|- by Colin Delia|
"Without "Building an Empire", there is no blueprint for webmaster
success." -Anthony - FetishBucks.com
"If you aren't printing out and trying to understand the incredible nuggets of Info at "Building an Empire " you're missing the boat!!!" - JohnIP - CEO Insite Adult
"Colin - You're going to have to add an addendum to Building and Empire regarding
discussing deals while hot tubbing and throwing back a few cold ones. Great to see you, bro." - RB, CEO - Max Cash
(Updated August , 2002)
(Updated August , 2002)
empire (n) An extensive enterprise under a unified authority.
In 1997, I penned a series of articles and self-published them on Ynot. In 1997, Ynot was by
far the busiest adult webmaster board. The theme of each article was timeless business tips
for adult webmasters. For a few years, I received many requests for these original articles.
I tried to locate copies but in those few years, people rapidly replaced their hard-drives
upgrading to better and faster computers. All copies were lost.
Finally in 1999, I decided to write a new series. This time, I made sure I kept copies. On this site, you can read the 1999 Building An Empire posts.
I have also learned much from my own personal experiences. I once ran the largest circle-jerk site on the net. I also created what was then the largest gay toplist on the net achieving more than 100k daily visitors. I've run a 14-employee free site business, quite possibly the largest all-free site adult operation there has even been. I was the president of CellularPhones.com, a DotCom that DotBombed like the rest of them. Hey, failure is a learning experience too.
The site has evolved quite a bit since I threw the 1999 articles up. This site has become even more successful, I feel, than the original posts. It is listed on many resource sites as recommended reading for beginning adult webmasters. Everything is non-linear here. There are twists and turns at every corner. Organization is minimal. The writing is non-polished.
I don't claim to have all the answers. What works for me works for me. Maybe it will for you.
This site is not meant to be easy reading. I have not written for an audience. These are, in effect, notes to myself. The links you find here are links that I don't want to lose. I hope you get out of them what I have.
Updated August 18, 2002
Have a Question for Me? Ask Colin!
What should i do today?
Wanna take over the world?
Secrets are revealed here. .. stuff I decided had to be written.
There's no rhyme or reason and sometimes a link ends up here just 'cause someone asked for it
.. and sometimes I found it myself. Sometimes it's outdated and sometimes it's in the future.
It's all non-linear and links anywhere might go somewhere else .. just the way it works.
Serge sez ...|
Internet porn follows the route phone sex went by.
1) tremendous growth
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|Words of Wisdom from Serge!|
Making Deals @ Conferences
Timeless Words from 1999!
THEME: Motivate them to send you hits
At various times, we have seen some very innovative ideas that took the adult web by storm: link sites, the webmaster program, Top 50 lists, The ABC console, Thumb-posts. Each of these had one common element and I believe this element will be at the core of many future innovations. That is, other webmasters are motivated to send you traffic for selfish gain.
Within each innovative category, there are rules that govern which will be most popular.
One is primacy effect .. or "the early bird gets the worm" .. or in the nomenclature currently very popular in the tech world, "first mover advantage." Persian Kitty, as one of the earliest link sites remains a favorite. Cliffy's has always been a dominant Top 50 list.
Why does this primacy effect work? I think there are multiple reasons.
One is simply that by being first, one is able to use their early market share to earn more revenue than competitors and then use that capital to expand the existing operation to a point that makes it very difficult for future competitors to catch up.
Another factor, more interesting in my point of view, is that there is a perception of value in something original. Most of us would hardly glance at a print of Van Gogh's "The Cafe Terrace" but would stand in great admiration at the original. Similarly, there is a perception with many things that older is better, more established. Harvard and Yale are two of the oldest colleges in America. An old restaurant is often THE restaurant in a town. And the perennial example that we see every day: "Heinz 57 - established 1869." You can TRUST older. You can TRUST a program that has been around for a few years. You can TRUST a program that has been paying on time every week for 3 1/2 years .. and of course this overlaps into rule #7 in 1999's Building an Empire series : You ARE your reputation.
But enough of the divergence. I had a point to make. Webmasters that link to link sites want a link in return. Webmasters that link to a webmaster program want money in return. Webmasters that linked to the ABC console, to top 50 lists, and to thumb-posts want traffic in return. And I said earlier, there will be more innovative programs that will take the web by storm that involve some sort of exchange. At times they have been combined, we'll trade you traffic AND pay for it.
It is exceptionally difficult to predict how motivated a webmaster will be to send traffic to whatever type of program one has put together. Robin Nixon and I both put together gambling sites where one could gamble their hits. I don't know how Robin's fared but ours is no longer active. It may simply have been that the project was neglected after it was started. Or maybe the gods of supply and demand were not on our side that time.
I have seen many great ideas never get off the ground. Some start off great and then crash. Some are steady for a long time and then the whims of the crowd suddenly shift gears and in place of the riverbed, suddenly, is an old, dry, parched ground.
At any rate, our projects successes are always dependent upon that most fundamental of business rules. The forces of supply and demand will dicate our success. We can alter them to be sure. One can create demand in certain ways. Perceived scarcity for example. "ONLY the first 25 webmasters that e-mail me will be listed on this fantastic mind-blowing going to revolutionize the world website." The feeling that one will be left out of something they could have been a part of is an extremely motivating one. And there are many other ways to increase demand, maybe the simplest of which is advertising.
Stick to the basics: "How can I get the webmaster to send me her traffic? What motivates her? How can we mutually benefit from this relationship? Answer these questions in an original way and maybe you will prosper.
The Value of Experimentation
In 1997, when I first started in this business, I started a link site called xxxreviews.com (no longer exists). I really recommend running a link site for establishing contacts with a wide range of site owners. At the time that I first started that site, there were a few large toplists (like Cliffy's) and I submitted my site to them and put links to them inthe corresponding categories. Looking at my stats, I found that the results were pretty good. My science background took over and I started to run a few experiments. First I took one single small font link and put it on the front page of the site. I quantified everything. How many hits did I send out, how many did they count, how many did they say I got back, how many did my stats show I received? I tried different positioning of banners, text links, and all kinds of other tricks. As my income quickly grew, and as I made further analysis, the site evolved into a circle jerk site. I started to build new sites based on these principles and found that by controlling the traffic flow of my sites at certain times of day, I could achieve daily income gains that seemed out of this world. I tried Robin's ABC console and got terrific returns. I tried another console and it didn't work as well. I tried the two combined and income increased again. Whatever experiment I tried, if income went up, I moved in that direction, if it went down I moved in the other. Now I've simplified a bit. Sometimes income would go down but there was another variable i hadn't considered .. but LATER I would get it right.
The culmination of it all for me occured when I picked the PERFECT site name .. back when there were no sites on the toplists that started with numbers, I chose "10 Free Pics". With only a few thousand hits to get the site started and after having stayed awake for (only) 3 days straight, the site passed the 100,000 hits in a day mark.
I built dozens of sites like this. Quickly there were scores of sites called 25 free this, 16 free teen whatevers, and of course the competition killed it. But it made a TON of money when it was up and it gave me the income to move on and do other projects I wanted to work on.
When I re-entered the adult business last month, we initially started with about a half dozen project ideas running against each other in competition. Some failed and we moved on. Some started to do well, and we looked to maximize our returns. We did dozens of tests on these various models to maximize what we believe will be our new business model. Because of this initial experimentation and the number crunching, we can now move ahead and project our income week by week, month by month, and have a good idea of where we're going and what we can spend money on.
Now one does not have to be so quantifiable. I have friends in the business that run experiments and don't truly quantify anything. They get a feel for what is working for them and operate on that. Personally, I think serious quantification will yield better returns in the long run but some webmasters do really well on "instinct" or "feel" or whatever you want to call it. But whether you set up a few experiements and get a feel or have tables and reams of data such as we keep, experimentation is a useful tool that will increase long term runs.
Treat your business LIKE a business.
The first thing I did when forming "Works of Shakespeare" is to ask myself what kind of talent pool I would need. I wasn't exactly sure yet how the business had changed in the last year, but I knew there was a good chance our business model would have to vary from it's early 1999 form. I hired an experienced, versatile group of employees whose talents would be useful in any type of business environment. All of them were hired for their dedication and understanding of what it takes to get a company off the ground. So far this decision has payed off as we actually have our programmer building HTML pages and our graphics artist submitting pages to directories. Neither of them has any complaints and our business prospers because of it. We are already establishing and reestablishing the contacts that are so important in a business' lifecycle. At this point in the game, we are re-establishing our "knowledge" connections. I have contacted one friend of mine, one of the old-timers I first met in 1996, that I know always has a very updated model of what is working and not working in the industry. He has given me an extensive update on what has been working for him. The bottom line here to remember, is that when you are still in that stage of being a one-person operation you are still running a business. Your goal is to make money. Your network of contacts will help you for life.
What kind of company do you want? How will your employees be treated? What besides "making money", if anything else, will be the driving forces behind the way your day-to-day operations are run?
In one example, a business owner in this industry often faces a very tough decision. Do you allow your employees to have enough knowledge to strike out on their own? Do you allow them to build adult sites in their own time? Can they compete against you? This is a very tough question to ask oneself and I know of a few people fired from their jobs from wrking on sites in their own time. There is no correct answer .. on the one hand, I would assume most employers want to see their employees do well. On the other, an employee that might have worked at home on your projects is now working on theirs. But yet again, they might learn things they can bring back to your company. I am certain that both ways work and it depends on the individuals themselves and your relationship with them.
The question, once again, is what kind of company do you want to run and to be known for running? Will one run it as a seat-of-the-pants operation where everything goes? Or will one take the opposite extreme and run ones company "by the book", more precisely, by attaining ISO 9000 compliance? Many of these questions are philosophical in nature but have testable "scientific" consequences. One's philosophy may carry the day for a while but it might run the company into the ground in the end. It is this philosophical-scientific combination, so much like the one that I learned from my Physics background, that excites me about the business world. Certainly my view of business is tainted by this background but aren't all of our views the products of our upbringing? In what way does YOUR background give you a lasting competitive advantage?
Give yourself as much protection as you can.
We immediately implimented a once a week tar-zipping of all the hard-drives. Soon we will have full tape-backup of our servers from our host in addition to our own tar-zipping of the contents. Don't rely on your host alone, as I have seen a corrupted tape drive back-up when someone's server crashed and burned. Have a 2 tier system of protection for the contents of one's hard-drive.
Knowledge is king.
As I stated earlier. I have a degree in physics and much of my approach to business has a scientific slant. One thing I have not mentioned in the past, that I learned from that part of my life, is the importance of asking onself the right questions. I believe that once one has the right set of questions, they are halfway there, whatever "there" is. One can be a brilliant problem solver and be capable of solving every problem but if they do not ask themselves the right questions, in our case, the ones that lead to greater overall income, they will go nowhere.
And on that note .. Question EVERYTHING! There are so many untruths spoken in this industry. As a simple example, the question of whether a banner pulls better or a text link pulls better. One person will swear it's one, another will swear the other. People argue this simple point all the time (one of my employees was debating this point with someone we were performing a link trade with last week). As with many debates in life that ask a "black and white" question, the answer lies somewhere in between. It depends on the banner, on the content of the text link, on the site, on the positioning within the site, on where the traffic comes from. But don't believe ANYONE EVER 100% on these kinds of things. Run these experiments yourself.
One should have a good mental construct of how to learn. We learn to learn. And what we learn about our business and how to run it should be in a contstant state of flux. The environment changes at a wicked pace and it is probably more true in this business than many others.
Some of us used to be big top list players and are now TGP players. Some of us used to be site builders and are now search engine spammers. I have found the industry to have changed drastically in these past 12 months, but not incomprehensibly so! Overall, people say that it is harder to make money in the industry and I find that to be true so far, however there is still a lot of money out there .. more than there was last year, it is just that it is flowing in slightly different rivers. One must know where in the sand to sift.