Gay Webmaster Crossfire at Cybernet Expo

Gretchen Gallen
SAN DIEGO – Is your own sexuality crucial to understanding and being successful in the gay website market? That was the question posed by Quentin Boyer of TopBucks at one of the opening seminars of Trade Show Productions' Cybernet Expo 2004 at the Hyatt Regency Islandia. The event, now in its seventh year, was partnered by YNOT.

While attendance was significantly lower than the previous seminar on traffic, panelists and attendees were fully committed to discussing whether you have to be gay to make a gay site successful.

The answer was mixed, coming from both gay and straight webmasters who have found success in the gay market. But the ultimate response was that getting feedback from gay and lesbian men and women is crucial to marketing gay content, otherwise, it’s a shot in the dark that will never penetrate the gay market.

Panelists included Patrick Curran of CCBill, Clark Chambers of NicheBucks, Jim Ruga of YNOT, Hammer of PornSitePros and GaySite4Sale, and Joe of Stiffy Cash.

While some panelists felt that the most crucial aspect of marketing a successful gay site had to do with the content itself, others felt the success of a gay site depends largely on acceptance within the gay community; a goal that only will be achieved by becoming part of what many webmasters feel is a closed circle.

“You have to learn the secret handshake,” joked Curran, who then went on to express how intimidating it had been to mingle with the straight webmaster community when he first got his start.

“Overall though, gay webmasters are very warm and welcoming,” he said.

“There isn’t a gay mafia, but there certainly is an inclination to involve yourself with people who are part of that life and can share it more quickly,” said Chambers.

“The answer to marketing effectively is in traffic conversions, regardless of who is marketing the content,” said Hammer of PornSitePros, who urged webmasters to be sensitive to the niche, to understand the audience, and to provide content that is earnest and not what is crudely known as “search and replace marketing,” a tactic known by many straight sites as a way of merely taking content and transferring it directly over into gay without paying mind to the subtleties of market demand.

“Gay men like erotic stories and straight men don’t,” Hammer continued. “Gay tours have more text because gay men like it, just like women who like romance. You can’t take a gay site and design it like a straight site.”

Curran urged webmasters to seek out likeminded webmasters when it comes to building a gay site from scratch or building on a preexisting site with gay content.

“If you know the right people and build up contacts within the industry, it’s a lot easier to come into the gay industry,” Curran said. “People like to generalize us, but it still comes down to the traffic. If it converts, it’s because someone knows what gay guys are looking for.”

Panelists agreed that gay sites tend to garner extreme loyalty from users and a significantly lower tendency toward chargebacks.

The reason, said Curran, is because gay men who have come out of the closet tend to be confident in their sexuality and identities enough to know what they like and are less likely to change their minds after the fact.

“If you’re out of the closet, it’s already a major step,” Curran said. “A gay man is less likely to incur a chargeback. He might argue about the content, but not the charge. Gay guys are more picky because they’ve accepted who they are.”

Another point made by panelists is that gay men tend to share knowledge of websites more readily than their heterosexual counterparts. This, panelists agreed, had more to do with the nature of the gay community and the way in which both types of men experienced their sexuality.

“How many time have you been to a website that you liked and shared it with your friends?” asked Ruga. “But gay guys are more open to discussing it.”

One audience member added that posting content on the boards for feedback was a sure fire way of getting a response from the gay webmaster community and really knowing whether there is a market out there.

However, traffic conversions, quality, and originality aside, understanding the market, the consumer, and the community is crucial to success in the gay market, panelists said.

One audience member tossed in that branding is very important to the gay community, as is loyalty, and that those two factors combined are key to success.

“The gay community tends to support gay and lesbian-operated businesses,” the audience member said. “It’s not just a price thing, but a way of helping our own.” That tradition, the person pointed out, carries over into porn and everyday life alike.

Curran added: “You don’t have to be gay, but it would be to your benefit to have someone gay look at your site and give it their feedback.”