Monday, February 26, 2007

Where Can You Sell? Where Can You Buy?

Like Gracie, I've had my share of bad dealings with eBay.

As a buyer, I hate that I can't find what I am looking for because I need to hunt for the secret passageway to the back alley which is the 'mature audiences' area and that my secret knock has a time limit which puts be back outside the back alley again and again. I'm looking for vintage men's magazines, pinups, antique erotic works, sex books (both new and historical titles) etc. -- it really shouldn't be like buying moonshine in during prohibition.

As a seller, I detest a greedy eBay which is all too happy take my money in the form of seller fees which are equal to those items which are not hidden in a back alley. (I pay the same fees yet have less exposure?! Sheesh.) And I have been driven to drink with the yanking of listings which are "against policy" even if not so stated. (I was the lister of the books Gracie wrote about here.)

In response to the above, we sell our items in our own stores. But as a collector of old sex history, it was awfully darn nice to have one large source for so many goodies. While many sites have tried to be the 'new adult marketplace', most folded due to the usual problem of not enough traffic (missing buyers and sellers both). So when I heard about Rummage Monkey, a new entry in the race for online marketplace supremacy with both 'wine & spirits' and 'adult novelties' categories clearly visible, I was interested.

Interested enough to interview Jeff Scanlon and Gary Legastee of Rummage Monkey.

One thing I couldn't really discuss over at Collectors' Quest was the dirty subject of naughty collectibles and the general sexual repression that is eBay...

Thankfully, I knew Gracie would let me air the dirty laundry out here. *wink*

After ranting about the various troubles with eBay's marketplace platform and polices for 'adult items' I asked both men what their plans were regarding all sorts of adult items. Gary and Jeff both explained that in order to be a member at Rummage Monkey you need to be 18; once you login as a member you'll be able to see the adult listings (and wine etc.) if you so wish. Both men assured me that they were committed to allowing for the sale of mature items. They understood that people want these items, and like alcohol, they aren't going to prohibit such items but keep Rummage Monkey open to legal buyers of these legal items.

"We don't think anyone not wanting these items is going to find them -- they'll have to search for them or browse a category as they would any other item. While adult items likely won't be featured on the home page, anyone who wants to find them will be able to do so."

"Are you going to bury the items in a maze of hidden alleyways and secret knocks? Lock us out when we are still logged in? You won't hide the link to the adult section?" I asked.

"Rummage Monkey makes money when items are sold, so making these items hard to find and therefore hard to sell, isn't in our best interests, is it?" Jeff grinned.

"Listen, Jeff," I said, "Did you know that vintage Playboy magazines can be sold in the non-protected areas of eBay, but other vintage men's magazines, even those with less skin shown, are not? Ah, the myriad of rules, is confusing and confounding. I completely understand and respect the business model -- I get that it's eBay's site, so they can do what they want; you can do what you want with your site. But I need to know how seriously you are committed to a marketplace which supports these items."

"I bet there are plenty of newer magazines & media which eBay offers which show much more than vintage Playboys," Jeff chuckled.

"I smell a money rat: Playboy's a known giant, a rich vein to mine. So eBay grants the money giant prominent placement and denies the others. There must be some rationale behind it... Will there be splits like that, weird little censoring rules based on who knows what? Is it Big Boys win; to hell with the rest?"

"The only thing we're really worried about are the images -- No explicit images, no matter who made it or who is selling it. As for the big boys, no. We're Foreign Exchange Sales Brokers working with many middle and small business owners so we see Rummage Monkey as an affordable marketplace for our clients and others like them."

"What about the issue of bdsm materials? Many of the banned or problematic items at eBay (and payment processor PayPal) are not 'adult' in the legal sense -- for example, they pulled a BDSM book which requires no brown wrap, isn't kept behind the counter -- anyone can purchase it from their local book store or online at Amazon. Would you allow this book to be sold at Rummage Monkey?"

"Sure," Jeff said.

"Where would it be listed? In 'Books' or in the 'Adult' category only?"

"'Books', I'd imagine... Isn't that where you'd look for it?" he replied.

Cheeky monkey.

"So, the bottom line: How committed are you to those of us who buy & sell these sort of items?"

"I can't promise you that if we have a seller blowing out thousands of flatscreen TVs and they come to us saying they're pulling from our site because of a bdsm book in the book's category that I won't pay attention... From a business point of view, that wouldn't make sense either. Depending upon the situation, we'll have to listen to the marketplace."

"So what would happen?"

"I'd probably move those items to the 'adult' category."

"So, bdsm items wouldn't be pulled?"

"No. Not unless it had inappropriate, explicit, images."

"I know you're a new site, and that much of this is new to you... And, again, I understand the business model. I understand that things may change... And I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but to be absolutely clear... Say that this seller of flatscreens says moving bdsm to 'adult' isn't good enough. Say he says that he wants no bdsm merchandise on the site... What's your response then?"

"Oh, no, we wouldn't pull it completely. Those legally selling and buying bdsm items should have a place to sell too. We'd be open to moving the items to 'adult' but not banishing them."

They convinced me that they're rather serious about offering a marketplace which is open to mature interests.

***

If you're an author peddling your erotica and don't want to bother with setting up your own shopping cart, a seller of sex toys looking for additional venues, or some other sort of adult etailer, I'd give Rummage Monkey a look-see yourself and see if it's an option for you. (If you've got vintage risque and adult collectibles, be sure to give me a shout out! lol)

Another note for you marketing folks out there: Rummage Monkey also will manage your Google Adwords accounts for you. If your mind boggles at how to analyze and therefore improve your current campaigns; if keywords, writing, formatting and the like are alien territory and you're unsure just what you're doing; Rummage Monkey has people and software they'll put to good use for you. According to Gary, for the accounts they manage they've increased hits by 3-5%. And if you have Rummage Monkey managing your Adwords account, you get a free store -- no monthly store fees, no final value fees. Contact Gary and Jeff regarding this service.

As noted in the other interview, Rummage Monkey has clear and easy contact information listed, so don't be shy & ask your questions. They also have a Rummage Monkey Blog.

by Deanna Dahlsad

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Thursday, January 4, 2007

Profile: Founder of URNotAlone.com

Continuing our ongoing webmaster series, here's profile on the founder of URNotAlone.com.

It's interesting to note the changes in the website ~ both in purpose & design. Perhaps this will open some eyes as to how powerful change can be.

Others may find tips on how to evolve to make money, by working with rather than against your niche and other webmasters!

In the age of paid membership sites, it is refreshing to see a 'free site' be more than some affiliate portal.

And, Gracie is always a fan of sites that provide a real service...

So read & learn what you can kiddos!

A reminder that the links contain Adult Content ~ Now, here we go....


Hi, I'm Jon, the Founder of U R Not Alone. U R Not Alone (referred to as URNA, URNotAlone and U R Not Alone interchangeably). Let me start with the short description of what URNA is...

We are a Site dedicated to the Transgendered Community. We provide ALL of our Basic Services to the Public for FREE. Posting Profiles, Browsing Profiles and Responding to Profiles is FREE, as is Browsing or Adding Events and Transgender Friendly Locations. Even our Transgender Chat Room (TGChat) is FREE!

URNotAlone was born back in 1996. I wanted to learn how to build a web site and was trying to think of a topic that would hold my interest (I'm not good at just playing around with things... I need a goal to get going). I was traveling quite a bit around this time and one of my friends suggested I start a listing of Drag Bars since I seemed to know where to find them in every city I traveled to It clicked and URNotAlone was born as a site to come to if you wanted to find out where the Drag Bars were in the cities you were traveling to. You can still find listings, and submit listings of your own, in the Places section of URNotAlone... I'd really like to see more people submit listings of Transgender Friendly Bars in their areas... they're not easy to find when you're a stranger in a strange town.

Within a month, I decided URNotAlone needed to be more than just a site that listed Drag Bars.

Bear with me on this next part, it has real relevance as to what URNotAlone has evolved into...

I grew up in the suburbs outside of Boston and didn't really know where to find TGirls until well after I was already married. When I was younger I did encounter Trans Porno in porno shops and knew... right away... that it was something that I was strongly attracted to... very strongly attracted to... and started buying all the Trans Porno that I could find. Growing up in the suburbs with no knowledge of where to meet TGirls, I honestly thought that they were rare creatures, so to speak, and that I'd never actually have the opportunity to meet one. Since I liked Girls also, I got married and thought I'd be happy and that porno would be enough to satisfy me. It wasn't... eventually I heard about Jacques Cabaret - (a long story) and got up the nerve to go there to meet real TGirls... in the flesh. That was the beginning of the end of my marriage. Once I was with my 1st TGirl I knew that it was what I truly wanted and that I would never be happy unless I could have a relationship, a real relationship, with a TGirl. Eventually I was divorced and shortly after I met Vicky... we've been together ever since. The reason I gave you this history, is... the Profiles section got started because I thought it would be a great way to help other Admirer's like myself avoid making some of the mistakes I did and to try and provide a place for TGirls and their Admirer's to meet one another. I thought and still think that this would allow fellow Admirer's to understand that there are lots of TGirls out there, that they could have a real relationship with a TGirl, that they could avoid marrying, then later divorcing and screwing up a girls life... I hope I've succeeded, at least in some small degree

I found myself surfing the web more and more often, looking for pages of TGirls that were starting to pop up all over the web. I used Susanna Marques listing of TGirl Sites on Geocities quite a bit back then (thank you Susanna). I loved her listings and thought to myself... wouldn't it be nice if the links to different TGirls sites also had a picture and a little something about them along with the link. I started asking girls if they'd like to list their profiles, with a picture, on URNotAlone... mainly TGirls who's sites I happened across while surfing the web. Nicole Asahi (a real sweetheart), from Texas was the 1st TGirl I asked and the 1st Profile that was listed on URNotAlone. Once the Profiles started, it took about a year for the site to really get going.

After the Profile's section we added a section of Vicky's pics... then came pics of some of the TGirls I met in the different bars I visited in my travels and then came pics of our Green Iguana (who has since passed away , Mongo). Vicky's pics are now mainly found in the ModelTS Section of URNA, with the exception of some of her pics in her Galleries on URNotAlone... the pictures of TGirls from various bars I visited around the country has gone away since I don't travel much anymore and they were getting pretty out of date... Mongo's pages are history now.

In the beginning, I hand coded all the pages and after several years of working my butt off trying to keep up I almost threw in the towel around the beginning of 2000. I put an announcement on the main page or URNotAlonethat it was becoming too much work, I had too little time and that the site would cease being updated and eventually go away. This was also around the time when Vicky and I were trying to get, our then separate adult site, ModelTS going and I was living on very little sleep. I found myself spending 20 to 30 hours a week working on URNotAlone, another 20 hours or so on ModelTS and, on top of that, I have my real job... the one that pays the bills

Around this time, Dan sent me an eMail offering his assistance. Some of the TGirls he new from the clubs in Ohio knew he did web development for a living and asked if he could help me out and keep me from shutting down URNotAlone. We corresponded a bit, Dan showed me a mock-up of what he had in mind... I was ecstatic. He totally redesigned the site, bringing it from a static, hand coded site to what you see today, a data driven site that takes all the drudgery out of maintaining and updating it. Now, instead of spending up to 30 hours a week on URNotAlone, I spend closer to 20 hours per week... and most of that work is spent answering eMails, approving or not approving profiles, etc. Thanks to Dan, we added an Articles section, a Places section, Galleries, a Chat Room, Forums, broke down the Profiles into categories and much more! Not only that, thanks to Dan, URNA still exists and offers much more than it ever did in the past

Dan and I got together in June (2003) and started planning for the future of URNotAlone. Part of what came out of this was combining my other site, ModelTS into URNotAlone's Adult Content Area. Part of this was to offset the cost of running 2 site's on 2 dedicated servers with 2 different hosting companies. Another reason for this is that quite a few of the ModelTS Members were also active visitors to URNotAlone and many of the Members also have profiles listed on URNotAlone. The Main reason we went ahead with the Merge is in the hopes that the money generated from the ModelTS Adult Content Section of URNotAlone would allow us to add even more Free Features to the Public Area of URNotAlone. It's already allowed us to add things like Calendars, to add the ability to list profiles by proximity to a certain area so people can get a list of people in their area by means other than State or Country, it allowed us to purchase Chat Room software and to add Forums and there's much more coming. It's finally gotten to the point where URNA is Dan's full time job... hopefully it will get to the point where it's my full time job also Dan, Vicky and I get together several times per year in person... when we're not physically together we're constantly in touch via eMail and phone.

We wish to thank all of you for your support over the years and for your continued support in the future If you haven't popped by to check out URNA, what are you waiting for, stop by, poke around and feel free to send us Comments and/or Suggestions.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Mini-Book Reviews

If I were teaching a class on Internet marketing, these books would be required reading:

* Selling on the Net: The Complete Guide by Herschell Gordon Lewis & Robert D. Lewis, was one of the first serious books I had ever read about selling on the net. It hasn't been updated recently, but since it is not a technology driven book, I don't think it is dated at all. One of the best books providing an overview of how the Internet is viewed, how people react to it, and why ecommerce, selling services & marketing will work online. This is a great basic overview, and even if you have been online for awhile, you will benefit from reading it. Has many illustrations of websites that do & don't 'work' and profiles of companies, so you get real examples.

* Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy by Nick Usborne is a treasure! Copyright, 2002. Usborne uses his marketing knowledge & experience to detail just what works in writing on the Internet. He covers everything you need to know on how to make your website work - that means how to get viewers to stay. If you site is not interesting to viewers, from a text & content point of view, they will click in & just easy quickly, click out. But, if your site is well written, they will stay, maybe even long enough to buy! If they don't buy, they will certainly remember you, be likely to use your 'tell-a-friend', bookmark your site, subscribe etc. In fact, what he tells you works for newsletters & zines too. You all know how much I believe in site content folks, so if this guy excites me this much, it must be fabulous! Not to sound like a Ginsu salesman, 'but wait, there's more!' Usborne also covers how to write the text that is your product/service description, or in the biz lingo, 'your sales copy.' So if you want to learn more ways to increase viewer interest & sales, then grab the book.

* A New Brand World: 8 Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century by Scott Bedbury. Copyright 2002. (I linked to the softcover to give you the cheapest option, however if you prefer, the hardcover is still available.) Some of you may be wondering what 'branding' is... Branding is the ability to make a company be more than just a company. It moves past the idea of selling a product through marketing, but into creating an entire concept around your company. Examples of branding are Nike (Just Do It is the slogan, but we 'feel' that empowering 'I can achieve it' rush), and Coke A Cola (I mean come on, folks buy & collect *anything* that says Coke!). Who is Bedbury to talk about branding? Hehehe, glad you asked! This is the guy who took Nike from just another athletic shoe company, and created the Nike dynasty. Not only that, his next gig was Starbucks! So, this man knows what he is talking about. I kid you not.

This book is a bit more intense to read, not because he is a bad writer, or technical; it is very easily understood. However, he is talking about much larger companies, with larger budgets (even though he discusses how young these companies were, let's face it, they could hire someone full time, and give him a staff of his own!). So the trick then becomes how to take the examples he states & turn them into something folks like us can use. He provides plenty of details as to why he took certain steps, what the strategy was, which helps greatly. You can see what he is talking about. But it still requires some 'bending' and fine-tuning for us. I *do* recommend the book highly. I think Bedbury is the kind of man who's head you want to get inside! If you are struggling to find a way to make your company & its philosophy stand out, then you have to read it.

© GlamKitty, who moderates the Working With The Web newsletter.

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Is blogging here to stay? Can you use it?

Is blogging a fad borne of technology that will fade faster than pet rocks, even if it can do more? In a world of digital & technology leaps, most anything can be a fad, at lightening speed. Just because the technology makes this online public diary possible, will they become equally as useless as the diary under a teenage girl's bed? Aside from the sneaky little brother, who cares what is written?

It's a debate that continues with folks much more intelligent than myself, but in reality, I am very suited to this debate. After all, it will be a decision reached by people. For in order for it to survive, it must become part of popular culture, so who else is more qualified to discuss the issue than BW's resident Pop Culture Queen? Especially as I also manage to be quite 'average' when it comes to technological things.

Why are blogs so popular?

Blogs are cheap & easy. In seconds, and for free, you can be set up with one. A few seconds more, and your blitherings are available for the public (or just your friends if you wish). Want some serious features? You can opt for upgrades for a couple of bucks.

However, like most of the webmasters, bloggers are discovering, just because you have built it, it doesn't mean they will come. Aside from your mom, your best friend, who is going to come to read your blither-blather? In reality, you have likely already told then in an email or phone conversation that your dog ran away, you were promoted, you like cheese, and that your recent ex is an idiot from hell & that you are going to burn his favorite jeans in the back yard. So why blog?

Most blogs are part of online communities. You can link up with other dog owners, cheese lovers & jilted lovers, all of you blither-blathering on & on until someone gets a cat, becomes lactose intolerant, or finds Mr. Right. But the truth is, just as with real multiple conversations, no one is listening as much as they are talking. Many bloggers are saddened by little traffic, minimal comments, and tire of having to post chipper little comments at the entries of others in order to try to get some to reply to their entries.

The now fact what webmasters everywhere have known for a long time: if you don't promote, you die.

All the 'big names' in blogging are just that, Big Names. In fact, the most successful bloggers are professionals in their fields. Folks seek out their wisdom & experience, often for fees. So the chance at free information & tips, with or without the pithy asides & insider rib poking, is why they visit.

Rarely are these blogs about mundane daily events, trifling tidbits on cheese - unless this is a dairy or food manufacturing site. No the popular blogs are very similar to the biggest & best websites: they are all about business.

The loyal rag-tag gang of readers & posters are those who work in, or desire to work in, the particular arena the blogger does. Or they hope to make an interesting discovery which will help them in their work, such as Mr Corporate or Ms Entrepreneur reading blogs on marketing.

Right now, blogging is so popular, that businesses are not just thriving on the tips, nor just being created to support the business of blogging, but they are even business models trying to utilize blogs as an income source.

To promote You have corporate blogs, where loyal customers can find out the inside scoop directly from the PR department. Blogs are now becoming direct marketing pieces. Where once normal consumers were jaded & viewed all corporate communications as a sales pitch, they now sign up to post & receive mailings. They believe what they read is as rare & private as a teen girl who reads Tiger Beat magazine thinking they now really, really know their heart-throb de jour.

*sigh*

If I sound jaded, forgive me. And I don't mean to say blogs or bloggers are evil spawn to be avoided. But where is the realism in all of this?

The media loves to play up the popularity & power of blogs. They love stories such as new authors being 'discovered,' how so & so got a job because of her blog, but sheesh, is it such a surprise?

Remember when Hollywood starlets were 'discovered' at coffee shops? Was that the norm? No. Remember the beginnings of biographies of famous people who claimed they got their professional start simply by being in the right place at the right time? They delivered something, gave someone a ride, made a good impression somewhere to the wife, the son, the man himself, and *boom* they got the job of a lifetime - or at least the start to one.

That's what blogs are: a way to make a good impression.

In this world of digital & instant communication, as folks spend more time with their monitors than they do in coffee shops or at cocktail parties, this is how we meet people. Sometimes it's a link in an email from a friend. Other times, it is a 'referral' in the from of a links list. Sometimes, a cheese lover will find an excellent writer in his fellow cheese lover. Who knows? Folks surf , so why is it a surprise that occasionally a connection is made? The web is made up of data & pixels, but it is humans that absorb & interact with it.

So, will blogs die out or become a fixture?

My bet is that there is more to come. Both in technology & in the goals of the users.

Those bloggers who find what they are looking for, be it pals that love cheese or that writing gig, will stay with it. Like the readers, those who can't find a community where they fit in, will likely move on.

As for businesses, I suspect it will be much like all in business: those that are honest, remain flexible, and focus on their customers will only grow larger.

© GlamKitty, a Backwash columnist, who despite being from Wisconsin, does not blog about cheese.

More by this author:

* Marketing Tips That Include The Real World

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