Download restrictions, rolling archives, high prices, no ZIP files, no full-sized versions, recurring billing, adverts, banner links, forests of TGP sites leading to more sites… sometimes it seems like adult paysites are a minefield of restrictions and attempts to squeeze dollars from you.
Why can’t they just give us good stuff at affordable prices? Why does it have to be so complicated? Here’s my attempt to explain why.
I know I’ve gone on about this a fair bit recently: sorry. I just read a bunch of quite mean-spirited comments about websites on an adult review site and I don’t think the posters really have any idea of why things run this way in website land. It isn’t webmasters being penny-pinching misers sipping champagne in their chateaux. It’s inescapable market forces acting on a whole bunch of small cottage industry producers (especially in specialist niches like bondage and foot fetish).
It takes time, energy and effort to create erotic photos and videos and share them online.
Even the humblest selfie takes a bit of time. No model wants to appear in a picture looking crap, so assume that they’ve done their makeup, found something nice to wear, practiced the pose in the mirror a few times. Then it takes a few seconds to actually shoot.
Then you have to upload to a website, maybe with a bit of editing (even if it is only resizing). You have to spend a little time letting people know it exists, even if that’s only uploading to Facebook, Twitter and Fetlife.
Bandwidth isn’t free- someone has to pay the data carriers whenever that gets downloaded. It could be paid for by the person hosting the site, or by adverts on their site, or by the person downloading… either in cash, or in data collected on you that can be sold to advertisers.
If you launch a little website that’s at all appealing to people, you will rapidly discover that the appetite for free downloads is very large- and the accompanying bandwidth bill from your hosting company can be a real shock to the system, assuming they haven’t cut you off already.
EVERYTHING you see on the web is paid for by somebody, somewhere, in money or in their time. If you aren’t paying for it directly you are paying for it indirectly because they are selling your details and your clicks to people who might persuade you to pay for it.
This isn’t necessarily sinister- it’s just a bit more personal than forcing you to watch advert breaks on TV. But bear in mind that if the service is free, the service isn’t the product the company is selling and you aren’t their customer. The product the company is selling is access to you, and their customers are advertisers and anyone else they think might be able to make a buck from you. That’s why Twitter has just introduced pictures in your timeline without clicking – it paves the way for automatic display of pretty paid adverts.
The main costs of running an adult website are:
- Clothes, shoes, etc.. Bondage Gear, ropes and chains in our case, too.
- Travel, catering, heating, power and other expenses for shoot days
To a first approximation, Content, Editing, Equipment and Web Design are fixed costs. It doesn’t matter if you have one member or one thousand- you still need camera, model, computer, website. (Although in practice the content is likely to be much nicer if you’ve got lots of lovely members helping pay for it).
Web hosting and bandwidth are marginal costs, add more visitors and members and the costs will go up.
Advertising could be either- for example, a lot of websites run affiliate schemes which pay out to the webmaster who send the customer to the site (marginal cost) but also pay to run ads on Fetlife (fixed cost).
Most websites in a niche like bondage have a few hundred members at any one time. The very biggest probably only have a few thousand. Put that in context- a typical Hollywood movie might well be seen by millions of people. They can spread their costs between many, many more people. That’s why a DVD of Robocop might cost £10 where a DVD of an erotic movie might cost £30 and have much lower production value for your money. There’s a far smaller group of people kicking in a few bucks to make the bondage DVD.
It’s worth saying that again. If you pay for something you like, you are one of a small group of people paying to make it.
The only way this stuff gets made at all is because some people are willing to pay for it.
Either to pay to watch it, or possibly pay to do it (at much greater expense, but with resultant complete control over what they make because they are doing it for themselves, then possibly sharing because it makes them feel nice).
It is super easy to make niche erotica and make a loss.
It’s easy to spend £1000 on a shoot day- two models and a nice location will do it. Be a little less efficient that you could be and you might end up with less than a week’s worth of updates from such a day. There’s a limit to how much you can shoot in a day- for bondage, it takes time to tie someone up neatly and tidily, then more time to shoot the photos or videos, then untie them.
It’s easy to get your business model wrong and give away too much free stuff, and be faced with thousands in unexpected bandwidth charges.
It’s easy to spend too long editing a set or video you particularly love and realise that your pay rate per hour has plummeted to a quarter of minimum wage.
It’s easy to keep all the content you’ve ever shot up on the website, and discover that someone can join, download everything with a download manager, and cost you $500 in bandwidth charges in exchange for a $19.95 membership fee.
It’s easy to fool yourself that you’ll make more money if you buy a snazzy new camera and some new bondage gear.
And it is super easy to produce stunning material and not have a clue how to get people to look it, let alone pay for it.
Every niche website is walking a tight-rope across these pitfalls. The choices they make to avoid the chasms of blowing a ton of money and never getting it back explain where some of the apparently-strange website habits come from.
Why are recurring memberships cheaper than one-off memberships?
It is just a rip-off right? I want to join and see everything then go away. Why should I pay more?
Think about what your bandwidth usage is likely to be. In month one, you’ll probably have a good long look through the back catalogue and download lots of things which interest you. In month two, you might explore the back catalogue a little more, but most likely you’ll just download the new stuff. In other words, your first month’s membership is likely to run up bigger bills for the website than subsequent months. So websites try to cover their costs, and give you an incentive to stick around, too.
Why don’t websites leave everything up forever?
Same reason. The more material there is up, the more bandwidth charges you can potentially suck up in month one. If that gets too much bigger than your membership fee, the webmaster will plummet down the chasm of making a loss on your membership… and will go out of business, sooner or later.
In fact it is even worse than that. If all the content stays up forever, you can join once, download everything, go away for five years, come back and hoover up five new years of content. In effect, you’ve decided not to pay anything towards shooting that content- your membership fee will probably barely cover the bandwidth charges for such a big download.
What about daily download limits? I’ve got a fast connection, why can’t I download it all now?
Same reason. The bandwidth limit will be set to ensure that the website doesn’t lose money on your signup. It has to be, or the website will soon be gone.
What about all those annoying advert-laden sites?
It’s another way to cover some of the website’s costs. If you are interested in the theme of the site but won’t spend money there. Maybe you have a policy of NEVER joining paysites… but maybe you do bondage in your real life. Perhaps a bondage gear shop might tempt you to spend money. They’ll kick back something to the original website or pay per click they send them. This business model works for Google, by the way
What about badly-designed websites? What’s the excuse for that?
You may not know it, but most fetish websites are run by one or two people. If they aren’t good at graphic design and website layout, they’re probably trying to scrape together a site without any expert input. These days we’re used to slick commercial sites like eBay, Apple, Amazon, etc.. They were clunky as hell in the early days, too, but with the vastly higher customer numbers of mainstream business, they can afford teams of professional designers and programmers to make their sites so cool.
Actually, it is amazing how well HTML and CSS have been designed, because even amateurs can put together really nice functional sites. It’s surprising that more sites don’t look like they are stuck in 2001.
There’s also another reason. Bad design like not providing stills in ZIP files and having awkward, multiple mouse click navigation is that it slows your browsing down, which cuts down their bandwidth bill. It’s just another way to walk the tightrope of avoiding making a loss.
We based our choices for our websites on what we like ourselves as customers. I don’t join erotic sites as often now I make my own, but I am at heart a paysite customer.
I shoot the content I was looking for- bare foot, bondage, colourful, kinda clean, a mix of metal and rope bondage, the prettiest models I can find and the nicest locations I can afford. We try to be as efficient as we can without compromising on quality.
I hate download limits, because I’m busy. I’m more likely to use my entire download allocation in one go, then look at the stuff I’ve downloaded later. So I try to make it easy to do that, with ZIP file links right there on the index pages.
The corollary is that if we have no download limits or speed limits, we CANNOT leave all the content up permanently. So I’ve set the amount of content so that if you download all of it in one go in the first month, I at least avoid making a loss. That’s why we have a rolling archive and sets stay up for a certain length of time on the members’ area, not forever.
As I’ve said before, personally I prefer that. I think it draws sets to my attention that I might never have noticed languishing on page 117 of dusty old updates and makes everything feel more lively. It’s like getting a random back issue free with each month’s new edition of a magazine.
I’ve tried to make the design as clean and easy and pretty as I can, within the limits of my skill and my abilities as a graphics designer. My University friend Ian has helped out a lot behind the scenes developing the content management system which runs the site (when we started there were no open source projects like Joomla or WordPress to use). The site could do with a freshen up… it’s on my to-do list once I’ve processed January’s updates, and done December’s shoots, and answered all the emails.
It is a minor miracle of the Internet age that it is possible to purchase erotica that twenty years ago would have been either unobtainable or twenty times the price. (Just look at the number of photos in a typical men’s mag vs the number you get on a typical website in a month if you don’t believe me). It is only possible to do by spreading the costs out amongst everyone who would like to see the material. So if you see a site you like, please join it. At least for a month. Maybe two. That way, it’ll still be there in a few years’ time, the next time you’re having a look around