Creative Content Buying

Cheryl Cain
With today's slim profit margins, website owners are under increasing pressure to lower operating costs and increase revenues. Competition has always been tight, but these days it seems almost suffocating as you try to bring the best content to your site presentations, and ultimately gain market share in your particular niche. Many operations rely heavily on nonexclusive content as a low-cost alternative to custom work, and why not? Nonexclusive materials are low cost, plentiful and relatively easy to find. Refer to any industry resource site and you'll find business directories teaming with content brokers peddling their wares.

While licensed, nonexclusive materials make for excellent filler material that affords a good return on investment (ROI), there still remains the need for good custom production that is unique enough to catch the eye of the surfer. Most experienced website owners will tell you that among other factors, good exclusive or limited circulation materials are paramount to capturing and retaining today's veteran consumers. However, in today's tough marketplace, that pursuit inevitably turns to a question of affordability. For well-established websites that have already built a loyal customer following, the expense of custom materials is something they are used to and for the most part, have already factored into their operating budgets. If you are a new guy on the block or a member of the "average Joe" class, as many of us have been at one point or another, listen up; I am going to give you some ideas to help level the playing field a bit.

Our brick and mortar counterparts in mainstream retail have developed associations collectively known as "Purchasing Cooperatives." Essentially, these are purchasing entities that combine the resources of several merchants to put them into a better pricing range by virtue of bulk purchases. These alliances allow them to better compete with retail industry giants, whom, of course, far outclass them in purchasing power. By combining funds to source their products, they reduce overhead and get better prices on resale merchandise, thereby lowering their investment liability. In the world of brick and mortar resale, inter-association competitiveness is controlled by the geographical separation of the merchants. This is why you will often find several cooperatives operating within the same region, so they are not beating themselves up with their own local competition. After all, their goal is to level the playing field with the giants of the industry, not to make it difficult on themselves.

This technique can be adapted to the adult industry to purchase limited circulation or custom materials, on at least two different levels. Not unlike our retail cousins, small private arrangements between site owners can contract studios and photographers for production that fits their needs. In the first case, four or five site owners could combine to finance a shoot with a big name model and reputable photographer for a fraction of what they could do on their own. In the case of same-niche materials, this would be known as "limited circulation" material as the contract could be crafted to allow the commercial use by only the buyers involved. In addition, proper coordination of a model's "day rates" and studio time can be used to produce a quantity of production that could either be addressed as limited circulation or even as exclusive by an agreement that further lowers your bottom line.

In the second case, models these days are fairly versatile. The combination of participating sites could consist of owners operating in different niches. Again, utilizing day rates and studio contracts, the shooting time could be sectioned off as equal time amongst the niches. This is often of excellent value to the cooperation as the resulting materials would not be directly competitive, in effect constituting an exclusive shoot for each niche. While a little more costly than the previous example, there would still be substantial savings over the costs that would apply on an individual basis.

The basis for these private cooperatives can often be found on the many industry boards that serve the adult webmaster community. While I have heard of several studios that organize split time options for custom work, I have not run across a single example of an ongoing established cooperative, which I find to be surprising given the expense of creating top-notch content today. These associations are normally private in nature and the key to developing these business ties is a simple as participation in the industry forums. I have participated in several such buys over the years and in every case, those associations were established via personal networking on the industry boards. The industry boards were established with business networking in mind and in my humble opinion, they are under-utilized in that regard. Getting involved on the boards can be an invaluable resource, and in time, you'll be surprised at the many ways these kinds of interpersonal networking can benefit even the largest of operations.

Premium custom content on a small budget can really be just a matter of creative networking. Proven methods such as what I have presented here can help keep your paysite on a level playing field with the big boys if applied in a common sense business arrangement. As with any kind of business, innovative ideas are often the difference between winners and losers. Keeping your mind open to newer concepts in doing business will help you increase your bottom line.