opinion

Straights Targeting Gays

Stephen Yagielowicz
"Going gay" — it's an increasingly common choice today for many adult webmasters; and one more often born of economic necessity rather than sexual preference. It's a matter of economic necessity as it is a lucrative yet under-served market segment — a rarity given the pervasive over-saturation seen in other market segments. It also is a choice that is not always based on sexual preference, as more and more straight webmasters are exploring the possibilities of marketing to a gay audience.

But is the transition or expansion of one's operation from exclusively straight content to include offerings for the gay market as simple as saying "I think I'll start a gay site"?

The answer, in my opinion, depends on your approach, your goals and your sensitivities.

My first attempt at reaching a gay audience was in the mid- '90s, when I added a section to my old AVS hub, The Smut Factory, that I called "The Locker Room." While visually it shared common elements with the rest of the site, including a black background, I was unable to resist the urge to use little pink triangles as bullet points and that cute animated "rainbow effect" horizontal rule that was so popular back then. This was my attempt to "reach out and relate to" my newfound audience.

This page wasn't marketed outside my hub but was intended to act as a filter for the gay, bisexual and "curious" traffic that I was sure was passing through my site. It was a very simple page that presented links to the gay sites my "regular" sponsors offered, as well as links to gay chat rooms, games, puzzles and other free gay content plugins that I was able to find online. The tagline read, "Welcome to The Locker Room: here's your chance to meet the boys — just don't drop your soap!"

I know, call me "Mr. Sensitive."

My primary motivation in creating The Locker Room was in trying to be as all-inclusive as possible in my offerings, and while I offered no real gay content on the site, I felt that it was important to be a 'one-stop shop' for my site's visitors — and hoped to see a few new signups coming in from my sponsors as well — confident as I was that my sponsors would be better at reaching and marketing to a gay audience than I would be and all that I had to do was to point these visitors in the right direction. I wasted no more time on this project — and the results showed. But hey, it was the '90s and my straight site sales were easy, so it was no big deal.

New Marketplace
Fast-forward a decade and into an entirely different marketplace. Sales are no longer easy to come by and new methods must be explored and old ideas revisited. The Smut Factory is slowly evolving once again, and its final incarnation may be a text-only TGP/MGP network that includes 28 categories of gay adult — this time without the pink triangles and rainbow page separators. The approach is less condescending, but the goal is the same: to be an all-inclusive directory of adult entertainment, pointing surfers in the right direction and filling my mailbox with checks from my sponsors.

It's a nice plan, but one that almost came into being without a gay component. I'm not gay, so why would I have gay pages and what qualifies me to do so even if I wanted to? This is what I asked myself, and the answer was simple: The Smut Factory has more than 200 categories of adult content on tap; many of which I don't understand, most of which I could care less about — but many of the folks passing through will be able to find what they want, no matter how obscure the content may be — and that's the point of being all-inclusive. After all, if I opened a restaurant, I'd offer broccoli on the menu; despite the fact that I loathe the sight, smell and taste of this nasty little vegetable.

Such should be the case with all webmasters contemplating the opening of a new site, gay or not, or the expansion into a new niche: While devotees of a specific genre may better present and market a specific type of material, it isn't, for example, really necessary to adore fat chicks in order to open a plumper site — though doubtless BBW fans could do a better job of it — and so it goes with straight webmasters operating gay sites.

I'm by no means the only straight operator looking for profits from the gay consumer. XBIZ moderator Vendzilla, widely known for his niche TGP offerings, recently acquired N2Gay.com and after sitting on the domain for a while, decided to launch another TGP.

"I don't even pretend to understand gay content and I really didn't want to even look at it, but I'm running a business, a porn business, and this is one of the bigger aspects of porn today," Vendzilla said.

Vendzilla hired a designer who had never built a gay site before, showed him a site that he wanted to copy in layout only, and then told him to use bright pinks and purples, which made for a pretty loud design.

"I started a couple trades and only fed maybe 10 hits an hour to it from another source," Vendzilla said. "Overnight, the site was getting over 1,000 hits a day with a productivity of over 300 percent at times."

An impressive level of growth by any standards, but a level not unheard of in the gay marketplace: "I believe that given a couple more months, this will be the biggest TGP I run," Vendzilla said, pointing out the potential of his first gay site.

As more and more webmasters look further from their core offerings in hopes of finding the profits they seek, an increasing number will opt to serve the gay market. Some will have more success than others, but no one should be afraid to try.

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