Long a mainstay of traffic generation for adult website owners and monetization channel for tech savvy marketers, “sponsor programs” have delivered countless millions of dollars to affiliates over the past couple of decades. Today, market evolution has tarnished the ease with which visitors are funneled and cash accrued by affiliates — but opportunity remains.
PimpRoll Vice President Philip Bradbury told XBIZ that after more than 15 years in the paysite business, he has seen firsthand how affiliate marketing has changed — and noticed its decline over the past decade.
Today’s adult affiliates take their jobs seriously — at least as seriously as the big mainstream advertisers. —Philip Bradbury, Pimproll
“Before the age of tube sites, advertisers and affiliates were demanding that programs do more and more in order to attract their business,” Bradbury says. “In the beginning, programs needed to provide quality creatives to their sales people, and in turn those people developed their own marketing techniques. As different sales channels won out over others, there became a great deal of parody with respect to how sites were promoted, and in turn, a great deal of parody in what was required in order for a program to attract affiliates.”
Bradbury notes that the more help programs provided, the better their opportunity to attract traffic from affiliates was.
“On the surface this seemed like healthy competition,” Bradbury explains, “but what it really was, was a complete lack of innovation and an acceptance to the ‘things are good enough’ mentality.”
“We need to provide quality templates to our affiliates to save them time. We need to provide content to our affiliates as they don’t have time to choose it themselves. We need to create hosted solutions so that affiliates don’t have to create their own sales funnels, and so on,” Bradbury laments. “In the end, what we got was 200,000 salesmen with the exact same pitch, selling virtually the same product, to the same people, for the same price. Take all the tube sites away, and we were in a bad spot regardless.”
According to Grooby’s Steven Grooby, when looking at the state of the adult affiliate market one must ask, “What adult affiliate market?” — while Kenny B. of YourPaysitePartner calls the current adult affiliate market “small but healthy.”
“Affiliates that have survived seem to be thriving,” Kenny B. confides. “The amount of affiliates we send payments to has shrunk dramatically over the years, yet the dollar amount sent out each pay period has gone up, not down.”
It is a reflection of the professionalism and seriousness with which 2016’s affiliates approach their craft.
“Today’s affiliate doesn’t wake up one day and say ‘Hey, I am making enough with this that I can quit my day job and coast through life,’” Bradbury told XBIZ. “Today’s adult affiliates take their jobs seriously — at least as seriously as the big mainstream advertisers. They hone their craft, they consider themselves lifelong learners, they are not happy doing what everyone else is doing and they don’t rely on programs to do their work for them — and they realize that they will never be better than the next guy that way.”
As for who the “typical affiliate” is in 2016, there has been a clear shift from solitary webmasters to the largest and most sophisticated operators, and many successful programs have evolved to cater to these new-gen affiliates.
“From what we see, instead of working with individuals who build up websites to send traffic to multiple companies, hoping to make a few sales of each, we’re working with companies with progressive agendas who will spend more time working with us as an individual partner to see what works best for both of us,” Grooby told XBIZ, noting that “The little man has been made redundant, as he doesn’t have the resources to continue to compete.”
Grooby says that the company’s main review site partner continues to evolve and grow, while discount programs seem to be working well when properly managed — and is pleased that the firm is doing great with tube site submitting companies.
“Discount sites, review sites, tubes and tube submitters, seem to be dominating the affiliate pool,” Kenny B. told XBIZ, echoing Grooby’s experience. “We have seen a bit of a resurgence of TGPs for certain niches as well.”
It is all part of the trend of programs taking more control over their traffic acquisition — and expenses.
“The other main factor, and this has been happening for years, is that websites are spending more time on their own branding, marketing and social networking,” Grooby says. “The fixed 50 percent affiliate sale for life was always too much, and when programs can bring in their own sales — or mitigate affiliate sales to them by working with other companies, and making affiliate sales though cross-sales or internal promotions, all of which are becoming easier, then more revenue is kept in-house.”
Bradbury reports that over the last several years, while the vast majority of longtime affiliates continued to complain about how there was no money left in paysites, a small subset of adult affiliates realized that they needed to adapt — just as the industry was doing as a whole. On top of this, he says that many mainstream advertisers realized the quality of the competition with respect to adult affiliate marketing had gone down — and the time was ripe for them to make a move.
“Refreshingly, these advertisers did not come to us asking the same questions we were used to,” says Bradbury. “Instead of, ‘I need you to make me an awesome landing page,’ we were asked ‘Can you teach me about your product so I can understand how to best promote it?’ Instead of ‘I need an RSS feed of all your latest scenes,’ we heard, ‘Can I get access to your content so that I can personally review all your newest scenes and tell my surfers about the progress your site is making?’”
On the subject of current trends in paysite marketing and other affiliate initiatives, Kenny B. believes that unfortunately, the biggest trend in promotions today are discounted join offers.
“Surfers are being trained to pay less for their memberships with more and more discount sites popping up and discount tabs in many member areas,” Kenny B. explains. “Cams are much more lucrative, but competition is fierce, so affiliates have the opportunity to make much higher revenue share commissions promoting cams vs. paysites, but there aren’t as many options for them to send traffic to.”
Bradbury says that several occurrences over the last few years led him to believe it was time for paysites to make a comeback — such as the downturn in the amount of new content being created and new sites that are enjoying sustained success.
“The single biggest thing that convinced me that a turnaround was coming, however, was the shift in the mentality of our affiliates,” Bradbury confides. “For years, when an affiliate had a bad day/week/month, I would get questioned about our program’s integrity: ‘Are you shaving my sales?’ ‘Your product must be broken!’ etc.
“But a couple of years ago, I started receiving intelligent messages from affiliates having bad days, which did not point any fingers,” Bradbury adds. “I would get a message saying ‘Hey, I had a terrible sales week last week, and I was wondering if we could set up a time where I could talk to you about some of the feedback I am getting from my users about your product?’”
This focus on promoting quality sites is beneficial to both affiliates and program owners alike.
As for what the future holds for adult affiliate marketing, the path seems intertwined with the future of paysites and adult entertainment, as well as other offers — some of which might be more compelling.
“Watching Affiliate Summit and other mainstream shows growing year after year, it seems more and more adult affiliates are diversifying with mainstream offers,” Kenny B. says. “I am also seeing an increase in adult companies coming out with mainstream offers.”
“There seems to be a trend in the industry to change the paysite model to more of an on-demand system, and I’m interested in seeing if companies such as MyPorn will add extra revenue through sales of individual scenes, or as an affiliate,” Grooby concludes. “There is still a lot of money in adult paysites and content delivery, but affiliates and companies need to be coming up with new ideas.”
And those ideas are forthcoming, with forward-looking affiliates truly partnering with pro programs.
“These days, affiliates are innovators,” Bradbury explains. “They create new traffic sources, they learn the ins and outs of what they are promoting, they become invested in the products they push, and are better equipped to not only sell a product, but to help improve a product, than ever before.”
Bradbury told XBIZ that he fully expects this trend to continue into the future.
“Adult affiliate marketing is no longer an easy living,” Bradbury concludes. “It may have taken people a while to realize that, but now that they have, the landscape is changing quickly.”