Surviving The Times

Cheryl Cain
In a time of new regulations, sponsors cutting back on materials offered to affiliates and lingering questions surrounding the newly expanded 2257 regulations, affiliate programs are rightly very concerned about where their businesses are headed. Specifically, webmasters must forge a plan to compete with their mostly unrestricted counterparts outside the reach of the DOJ and still avoid the potential land mines that the expanded regulations entail.

Regulation advocates, and indeed some sponsor programs, feel this new era in the industry may actually be a great benefit in terms of reduced competition, thereby increasing profitability. Be that as it may, the concern of many affiliate-based operators is competitiveness as they watch sponsors pull back on racier content in favor of a distinctively softer variety of adult material while at the same time seeing very little change in foreign competition.

The gut feeling that most of the U.S.-based affiliate operators worry about can be summed up in one webmaster's post that writes, "You can not compete Apples to Apples when our entry in the contest is forced to take on the shape of a pear." Obviously, the unrestricted trade outside of US jurisdiction is a primary concern to U.S.-based affiliate operators and no amount of silver linings or "glass is half-full" thinking will change that concern.

As with any change of operating rules, it takes some element of planning and strategic thinking to adapt your programs. Even as huge amount of links are coming up as a "404" on your listings, there are still things you can do to stay in control of your programs and keep them competitive. For one, make sure you seek out the sponsor programs that are being innovative in meeting the challenge, by supplying either the appropriate documentation, or completely hosting the "tease" on their domains. However, in the latter case, that doesn't help you where you take the traffic hunt to outside listings in an attempt to pull traffic to your hub operations. In accomplishing that, the smart webmaster is going to need to be a little more proactive.

Consider getting a little more involved in the licensing game. Non-exclusive and limited circulation materials are abundantly available with minor investment. In this manner you will be able to keep your content intensity more in line with the audience you want to attract, and have the added value of being able to compete with out of the USA interests who are not affected by the DOJ regulations. This will give you the ability to put more competitive materials out in the link list market and get that traffic back to your hub operations where the sponsor supplied out-links can do their job. Finding this material is not very hard, as most decent resource boards maintain an exhaustive listing of content providers from which to choose.

Going this licensing route also adds a dimension to your base line profits as you can also now sell those materials in other programs such as the pay per view (PPV) market. Programs such as PayAsYouClick allow you to sell views to those materials by image and by gallery, directly to consumers, thereby providing a means to recoup your expenses when licensing materials. Additionally, with programs like that, there are additional affiliate-based options available that can be profitable in and of themselves.

A word of caution here; by licensing content for your own use, you must be certain to obtain and retain the appropriate documentation. Be certain when pursuing this route that you deal with a reputable content broker who is going to provide you what you need up front with the sale. Be aware that going this route falls squarely under the definition of a "Secondary Producer" in regards to the terms of the expanded 2257 regulations. Make sure you take heed of the records keeping requirements. As with any adult venture, it is highly advisable that you consult with competent legal council to learn your obligations under this and other laws. The last thing any one of us wants to do is become the "poster child" for any government responsibility campaign.

In summary, the sky is really not falling as it has been suggested across many a panic-driven webmaster posting, although the game has become substantially trickier to navigate. Changes in any business, adult or otherwise, have always wreaked havoc with the most carefully laid plans. The difference between a winner and a loser often comes down to how we handle industry changes when they happen. The loser may spend his time whining and moaning, bucking the change as if it was an end-all apocalypse while the winner will carefully weigh his options and how he can use the changes to his advantage. Many industry experts believe the new regulations are flawed, and that legal actions currently underway will at the very least force some yet unseen changes to these codes. But legal proceeding such as these can go on for months and even years before they come to a conclusion. Yes, I agree, help the fight when and where you can, but in the meantime, I would submit that we cannot wait for the battle dust to clear. My suggestion is to get a grip, make a plan and get back into the game before the game leaves you behind...