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Persian Kitty

Stephen Ochs
Persian Kitty creator Beth Mansfield doesn't keep the highest profile in the adult business, but the success of her link farm is testament to the wisdom of getting into a market early and keeping things consistent.

XBiz caught up with the webmistress as her homegrown website approaches its 10th birthday and got the inside scoop on how a housewife from Pennsylvania created a small adult empire.

XBIZ: Tell me about the very beginning of Persian Kitty. How did you start it up and why?

PERSIAN KITTY: In early 1995, Compuserve added Internet access to its services and I started cruising the net. I had a long-distance boyfriend who had piqued my interest in softcore porn, so we'd surf together sometimes just for something to do. At this time, I was totally burned out at my job after four years as an accounting manager. I'd gone through two complete systems changes and it looked like the company was getting ready to downsize. I needed a break. I decided to take a few months off and play stay-athome mom with my two boys, something I had never done.

About a month later, I put up a little personal web page. Nothing fancy. I didn't know HTML except from viewing source code on things I liked from sites I ran into. Whenever I saw a website where I liked how they'd done one thing or another, I'd save a snippet of code in a file to review later and figure out how they did it.

With my little personal page, I was fascinated with the fact that people from all over the world at all times of the day and night could be visiting something I put online. I decided I wanted to put something up that would draw some traffic just to see how many people I could get to my corner of the web. At that time, the major third-party counter was Digits.com. The highest-ranked sites on their list were adult link sites (NaughtyLinx and For Your Eyes Only). Since that seemed to be the way to get fast traffic, I decided to try an adult link site. The first page went up on my personal ISP on Oct. 1, 1995. It only made sense to call it Persian Kitty's Adult Links since that's what I was known by to my cyberfriends.

XBIZ: How many sites did you catalog at the beginning, and where did you get the links?

PK: It had three sections and less then 80 links. I would hunt for links myself by visiting other link sites every time they updated and looking through their listings for sites I liked and — I cringe to think of trying to do it now — by reading Usenet postings about adult websites. Whenever I added a link, I'd email the webmaster and let them know about it and tell them about my site. I didn't require a reciprocal link until March 1998, but lots of people linked me back. I believed in running the site like I would want to see a site run. That meant daily — sometimes several times a day — updates.

XBIZ: Did you get many hits at first?

PK: In late October, my site got added to Yahoo and traffic went quickly to about 20,000 unique visitors a day. My personal provider said, "Pay or take it down." I wasn't doing the site for money and had never dreamed that someone would actually pay to advertise on it, so I replaced the page with the details of why I was taking it down. I emailed everyone on the listings too. Within 24 hours, I had three offers for sponsorship — one was from the man who is now my server guru and another was from the people with Spice Entertainment. Each would allow me to run my site for free in exchange for an exclusive "sponsored by" ad at the top of the page; I only had one page at that time.

Being stubborn, I was searching for ways to do it myself. I found a host in Texas, Hypercon, who agreed to host me for a basic rate. I'd told them exactly how much traffic I was doing. After moving my pages to them, Hypercon suddenly removed my site. Even though I'd been up front with them and they hosted a few other adult sites, they tried telling me that their board of directors had decided they wouldn't host adult sites. Yet the other sites never got removed.

I immediately contacted one of the three sites that had offered sponsorship. The man who was to become my server guru extraordinaire was running a site called Secrets of Speed Seduction. He set me up with an account, registered PersianKitty.com — under his name at the time. Boy, to think if I'd fallen in with the wrong person. Again, I contacted all those people who had links to me and asked them to change the URL. PersianKitty went back online with a text ad for Secrets of Speed Seduction.

I'd had a total of four days downtime between all of it. I continued to hunt for sites to list and started having people email me to be linked. Back then, there weren't all the tricks around, so finding sites to list wasn't too hard. I added a weekly pose picture so that I'd draw in some traffic that way.

XBIZ: When did you start taking advertising on Persian Kitty?

PK: By February of 1996, the site was seeing more than 80,000 uniques a day. I was being contacted a lot by people wanting to advertise. Because I wasn't paying for hosting, I turned them all down, telling them that it wouldn't be fair to the person paying for my hosting. A couple of them got very persistent. I told Lewis, my server guy, about them. He asked what they wanted to pay. I hadn't even bothered to ask, and I had no clue what to charge.

The most persistent of all was Webpower [formerly Amateur Hardcore]. I asked the owner what he would be willing to pay, and the number he came back with was more than twice what I'd been making a month at my old job. I was floored. He wanted to do a week trial and paid in advance.

Lewis and I decided that we'd change our arrangement. He would continue doing the server upkeep for a percentage of the ad revenue. At that time, Persian Kitty was on part of one machine, a P85, on a shared T-1. The trial week went great, and Webpower has had the top position on my site since late February 1996.

Within a month, Intertain Online followed as a second full-time banner. They paid three months in advance to start with. The owner of Intertain Online later partnered with Dean (The General) on Unfaithful and other sites. Danni Ashe started bugging me for an ad placement in the summer of 1996. She was very persistent. I didn't want to add more bandwidth by loading a second banner on the pages; Webpower's ad was text-only and Intertain's was a banner. Danni agreed to host the banners on her side at that point. In August of 1996, I added Danni's banner underneath Webpower's. All three of these advertisers are still with me today.

XBIZ: It must have taken quite an extensive system to run a site with that many visitors.

PK: Persian Kitty was running on two separately located machines through parts of two separately located T-1s. Eventually this number went to four machines on four separate T-1s. I added the double- stacked, rotating banners in September 1996 mainly because I had so many people asking to advertise, and the four sponsors I had weren't going anywhere. Also, most people at that time couldn't afford a full-time slot, so it made sense to break it up in smaller, more affordable pieces. PersianKitty.com today runs on two beefy servers with more connectivity than most ISPs have. I've been very, very lucky to have aligned myself with a server guy who cares about what he does.

XBIZ: What were the earlier days of the Internet like versus current times?

PK: In the earlier days, there seemed to be more of a cooperative spirit. Today, it's pretty much dog eat dog.

XBIZ: Has the crowded marketplace and the explosion of link sites hurt your business?

PK: After the onset of TGPs in the late 1990s, there was a shift in traffic that didn't seem to change conversion rates on my site. I attributed it to a movement of freebie lookers from link lists to the faster gratifying TGPs. Since that time, there has been a slow downward trend in traffic certainly due to people finding other places to visit.

XBIZ: How have you changed to keep up with the industry?

PK: Change is a difficult thing for me. I feel that any change would be major and would likely not be received well by long-time visitors. Once a change is in place, it would be difficult to go back if things didn't work out. I'm always open to suggestions though.

XBIZ: How many employees do you have?

PK: Like many other small webmasters, I support a family member. My brother does some of the back-page reviews and rechecks from time to time. Design is contracted out. I handle the front page and TGP reviews, email correspondence and advertising.

XBIZ: How do you keep interested after nearly 10 years?

PK: Sometimes it's difficult, but then I look at the gains from the past 10 years and realize that it's a small price to pay for what I have.

XBIZ: How many sites have you cataloged?

PK: I'll count them and get back to you! Honestly, I don't know offhand. I just keep listing them and removing old ones."

XBIZ: What's your personal life like?

PK: Boring to most. I'm a single mother of two teenage boys who are almost grown and out of the house. I'm an avid Seattle Mariner's baseball fan with season tickets, so that takes up a lot of my spring, summer and early fall. I spend time at the beach and in Vegas. Home life is probably pretty typical for someone with kids the ages of mine.

XBIZ: Any personal interest in porn?

PK: Curiosity in the early days. Now though it's more clinical, kind of like a gynecologist having to see half-naked women. I appreciate, and always will appreciate, a nice glamour shot.

XBIZ: What does your family think of what you do?

PK: My extended family doesn't know the details. My immediate family is happy that I'm independent and financially stable.

XBIZ: What is Persian Kitty doing now that's different from before?

PK: Everything is pretty much the same as it has always been.

XBIZ: What kind of money do you make?

PK: Not as much as in the grand days of the late 1990s. Only the IRS knows for sure.

XBIZ: Where do you see the adult Internet going in the future?

PK: With upcoming changes in legislation and the ongoing threat of governmental pressure, I feel the adult Internet has some soul-searching and some belttightening to do. I believe the ranks will thin and perhaps larger, more stable and adaptable companies may absorb some of the smaller ones."

XBIZ: What's the oddest site you've ever seen?

PK: Seventy-five percent of them seem odd to me. The 'reality' porn sites these days are often outrageous.

XBIZ: Where is Persian Kitty going? What do you plan on offering as far as new services?

PK: Currently, things remain status quo. Got any ideas for me?

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