Why do people pay for porn on the internet, when you can get so much for free?

It’s a fair question. But before you can answer it, it’s important to understand that there are two different kinds of pay-for-porn sites on the internet.

The first kind, the kind that I find most interesting, is the kind that has exclusive, unique content. These sites either shoot their own pictures and video to get the stuff they want to sell, or they work with a producer who is willing to sell porn to them (and them only) for the paysite’s exclusive use.

Paying for that kind of porn is pretty much a no-brainer, if it’s the kind of porn you like. It only comes from one place, and if you pay, you get it fresh and served up complete, at the best available resolutions, properly labeled and with any supporting prose that may come with it. Sure, all that content will be everywhere on the internets next week, but you’ll have to hunt it down piecemeal, deal with short clips and incomplete photosets and generally have a lower quality experience. Lots of folks have the money to get what they want, when they want it, in the best available format. Subscriptions make sense for that, and that’s the target market for the paysite ads and affiliate links you’ll usually find some of on ErosBlog.

And then there’s the other kind of paysite, the cookie cutter kind. There are a metric buttload of these out there. These sites buy non-exclusive photos and video from all kinds of porn distributors, throw them up behind three or four custom “tour” pages, and start selling subscriptions. These sites may or may not ever get updated, but your credit card rebills will continue until you cancel (not always a smooth and easy process).

Why do people sign up for these? Really, two answers. The first is instant gratification — they generally do have a small pile of porn behind the pay gate that matches what’s on the tour. If you just want to see that, your seven dollar trial is no different than buying a magazine based on liking the cover. Assuming you are good about canceling after the trial, it could make sense.

The second answer, of course, is lack of market sophistication. You could be confusing the cookie cutter sites with the “real thing” — and hope, or imagine, that you’ll find an updated supply of quality porn inside once you’ve ponied up. A lot of the cookie cutter sites market themselves very aggressively, and there’s real potential for market confusion.

The purpose of this post is to share with my readers a revealing Ebay auction, which is marketing the remnants of an adult webmaster business featuring those cookie cutter sites. (If you don’t have access to the adult areas on Ebay, the seller references “full details” on the adult webmaster boards, and a quick search turns up this alternate link.)

Basically, what’s for sale is an affiliate program and the mostly empty shell of fourteen cookie-cutter paysites, only one of which is being sold with the dirty pictures that make it a going concern. The real assets are the domains (mostly pretty poor quality from an investment standpoint, like hungarianxxx.com), the email lists (emails of former and current customers, emails of former and current affiliates), the traffic to the domains, and a flow of “rebills” from existing customers.

What makes this auction interesting to me is the implicit admission in several places that the sites themselves are worthless shit. The quotes below give you the flavor:

Here’s some info about EZA Cash. After a decade in the business, I want to get out of owning adult sites and focus on my freelance writing and other ventures. I’m not looking for a fortune for these sites. The exclusive content that comes with CumFacedAsians cost around $10k to shoot and the design of that site was another $2k by one of the top designers in the biz at the time (Michael Alden/Zaynee Creations). It converts very nicely when the tour is updated regularly.

[I believe that's code for "If the tour pages are changed regularly so that folks don't realize this is the same site they harvested all the dirty pictures from four months ago." -- Bacchus]

EZA Cash is a CCBill affiliate program that was opened in 2003 with the launch of CumFacedAsians. More sites were added on a regular basis until the current lineup of 14 paysites was reached. The affiliate program currently has over 3,000 webmasters signed up, and we haven’t e-mailed these affiliates with hosted galleries or encouraged them to send traffic since 2005. Still, there is plenty of affiliate traffic coming to the sites and that would greatly increase with a couple of mailings and some fresh promo material. CumFacedAsians, the flaship site, has 10 exclusive 30 minute bj videos and 10 exclusive photo sets (all of the content used in the design elements of the tour is exclusive, so this site wouldn’t need redesigned to be usable).

[The guy has been operating for four years with just five hours of video and ten photosets. Such a value for members! -- Bacchus]

The rest of the paysites on EZA Cash are non-exclusive and I do not have the rights to transfer that content, nor do I wish to try to negotiate those rights. I am selling the domains and traffic ONLY, no content or designs. To summarize, the only designs included with this auction are CumFacedAsians and ezacash.com. You do not get designs or content for any of the other paysite domains I’m including. The buyer will have to use their own content and designs to quickly throw up new hosted galleries and paysites on these domains in order to keep from losing traffic.

[Translation: Any old shit will do, that's all that's ever been there. -- Bacchus]

There are 70 active members on the CCBill account right now rebilling at $19.95-24.95 a month, plus new members still sign up on a daily basis. The retention of these new members is very low (most cancel their trials), so a new members area should increase revenue by quite a large margin.

Gross sales (not including upsells, ads in the members area, cross-sales, pop-ups, etc. – base CCBill memberships only):

2007 Sales – $13,508.70 (so far)
2006 – $36,057.40
2005 – $50,548.30 (Stopped updating and working on the sites in 2005)
2004 – $65,388.11
2003 – $50,935.71 (Year the sites were opened)

Basically, you are buying some nice domains, some traffic, a CCBill account with rebilling members, 10 exclusive Asian videos and photo sets, and a nice amount of existing affiliates.

I find the economics fascinating. Stopped all work on the sites two years ago, still has seventy poor suckers whose credit cards are rebilling monthly, still gets new suckers signing up every day, but the cookie cutter sites are so obviously stale and dead that most cancel immediately.

And yet, this is funny, too, because of the small-scale thinking. It’s not dishonest or a scam, exactly, but it’s a line of work akin to direct mail advertising; sell something cheap and almost worthless for quite a bit more than it’s worth, pocket profits, work like hell to find new suckers because none of your one-time customers turn into regular customers, which as every businessman knows is where the money is. In that kind of business you have to swim hard just to stay even, and if you ever stop swimming (rounding up new suckers) you sink like a rock. Real paysites, with real exclusive quality content, make money on an entirely different scale.

Note that the owner is getting out of the business to “focus on his freelance writing.” Which is the employment equivalent of a federal cabinet member resigning “to spend more time with my family” or a pretty girl turning you down for dinner on Friday night because she “has to wash her hair.”

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