What I Learned From Being A Geek In The Adult Industry

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Today’s post is by Brad Gosse, a self-taught marketer from Ontario, Canada. Brad started his web business in 1997, and has learned a lot from an unexpected source: his work as a self-professed geek in the adult industry.

Before Google, Paypal, Clickbank and even before Facebook, at the very start of the web, there was adult entertainment.

Adult entertainment was the main driver of early Internet technology. Streaming video, credit card processing, cheap web hosting even affiliate programs were all pioneered by adult companies. As everyone knows, sex sells!

That’s where I got my start.

In the late 1990s, if you wanted to make money online, the easy road was to sell adult content. I was a webmaster and I knew how to build and manage websites but it was hard to find people willing to pay for such services.

So I built a really small porn site, then another, and before I knew it my girlfriend (now wife Claire) and I had built thousands of adult websites, each generating traffic and revenue.

That’s what we did for over 10 years. Adult entertainment.

Before you picture me with a giant mustache and hairy chest banging porn stars, I will tell you we just did the geek work. Not even behind the scenes. More like after the scenes, using licensed content already shot by studios. I would pay about $200 for the rights to put a full adult VHS/DVD on my website and anywhere from $0.01 to $4 per image.

This content either generated traffic and entice people to pay for more or was offered as members only product. We were a true mom and pop porn company. Super affiliates generating an awesome income out of a country house with a dial up connection in the Canadian boonies.

One of the high points was sitting in the #1 position for “porn” on Google back in 2007. This model worked well until the free line was pushed too far. Which happens in many categories.

Today we still live in the house. But we no longer rely on dial-up (we get high speed internet off a 100′ tower) and we don’t do much in the adult entertainment business anymore.

What I learned in that business was extremely valuable. Buy and/or create content assets whenever possible.

In 10 years I spent over a million dollars licensing adult images, movies, live streams and chat-rooms for my customers.

Lessons Learned

Now that my business is mostly mainstream I am the one selling the licenses. By hiring artists in the Philippines to create licensable images for designers.

As someone who has been slapped by Google I am not a fan of the Adsense model that seems to be so popular on Flippa. There are too many variables beyond my control. I would take a site with real customers and commerce over one where one company provides the traffic and the revenue with a shaky TOS at best.

So recently I decided to test my licensing model, and everything I’d learned from my days in the porn industry, on the Flippa buyer community.

I had just hired a new cartoonist and he was not quite drawing people in the style I wanted. He wasn’t doing a bad job, he just wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted. So I decided to let him continue for a month so I could build a “flippable” business.

Normally I sell my graphics on VectorToons.com one at a time. But in this case I decided to offer a bundle of images for a lower price.

By the end of the month I had 317 vector cartoon characters you could use on your websites as mascots, to illustrate points etc.

I took the content, registered a brand new domain, installed analytics, wrote a sales letter, did some basic affiliate recruiting and emailed my list of graphics buyers to take a look at my new bundle offer all in the course of a few days.

The result? Over 800 customers and $15,000 in gross sales within 2 weeks of launching.

More than a website

I wanted to offer my first Flippa buyer a business. Not just a website with articles and ads. So I created one with value.

When I listed VectorsGold.com on Flippa I focused on writing really good copy with a solid “What You Get” section. This is where I focused on the customer list, the graphics ownership, built in affiliates and back end recurring affiliate income.

The second most important section was where I spelled out “What you can do with this”. I knew that people might not see the potential of my listing so I wanted to frame it for them. I pointed out ways to cash in on the assets through third party stock sites, legal action against misusers, converting to grayscale, silhouettes etc.

I knew that people would need as many of these next steps spelled out as possible to make an educated (high) bid. The more you can show people your business has legs going forward the better.

Once I launched my listing I didn’t just let Flippa find buyers. I emailed my own customers, posted on social media and even reached out to my competitors to tell them my site was for sale. I wanted as much action as I could get.

The result was a $9000+ sale and a new partner to work with in future graphics launches. Not bad at all!

Photo Credit: 401(k)2013

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  • http://twitter.com/ThePioneeringPa ThePioneeringParent

    Great article, Brad! I especially like the part about ‘legs going forward’ and I completely agree about AdSense sites.

    • Ophelie

      Our data on website ownership and monetization shows that AdSense took a deep dive last year (see flippa.com/blog/why-adsense-went-to-shit-in-2012/); I wouldn’t be surprised to see many more on the marketplace in 2013.

      • lawrence smith

        so how did you get so many ppl on your list of graphic buyers for your campaign i can see you are against google in some way certainly i can see yourmarketing methods applied to so much you should make marketing coarse

  • http://www.flipinsider.com/ Aspidoff

    The problem is that Google has too much market share. 60% of your business depends on organic traffic and it can disappear overnight should they introduce an algorithm change.

    • Ophelie

      It’s fascinating how a whole industry has grown out of watching Google’s every move, partly because so many people’s entire business relies on that chunk of organic traffic. Pretty scary when you think about it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leimanmika Mika Leiman

      Yes that is exactly the point there is no real competition. About a year a go I was looking at the Google search box when I had the feeling that the emperor didn’t have clothes. My ambitious goal is to change that. I’m currently creating a “appstore” for Internet where sites a ranked by people instead of sites ranking other sites. If interested you can take a look at it from http://www.icat.fi.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.gunther.9 Jason Gunther

    I agree – Google Adsense is slowly loosing steam but mobile is going to start picking up steam.

    • Hybrid Domainer

      Mobile payouts to publishers currently are less than desktop, even Demand Media in their public filings cited this as a business risk for their properties.

  • Josue

    Very inspiring article! But just one question: If the company grossed 15,000 in two weeks, why sell for 9,000?

    • CAJ

      @disqus_MIL0R9u2ug:disqus
      Good point. I too enjoyed the article, but it would not make any sense to sell the website/business for 9K when it grossed 15K in two weeks. Hope Brad or Ophelie can answer that question.

    • Satish Gaire

      Very good point. I see people selling businesses which “make” 10k go for 4k.
      Doesn’t make sense to me.

  • jan

    I thought adult content was forbidden to sell.. i have a website just about to sell juset setup with 1500+ products including lingerie so i am in doubt if it’s allowed to sell at flippa? anyone who can answer that?

  • Vince

    The reason the site would sell for 9k when it made 15k in 2 weeks…. the sales have most likely topped off and reached its max potential. You see when reaching out to a customer base, these 1 time offers, or non consumable products you eventually stop early sales of the same product from that list. In this case my guess is that even though the original poster ran the ad or offer for longer than those 2weeks, there was little to no sales after that, so 15k in 2 wks sounds better than 15k in 6 months — all the sales were made in the 1sr 2 weeks and none after that.

  • Alan Lombardo

    Well-written article indeed! You had taken a great move when it comes to the adult industry. But people need to be more open minded when it comes to it.

    http://www.sydneybrothels.com.au/sydney-hookers/

  • sanju

    I am planning to create a website similar to a blog http://www.ayurvedicherbal.blogspot.com . can any one suggest what could be the value of such health blogs once traffic is flowing?