An Affiliate Snapshot

Stephen Yagielowicz
If you've been in the online adult entertainment industry for any length of time, you realize that profits aren't as fat or as easy to obtain as they once were. But that doesn't mean that things are bad — only that they're not as good as they used to be; and this holds true for paysite operators as well as their affiliates.

When looking at the current state of e-commerce profitability, it's important to look beyond the adult segment to the larger market. Indeed, while I don't have accurate numbers to categorically say this is true, it is my belief that today's mainstream affiliate marketplace is larger than the adult affiliate space. Whether or not this also means that non-adult marketing is more profitable than adult marketing is another question entirely.

Featured in the May issue of XBIZ World magazine are several charts illustrating various survey results targeting the mainstream affiliate space — charts and figures that adult affiliate program owners can use to compare their internal data with that of their mainstream counterparts.

I really liked some of these questions and some of the answers and would like to briefly comment on a few of them here. The first question, and one that seems almost too basic but is still a valuable benchmark for program owners, especially when comparing current to historical data, is: How many new affiliates do you acquire per month?

The largest group of respondents reported that they averaged between 50-100 signups per month, with the second largest group claiming between 100-500 new affiliates on a monthly basis. That's a lot of affiliates and a pretty decent rate to maintain month after month. Such a good rate, in fact, that many adult affiliate managers might doubt that it's possible, especially on an ongoing basis.

To me, however, this is an example of the huge number of folks trying to make money on the Internet — but not wanting anything to do with porn. A larger prospect pool inevitably leads to more (and easier) affiliate signups, so that could be what's driving these numbers.

Another question, and one that I found more interesting: What is the biggest challenge in affiliate marketing? Looking at the results, you'll likely see some familiar territory. But what I found most notable were the multiple "brand protection" issues that came up, and I have to wonder if the same results would be obtained by surveying adult programs.

While it stands to reason that larger mainstream entities with professional marketers on staff might be more brand-conscious than smaller, adult entities that might have grown to their current size and profitability as much by luck and timing as by design, I can't help but wonder if the majority of adult programs are as concerned with their identities as are their mainstream counterparts. Certainly Playboy and Hustler are, but what about smaller operations that are not household name brands? Maybe more emphasis needs to be placed on this account.

One of these areas of concern was elaborated on, and I find both the question, and its answers, quite interesting: "Do you permit your affiliates to bid on your trademark names in pay-per-click search engines?

While the lack, percentage-wise, of trademarked names in online adult is one factor that affects any such question posed within our industry, I found the response that only five percent of mainstream affiliate programs did not allow such uses to be on the low side, with a third of these entities allowing it, being even more surprising. Even more notable is the fact that nearly two-thirds of respondents didn't know if their programs allowed this type of advertising or not, which is most surprising to me.

One might think that a good affiliate manager would thoroughly understand his or her program's policies and procedures, so I have to wonder if this is something that was even on most of these operators' radar. Is it on yours? It wasn't on mine, but it is now, and as a result, I don't think that I want to allow affiliates to bid on my trade names (and thus be in direct competition with me) when there's plenty of generic terms that I'd rather see them use.

At the end of the day, perhaps the most valuable lesson to be gleaned from this is that there is much that adult can learn from the mainstream market and vice versa. All it takes is an open mind and a little creative research.