Gay Can Be Tapped Further

Rainey Stricklin
Getting your website in front of a first-time gay customer may not be as easy as it was, say, 10 years ago, but there's still a good portion of the market that has yet to be reached. According to some of the most successful gay site operators, saturation in the gay market is a long way off.

For adult webmasters looking to promote gay content, there remain various pools of untapped sources out there — you just may have to work a bit harder and take a few more risks to reach them.

"The days of if you build it, they will come are long gone since almost any online experience is a blitzkrieg of traffic leaking opportunities," said Harlan Yaffe, co-owner of "The key is to get the access into places you have not been before or where others, perhaps yourself included, have been removed due to content filters and search engines' forever changing algorithms and policies. The obvious has been done 1,001 times and then some; to grow your audience you have to come up with method 1,002."

Morgan Sommer, partner in Cybersocket Inc. as well as and TheGayBoard, suggests gay marketers should look into offline markets to reach a new audience.

"Reaching out to a gay consumer base is all about reaching gay consumers where they live, work and play," Sommer said. "So gay bars across the country, local events, pride festivals, local magazine ads, etc.; there are so many untapped gay consumers out there."

Lisa Turner, marketing and advertising manager for, one of the oldest gay websites, agrees and said that BadPuppy continually strives to reach consumers at local events such as gay rodeos, special events at bars and night clubs and community events.

Many gay companies will protest, however, that they don't have the staff or resources to attend smaller events around the country. Turner said being at the actual events isn't a requirement.

"Most of these events we have no need to attend, instead [we send] gifts for raffle, giveaways and free memberships," she said. "In most cases they display our large vinyl banner as well. Generally speaking these venues include and promote us as sponsors of the events in all of their print and online advertising."

Andy Fair, owner of, suggests looking to the past to grow in the future.

Old Markets Not Tapped
"I believe there are old markets that are not tapped by websites, like the DVD consumer," he said. "Getting in front of those customers who would not otherwise come across your site is a great chance to show them what they are missing."

Though a few companies consistently showcase their websites at local gay events and in mainstream gay publications, the majority of gay webmasters have yet to embrace offline branding to reach new gay consumers.

Sommer, whose company aggressively pursues the mainstream, offline gay market, said most gay companies aren't ready to put out the effort or expense to reach consumers via events.

"They think it's too much work, lack the desire to participate themselves, or believe the effort will not yield results," he said. "I know it does. But people need to prove it to themselves."

Fair said his key to success in marketing through these avenues is focusing on branding rather than immediate results.

"I think the majority is not [marketing offline], because it is expensive and it doesn't translate into direct sales," he said. "We've gotten involved in several of those arenas, always with the mindset of branding the site. The exposure that comes from these events builds consumer trust and familiarity; they can see that the site is legitimate, and a real entity."

Both Turner and Yaffe see more companies starting to test the waters, though.

"I think those who take advantage of these events are in the minority, though more are contemplating and/or stepping into this arena," Yaffe said, adding that the migration is still slow. "The biggest reason most companies are gun-shy is that like any on the web advertising, it is very hard to ascertain the [return on investment] and know if they are indeed getting a bang for the buck."

"The pride events are mostly taken advantage of by the gay mainstream companies, however I've seen more gay adult participation over the last year or so," Turner said. "I definitely see an increase of gay adult businesses taking advantage of the bar and nightclub venues. We've been using bars and nightclubs to get our name out there since before 2000 and we've watched this means of reaching out to the gay adult consumer market expand greatly over the last few years."

Sommer points out that the gay community has a tendency to be loyal, and by supporting the events and publications that cater to the market, they are more likely to become customers.

"Gay consumers buy products specifically marketed to them," he said. "This is part of the community sensibility that many gay and lesbian people feel — that if a product is part of the community we add it to our lifestyle and therefore support it, because it supports us."

Another avenue that many adult webmasters are slow to take advantage of is consumer print advertising. Most cities in the U.S. offer their gay communities some kind of publication and many accept adult website advertisements.

"Print advertising does present a difficulty in establishing a direct risk/reward for the investment but one major plus they both have in common is often overlooked, though just as difficult to quantify — the branding it offers," said Yaffe, whose company advertises in various print publications. "The more people see your name, the more their curiosity is piqued and I would rather the call to action take place the sooner the better, to get the best shot at making the sale."

Fair agrees that gauging return on investment is difficult with print advertising. "There are many people who will sit with the magazine next to their computer and type in your domain, but there are more who will be viewing your ad while on the toilet, far from their computer. But the next time that guy is at his computer and sees your banner, he's that much more likely to click it."

For those still a little shy about taking their marketing offline to reach new gay consumers, the web's latest trends offer webmasters new opportunities to reach their target audience. "Blogs are where the eyeballs are today," Fair said.

"They generally offer a narrower focus than TGPs and link lists so the traffic they get can be super targeted. Find those blogs with interests similar to your site's, and work with them to feature your material and banners."

Blogs A Hot Space
Yaffe agrees that blogs offer a hot marketing space and thinks those along with other new trends will create new pools of consumers.

"I think blogs are in their infancy and will continue to evolve, as will review sites," he said. "I think consumers are getting much more savvy about which blogs and review sites are written with the intent on informing and entertaining vs. being solely self-indulgent cyber infomercials but the most growth and the next frontier, I believe, is in the social networking arena."

Though many people complain about TGPs, Turner said they are still a top marketing tool due to the mass amounts of traffic they can generate.

"We've found that the type of traffic from most TGPs is looking [at] and enjoying free porn every day, so the conversions are harder to make," she said. "It is because of the extreme traffic that they can generate that enough of it converts to make it worthwhile for the TGP owners, the affiliates that post to them and the companies providing those galleries in promotion of their companies."

The opportunities to reach gay consumers are out there, and largely untapped. Webmasters willing to put in the extra effort to reach them will most likely be rewarded with a continuous flow of new customers.

"The gay market expands as the gay population expands, which is related to an overall expanding consumer market," Sommer said. "The day the consumer market starts to shrink then we will talk about a tapped-out gay market."


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