Fractured Fairytales

Tom Hymes
A column or two ago, I postulated that those already established in the online adult biz should be looking over their shoulders because the video guys — meaning the studios — are coming online with a vengeance. My thought at the time was that many, if not most, of the studios would make good on the Internet and cause more than a little pain for those already there.

I admit that my prognostication was simplistic and general, in the sense that many of the larger studios already have an online presence, but I came to it because of all the conversations I have been having with traditional guys who finally realize that the old days are never coming back. I just figured that tough and motivated businessmen would by definition be a force to be reckoned with.

I might have been wrong. I now think that a lot of these guys — and gals — don't have a clue what they're doing and are going to get creamed. In fact, it could be a bloodbath. Of course, in reality it will be a mixed bag. Some of the smarter video content producers, retailers and distributors will successfully transition their brands online without sacrificing their current model, and will also be able to assimilate their brand into the affiliate network without losing too much market share and money in the process.

But many will not, and it isn't going to be pretty.

Now, we all know that there's a lot of bullshit slung these days by companies both online and offline about how well they are doing and how confident they are that they will be able to survive and thrive in a downturn that is apparently affecting everyone but them. Let me repeat that the online guys — the webmasters — are as guilty of this as anyone, and maybe even more than their old-school counterparts. Despite a universe of data that can be derived about traffic and conversions, it is still absurdly easy to make claims about both that are virtually impossible for anyone without access to server logs to prove or disprove. Individual affiliates know how well they are doing with particular programs, but the bigger picture is still hard if not impossible to accurately assess.

Still, the fact remains that pain is being felt across the board, and there are few if any stand-alone options that bring any measure of solace. Starting up an affiliate program from scratch based even on established DVD content is no walk in the park. In many ways it's like starting a new company. As the market for pornography increases, and make no mistake that it is increasing, the playing field will continue to level, which is a good thing for those of us who think the old order was built on favoritism based on greasing the wheels rather than quality.

My advice to those just starting to dip their toes into the sweet water of the Internet is to proceed with caution. Make inquiries about individuals or companies you are considering to run your affiliate program. Don't enter into long-term contracts too soon. And make damn sure that whoever is running your program lets you see your own traffic and conversion stats. If they don't for any reason whatsoever, fire them as soon as you have gained control of all your data and passwords. They're probably stealing from you.