Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Lessons From The Adult Industry: eBay

All the upset over eBay's fee increases. All the upset as folks figure out that eBay is turning into WalMart ~ nothing but a corporation out to sell the most stuff at the lowest price & to hell with the folks they use to make their money. Oooh, how shocking! Ooooh, what are all the sellers, small & large, going to do?

Is it the end of eBay, or are they all playing Chicken Little, screaming that the sky is falling? And if you don't buy or sell at eBay, what do you care?

EBay's current disfavor with "the public" and "the media" isn't a big freakin' deal to those of us who've been selling mature or adult items. We saw the writing on the wall. Most of us, be we sellers of the latest DVDs, nude art, vintage men's mags, or personal care items (i.e. 'sex toys'), left long ago. Or at least greatly reduced our dependence upon eBay ~ Using eBay to our own advantages with loss leaders etc.

We saw how things were going, as we were set aside into our dark little hidden attic, wearing our scarlet letters or red stars. We wrote to eBay, we wrote to other sellers, we wrote to sites who purport to cover the auction business world, but no one cared. After all, we are just smut peddlers, and eBay has a right to be 'family centered.' Sure, they do. But unfair policies disguised as 'morality driven' is just a nice little ploy to divert attention, & keep eBay's image as a corporation as squeaky clean as they'd like you to think their website is.

It didn't matter that we were the first to really experience the frustrations of lack of contact, poor sales due to eBay policies, and to have policy interpreted differently by each customer service rep until we were axed, booted or suffered other consequences. It didn't matter to other sellers that we were treated like crap.

No one cared because we were dirty porn peddlers.

And this isn't a giant pity party, or a rant filled with anger bitterly rebuffing the mainstream concerns with the auction giant. Nope. This is a chance for us all to learn; to learn some positive things from a negative situation.

In the name of mighty morality, eBay removed the blight that was Mature Audiences. At least on the surface. They still took our dirty dollars, yes. EBay makes quite the sum seeing as sales are slow, prices are lower now they have dimmed the lights in the category & shield us from the buyers. Same fees, little action.

And once the giant corporation saw that it could still take money from the members selling & buying even as they alienated, segregated & punished us, they knew they could take this business model forward.

There's a lesson in censorship & rights, yes, for if you allow someone to limit one thing, you risk limits everywhere. But it's about more than that.

When we questioned the value of what we were supposedly receiving in benefits for our fees, & doubted the fee increases, we were ignored. Again, being sellers of smut, no one cared; they dismissed us to quickly.

It's easy to say to a group of sellers, "Hey, maybe this just isn't the place for you," and, "You just don't have a sound business model." And it's even easier when they sell products that you feel you can cast the first stone at. But let's look at the facts here.

Numerous articles have been written, in mainstream & adult entertainment circles, regarding how porn has made the best business use of the Internet. Adult entertainment is huge business. Porn is the number one income generator on the Internet today. And unlike the big names, such as Amazon, they had little difficulty making a profit.

Many business publications cite sex sellers on the web as the ones to watch for technological advances. Porn fed the video market, the demand drove the technology ~ just as it does today with DVDs, consumer electronics & the Internet. We spend vast sums of money on, & attention to, technological advances & opportunities.

But our love of, & belief in, technology isn't enough to make us rich. No, no, we have more than that. We are crafty little devils.

We have figured out the 'secrets' to motivating customers, with our better customer recruitment & retention rates.

We have adapted ourselves & our businesses to models not normally subscribed to in business ~ we view our competition as both threat & partner. If we can't sell a visitor our site, then hell, we'll see if we can give that visitor to a 'competing' site. Oh, sure, we'll make some money on that too, by the way. But where's the harm in that?

And when pesky problems arise, we find our way around them. For example, the adult Webster's use of blogs as a way to circumvent some of the SEO problems. We're crafty like that.

We do more than survive, we flourish. And if we can't flourish, with all of our devilish ways, selling a product that people *do* want, then there must be a problem.

Many business publications suggest that the wise e-commerce businessman would keep an eye on what the adult entertainment industry is doing on the Internet. Nielsen/NetRatings & Wall Street watch us, study us, for clues to the future. Time Magazine, CNN, Forbes ~ they all say it: Companies can learn from watching The Adult Entertainment Industry.

And if that's so, then adult webmasters are major indicators of Internet & business practices on the web. Both good, & bad.

So the next time you hear the adult webmaster, Mature Audience seller, or porno promoter complaining that they can no longer make money at this site, or that venue, maybe, just maybe you shouldn't throw stones or ignore them. Perhaps, you ought to listen.

More Reading:

* Online porn often leads high-tech way

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