consider if dealing with customers face to face.

Nothing pisses me off more than to login to an Elevated X client’s website after seeing a gorgeous tour, only to see that the members area is no reflection of the outside of the site.

Websites, due to their nature, lack the same ability for an owner to manage customer experiences. Most people don’t complain when they go to a restaurant and are not completely happy with their meal. Some will complain, but only if something is wrong with their food or the service is terrible. Still, some won’t complain at all no matter how bad it is and some will keep their complaints to themselves and instead simply choose never to return to the establishment. With a paysite, in contrast, very few people will complain, regardless of their experience or how badly they’re abused.

It’s probably no surprise that as the owner of a company like Elevated X that specializes in paysite management software, I join a lot of paysites each year in addition to having access to many of our client’s sites. I’ve been a victim of just about every form of consumer abuse imaginable.

I’ve seen gorgeous, dazzling website tours and then logged in and realized it was a bait and switch. I’ve seen great looking tours and joined only to then find that the site only has a handful of movies. I’ve joined websites and then not been able to cancel my membership and had to contact my credit card company to chargeback.

I joined one website where the tour was very nice and once I was inside I was shocked to see that all of the content inside the site were full-length movies watermark by other companies that had been stolen off of other web sites. The worst was probably when I joined a heavily marked ex-girlfriend niche site, instantly realized it was not on the up and up and the very next day saw that my credit card was being used to make fraudulent purchases.

In none of those cases did I contact the owner of the website. There’s no point. It would be no more effective than an abused spouse asking the abuser to stop. The bottom line is, I had not been victimized enough (or had enough of my money taken from me) to justify the time it would take to escalate the matter, even when the site owners should be blackballed from the industry (if such a thing existed). I knew they would suffer no consequence even if I took my complaint to an owner or their bank and I would just be wasting my time.

Obviously a couple of those examples are extreme. The vast majority (I would wager a guess at upwards of 90 percent) of paysite owners are not engaging in criminal behavior like banging customer’s credit cards or engaging in unethical behavior like making it impossible to stop being charged unless you contact your credit card provider.

What a large number of sites are doing, however, is inadvertently fucking over their customers in an attempt to make sales or through their own naivety.

Nothing pisses me off more than to login to an Elevated X client’s website after seeing a gorgeous tour, only to see that the members area is no reflection of the outside of the site and that any customer who falls into the trap and joins will be disappointed and feel cheated.

Since their inception, everyone has been quick to blame the tubes but in truth, a lot of paysite owners have driven customers away from paying for adult content by their own bad behavior.

Not that they’re off the hook by any means… the tubes are doing their fair share of nonsense too. Several high-profile sites run by the tube guys and fueled by the endless supply of traffic from their massive tube sites are abusing customers in their own creative ways. If you want customers, what better way than to get them in the door with a cheap offer and then let them realize their membership only gets them the old outdated content they didn’t want in the first place and they need to upgrade for triple the price or spend hundreds on “tokens” to download the content they thought they were getting to begin with?

If you’re thinking “this only applies to shady sites” you’re wrong. Some of the biggest brands in our business, the oldest, the guys with their own TV networks and movies made about them are among the worst violators. Slick tours, dazzling responsive designs, sliders showcasing the latest uber-HD videos, the works. Once inside, it’s one page of decent new content and 500 pages of decades of sub-standard low-def garbage content someone might have been happy with 10 years ago. Somehow this is OK to those in charge.

Sites like Rabbit’s Reviews and TheBestPorn have honest reviews that give customers warnings about these things but unfortunately many consumers (myself included) are browsing impulsively and don’t read the small print and not every site has been reviewed or re-reviewed since the operator changed up its business model to one that fucks over every customer.

The sad fact is that once a customer is lost, usually they’re lost forever. They won’t rebill and they won’t come back. Ever. Not in six months or a year or five years. Unless it’s part of a short-lived scheme or exit plan, it’s never worth duping someone for an easy $14.95 or baiting them with what appears to be a great site and then only giving them a few dozen scenes for $29.95 either … not if you plan to be in business long term.

The upside to all of this crap behavior is that it’s paved the way for a bustling “high quality” market that’s quickly beginning to leave much of the industry behind. Dazzling sites that are just as amazing inside as they are outside. Some companies are playing catch-up but consumer tolerance is waning and although there are still more than enough paying porn consumers to sustain the empire, they’re becoming smarter and more selective.

If you’re at the point where you’ve become desperate for sales, rather than hire a designer and make a brilliant tour that only showcases the best 10 percent of your content, how about improving your content and making your site a decent value to begin with?

My hope is that more site owners will make good use of the last couple months of summer to make improvements and improve quality so they never need to resort to the tactics above to make ends meet. Far less is gained in the long run by the shortsightedness of ripping customers off, especially when it’s unintentional.

Audit your offering. Ask yourself if you would be happy with your purchase if you were the customer. If there’s even the slightest bit of hesitation, it’s time to get to work!

AJ Hall is a 16-year adult industry veteran, winner of the 2016 XBIZ Tech Leadership Award 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.