Okay, no one really takes London by storm; it's already a maelstrom of multicultural mayhem that has the ancient city throbbing through the night until the sun rises and the ubiquitous throngs of street people finally drag their urchin asses off to whatever garrets they call home. But Adult Check (www.adultcheck.com), Cybernet Ventures' adult verification service (AVS), did throw a mid-June party in London's raucous West End, and a pip of a bash it was. AVN Online was asked to cover it, and as the assignment fell to dutiful me, I dragged my own urchin ass down to the detention center known as LAX and boarded a New Zealand Air jumbo jet for the 9-1/2-hour jaunt across the Pond. And jolly good fun it was, even if I was stuck sitting between a fidgety Arab on his way to Cairo and a dour Scottish woman with a bladder the size of Loch Ness.
The purpose of the party was to launch two new Adult Check products, AC Pay and AC Free; products that Brad Estes, Cybernet Ventures' Director of Business Development, claims are evolutionary developments for both the company and the adult Webmaster community. "My expectations are pretty big," he said, during a long-ranging interview a few weeks after the party. "They're both hybrid business models in areas that we have never ventured into, but with our size and infrastructure, we're finally ready to get out there and take on some of these other markets, and up the ante by saying that this is the new level of service that a pay site management service needs to provide."
According to Estes, the weekend-long party was held in London so that Adult Check could spend some quality time with its many European Webmasters. But he also admitted that it was a risk. "No one's really done anything big over there, so it was a gamble as to how many people would show up, I had nightmares about having 20 people in that room just standing around with nothing to do."
But 130 Webmasters did make it; mostly Brits, but also a smattering of Northern Europeans, like Raf Verhaegen (www.smsaxxess.be), from Belgium, who, along with his partners, finally got to meet the Adult Check team that had helped make them pioneers of adult Webmastering in their country. I met the Belgians at The Royal George Pub Friday night as we waited for the Adult Check squad to arrive for drinks before heading off to The Spearmint Rhino strip club to lap-dance the night away. (Thanks for the attentive company, Aisha; sorry I didn't make it back.) Despite his wooly English, Raf and I managed to communicate, and he told me that Belgium is still in its formative stage with respect to online porn. The impression I got was that, like Lewis and Clark, Adult Check was the first American company to make contact with the "indigenous" peoples of countries like Belgium, and helped educate them in the money-making ways of the adult Internet.
But I did wonder why the Europeans were using an American AVS rather than start their own. "The hassle [to run one] is great," said Estes. "Maybe people realize that we pay out up to 68 percent for signups, so why not forgo the other 32 percent and avoid the hassles?"
What hassles? "Some of the traditional third-party billing companies won't touch [an AVS,]" said Estes. "And AVSs don't always lend themselves to the same kind of user management that a pay site does, where you've got people with user names and passwords that are only getting into one place. With an AVS, they have to get into many sites, so you have to build all this custom stuff to make it work. It's very logistics heavy, and you just have to wrap your head around it, figure out how it's all going to work, and then write the software. There are a few software packages out there that claim to be an AVS in a box, but I've never seen anyone have any success with one of them."
Estes says that a tighter market and more competition has meant that Adult Check has had to invent new consumer features to keep the surfers happy, like making the links list better. "That's because the number of sites has grown to some 300,000 on the link list," he said. "That's a lot of sites for a surfer to go through, so we have to constantly think of ways to make it easier for them to use them."
For the Webmasters, it's the same thing. "They always want more stats, more control, and the ability to drill down," says Estes. "For instance, we have memberships that are on recurring billing. Now, a pay site affiliate program might just tell you that you processed two rebills today, and that's all you know. But we give people the percentages. We tell them that two out of seven came in, five were declined, and here is why they were declined. We also have little indicator lights that come on when we're running recurring billing, and we tell people what time they run each day. So we are always opening ourselves up more. Sometimes we scratch our heads and go, 'You know, the more stats we give the Webmaster, the more questions and complaints we get.' But it's the nature of the beast. We have to give them the tools that let them make money."
AC Free (www.acfree.com) and AC Pay are Adult Check's newest money-making tools. "AC Free is the one that's online right now," says Estes. "In a nutshell, there are two ways to make money with it. First, you can use it like a traditional e-mail collection affiliate program, like Join4Free or FreeEzineBucks, where you just put a box on your site and make 35 to 60 cents pre e-mail, depending upon how many consumers sign up. That's the easy way to make money with it. The other way is to build free sites on your servers with content that's licensed to us with our software, and all done through an online tool. You build these sites to up-sell our other products, such as Adult Check, AC MoviePass, or Adult Check Gold, via banner ads or text ads. The trick is that your affiliate codes are put on all these banners, so you get money from the up-sells.
"Let's say that you build an AC Free site," he continues, "and your banners are all pointed toward AC Gold. But the surfer doesn't want it and hits cancel. Up pops the AC Movie Pass ad with your code in it, and translates the code to the different product and makes sure that you get credit for it if they buy it. Now, most people ask how they get traffic to these sites, and that's where the email collection comes in.
"The people who are signing up for the AC Free e-mail campaign are the ones getting into these free sites. These consumers are the ones who always say that they're never going to pay for adult content, so what we do with AC Free is teach them how the concept works; how one membership, which is free, can get them into all these sites. But the content is censored and the quality isn't tremendous, so what it does is to train them that if they want to go up to the next level, it will cost them $19.95 for three months, which is our entry-level AVS product, and they just move up the ladder, until they are an accomplished adult consumer paying $40 a month at a pay site.
"Think of a triangle with three horizontal lines going across it, dividing it into four layers. The bottom layer is free sites, the middle layer is AVS sites, the third layer is affiliate programs, and the fourth layer is pay sites that you run yourself. A Webmaster's goal is to bring traffic in and constantly up-sell them up the levels, because as you go up the prices increase and the recurring billing increases."
The other product, AC Pay (www.acpay.com), was scheduled to go online late in August. "AC Pay," says Estes, "is like a CCBill or an iBill, where you don't have to have [your own] merchant account but you can process memberships [to a pay site.] AC Pay sits at the top of that triangle, because that's your ultimate destination for consumers, to get them up on that monthly recurring big-ticket charge. I say it's like iBill or CCBill, but I really believe that we've upped the ante by adding many new features that work together.
"For instance," he continues, "the reseller program is completely integrated, so if you and Renee [Johnson, AVN Trade Show Manager] both run pay sites with AC Pay, and then you get Jennifer [Rosenblatt, AVN Sales Manager] to sign up as an affiliate, she's going to be a reseller. She can advertise either of your sites, and gets one check from AC Pay and one place to go to check all of her stats. She only has one person to trust, and that's Cybernet Ventures. So for resellers, it's great, because they can advertise all these pay sites in one place, and for pay sites operators it's great, because they can tap into this huge network of resellers. Because there are some 80,000 Webmasters in our database, and a whole lot of trust and good will. That's where the Adult Check name really carries a lot of weight."
It's weight that is evenly distributed throughout the world. With 60 percent of Adult Check's member Webmasters located domestically, 40 percent foreign, and with over 300,00 Websites active on their link list, Adult Check has been, and continues to be, a major force in the global adult Internet community.