What can Affiliate Marketers Learn from the Decline of Online Porn

Updated on | By | Under the Category Affiliate Marketing

Sex sells, right? Well, not necessarily. Especially not if you’re selling standard website porn. That’s right, you read that right-sex isn’t selling as much online as before. Don’t get me wrong. I am not at all saying that people aren’t interested in online porn. They are. In fact, the traffic to certain types of online sites are exploding. Interest and traffic are not the problem.

The problem is that people are buying less and less memberships to traditional online porn sites. Some are paying webcam shows with sex performers via webcam but this is a mere fraction of the huge number of people who are simply sucking up all that free porn content from tube sites. To diagnose the problem, let me take you to a quick trip through online porn memory lane so you can see how online erotica’s peculiar evolution led to its sales decline.

The first online porn sites were not porn sites at all-unless you want to call crappy pages with badly cropped grainy pictures ‘porn sites.’ When you click any of those pictures, you aren’t taken to a large version. Instead, you are taken to another site that has its own list of sites and text links. Click on those and you are, you guessed it, taken to yet another site. Welcome to the Circle Jerk or CJ for short. CJ sites were the default standard porn site format from 1996 to circa 2000. The business model? Very simple-the would be porn viewer gets so tired of clicking around trying to get a look at free content that he clicks on an ad and buys a subscription. CJ sites were brutally effective.

By 2000, the industry had changed, TGPs or MGPs became big. Thumbnail Gallery Posts (TGPs) or Movie Gallery Posts (MGPs) delivered what CJs teased. Their thumbnails actually led to large pictures or short videos. The business model? Offer enough of a sample to get the reader excited to want to buy a membership. This model worked quite well but there was a disturbing trend-more and more sites offered more and more pictures or longer videos. Eventually, the free samples giveaways evolved into today’s default method for selling porn online-tube sites. Patterned after Youtube, these sites feature full-featured adult videos. That’s right-where MGPs previously offered short 10-second clips, it is not uncommon to find 30 minute to even 1 hour full movies on tube sites. The business model? Well, nobody would want to buy a membership because they already have the full movies. After all, why buy the cow when you get its milk for free? The business model for tube sites vary from webcams subscriptions to adult dating sites to penis enlargement offers. One thing is clear though, these offers aren’t making as much money or volume as actually selling adult content memberships.

Online adult went through a dizzying fall from glory. From huge volumes of monthly recurring cash from video/picture site subscriptions to one time sales for webcam shows or one time penis pill or penis pump sales. Dating sites pay well but they have become so saturated that proportionally few tube visitors buy memberships on them. All that money spent on hosting fees only to get cents on the dollar on cam, dating, or enhancement sites. What went wrong? What can mainstream non-adult marketers learn from online porn’s decline?

Lesson #1: You Train your Website Visitors

By jerking people around, adult sites laid the seeds of the attitude people now have with tube sites and torrent sites-if it is free, they’ll grab it and never pay for adult content again. CJ sites and TGPs trained people to expect more and more free stuff until there was nothing left to give and tube sites gave it away. Mainstream marketers can learn from this by offering solid value that focuses on ‘free’ content that only makes paid content more valuable. Never give away the farm! Don’t frustrate your target customers by highlighting the unique value of paid solutions.

Lesson #2: Past Innovation can only Take you so Far

Online porn had a reputation as the foundry of cutting edge website technology. The operative word here is ‘had.’ As in past tense. While porn popularized key online tech like affiliate marketing, video, cookie-based content tracking, it has since been eclipsed in the innovation department by social media sites, mobile, and other technology platforms and content sources. Mainstream marketers must always stay ahead of the curve by being relevant with the latest technology.

Lesson #3: Canned Content can only Take you so Far

When you give away canned (filmed once, sell many times) content, you don’t give your customers any incentive to pay for that content if they see full length ‘samples’ of it. Why bother? The genie is out of the bottle. Plus, thanks to prevalence of torrent and P2P services, people who get ‘hooked’ by one free video out of a series featured on a tube site can easily find the rest of the series for free thanks to torrents. Mainstream marketers can learn from this sorry experience by actively policing illegal copies of their intellectual property. Have those DMCA take down notices handy! Also, offer coaching or Skype-based training services which are hard to capture, record, and share since they are so specific to certain customer situations and needs.

Lesson #4: Shady Billing Practices Distorts Customer Expectations

The reason many adult affiliate programs were able to pay affiliates $35 for every $19.95 subscription is the fact that when a subscriber whips out his credit card to get a $19.95 subscription, he is actually being automatically enrolled to two, three, or four other adult content programs. These ‘cross sell’ programs are also recurring programs that first charge $1 then, after three days, rebill to $39.95. The site the subscriber joined can pay $35 to affiliates because it makes $20 or more with every cross sale.

Indeed, factoring in the add-on value of popups, cross sales, and recurring memberships that the subscriber forgot to cancel, the affiliate program can earn $100 or more per subscription. Not a bad profit margin. Understandably, Visa cracked down on these shenanigans in recent years. This vaporized many adult programs. What can mainstream marketers learn? Avoid shady infinity programs and deliver solid value through transparent sales pages. Thankfully, the long refund periods employed by programs like Clickbank nip this issue in the bud.

If you are making a decent income online, you would do well to avoid the sad lessons offered by the decline of online porn. Otherwise, you might end up training your site visitors to distrust you, devalue your content, or paint yourself in a corner.

About the Author: Lewis Crutch

As the administrator of Marketing Bees, Lewis Crutch manages all of the free advice and tips available here on the Marketing Bees blog as well as spending time putting together in-depth marketing related courses covering a wide range of topics including email, content and social media marketing.

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