After years of intense legal adversity, Gary Kremen, the rightful owner of the Sex.com domain, and his dedicated staff have all come out winners, and non-worse for the wear.
In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court put to rest the ongoing, six-year legal tussle over the domain Sex.com by rejecting the appeal of Stephen Michael Cohen, an ex-con found to have illegally hijacked the domain.
Kremen won another court victory in July of this year allowing him to sue VeriSign for liable after illegally transferring his domain name. But for now, Sex.com is back on its feet and has quickly moved up the adult food chain as one of the premier domestic and international search providers for paid advertisers.
XBiz: Now that Sex.com has finally settled down after such a long legal battle to retain its domain name, how are things going?
RR: There's no question that we fought the good fight. Things are really great. The amount of adversity that Gary (Kremen) has endured is really proof of his success. If you think about it, he had the unluckiest draw on the web. You've got to be a very special type of person to be able to fight all of that. A lot of people would have given up. But Gary is a fighter. He's got a lot of leadership and a team of some really great guys and gals.
XBiz: What has the growth rate been like for Sex.com over the past year and a half?
RR: Things are really booming. We have thousands of active advertisers right now. There are so many people involved in the adult industry and we are still meeting new sites and companies and figuring out how to best serve such a huge, huge space. Our recent focus on developing international markets has really spread us out more than ever and made Sex.com a global adult search site unlike any competing sites out there.
XBiz: Where do you and the team at Sex.com see the momentum going in the domestic and international markets?
RR: Being a big search engine, we find a lot of momentum in areas that we previously used to think were narrow. I wouldn't say the market here is tapped out, but overseas the Internet is where it was years ago for the U.S. The growth potential is enormous. People are just now getting online and by being better equipped to serve certain regions, we can offer our advertisers and users a much better, more efficient service.
XBiz: How is Sex.com able to transcend language barriers?
RR: Because of the IP search address technology we use, we can get very region-specific and get listings on whatever type of service or product a consumer is looking for, regardless of where they are. By determining a user's IP address, we can locate which country and city they are logging in from and then we can send then directly to one of our international sites like China.sex.com, or Italy.sex.com. All totaled, we have more than a hundred countries in our search engine.
When someone comes to Sex.com with an IP address that is in Switzerland, they can get something regional, which is a really great service for the user and the advertiser seeking to cross language barriers. If you have a German dating site, it probably isn't doing you much good to have people in Idaho looking at it. Although in some cases, that might be the idea. But that way we allow our advertisers to target exactly that area.
Like for instance, we've been really working with our gay area lately, and now we are able to offer gay listings that are city and region-specific for our visitors in dozens of different countries. It really sets us apart.
The wonderful thing about database technology is there are so many different ways to sort information, present it, and target it. The technology team at Sex.com never ceases to amaze me.
XBiz: How are you coping with international billing issues?
RR: In terms of how we deal with different currencies, we don't sell anything directly, but we help our advertisers. We try to be good business advisors for them. It's interesting when you work with companies over the years, you start to see what you can do to be more successful in the industry.
Right now dialers are very popular in the international space, which enable users to pay per minute. It's similar to phone sex. In Europe, where the Euro is used, electronic checks are big.
As we all know, different countries have different popular billing methods and that poses a challenge. Credit cards aren't as popular in Europe, although a card like Diners Club is often used for online purchases. To serve our international market, we try and focus on alternate billing methods. The international user is also more apt to bill things to their cell phone, if the carrier allows it, so we work with a lot of micro-billing options.
XBiz: What is the future of the convergence between domestic and international?
RR: (An amused sigh) We could arrange a giant betting pool. European countries all had their own currencies and then the Euro came along. If there is one industry that will figure it out, it will be ours, that's for sure. There is no question that some of the best marketers and the most creative people work in this space.
XBiz: What countries are at the forefront of globalizing the adult entertainment industry?
RR: Well, for starters, there is our neighbor Canada. Sex.com has recently begun separating out Canadian clients because there is a real demand for region-specific services. The letters 'XXX' transcend so many language barriers, you would be surprised.
Greece, Germany, France, Spain have all been leaders in terms of demand for adult entertainment services. The ten most popular English search terms in Spain are 'Sex,''XXX,' and Live Sex. The UK is a very aggressive online territory in the competitive bidding zone of the pay-per-click search engine. Traffic is very competitive. Central America is a bigger area going forward. Although the amount of Internet usage that people have there is very limited, and if you actually have a computer, there is most likely a privacy issue for people wanting to view porn. Asia is another very interesting area of huge growth. There is definitely a lot of traffic and curiosity in Asia.
XBiz: Tell us about Sex.com's mainstream alternate?
RR: About a year ago we established a mainstream search engine called Galaxy Search for non-adult related sites. It's been doing great and has developed quite a following. Prior to Galaxy Search, people would search around Sex.com for adult terms, but after a while they would start to type in mainstream terms. It has really helped us a lot to offer advertisers a second revenue package so that Sex.com can run their adult listings and then Galaxy can handle their mainstream listings.
XBiz: Any secrets Sex.com can share with webmasters or anyone trying to make a decent living in this industry?
RR: The nice thing about adult on the Internet is that people can start a small company and grow it and make really good money. This is a pretty great thing considering our economy is on the skids and there have been so many business failures. But the adult entertainment industry is a great place to make a web business that works because it is a cash-oriented business. I think in many ways adult companies have grown so rapidly because typically they don't go in for venture capital money and get weighted down by debt early on.
With sites like Salon.com, the thing that saved them from going all the way down was to turn into a subscription, fee-based system. Whereas any adult webmaster knows they have content and can attract paying consumers. It took Salon $30 million dollars to figure out what we in adult already know.
XBiz: What is Sex.com's key to customer retention?
RR: Every visitor is worth getting to know.