Looking for love in all the offline places?
The World Wide Web is linking people up in more ways than one. For example, it brought together "John" and "Maureen," who once resided on opposite sides of the globe, but now co-own personals Website SexyAds.net. "John and I met through a personal ad for pen pals on the Net over six years ago," Maureen reveals. "We did it through newsgroups, which was about the only game going back then. I lived in Florida and John lived in Australia. We know firsthand how great personal ads for pen pals can be for most people."
The ad united the Aussie and the Yank personally and professionally. "After our first meeting in Australia, I went back to the U.S., and our first Net production together was Intimate Delights - sex toys marketed to women over 35," Maureen says. "John's background is programming, he owned his own software company in Australia. My background was running a work glove company in Knoxville, Tennessee, and later a T-shirt company in Florida."
Eventually, Maureen relocated Down Under. "We started out in a small way with a link on our Intimate Delights site to totally free ads, but found that we were deleting nearly every third ad for being too explicit," she says. "One night over a bottle of red wine, we figured there'd be a market for 'almost anything goes' adult ads. If we could get the software right, give the members great service, and make it comfortable for women and couples as well as men, it would be profitable. So we created SexyAds, and spent the next six months writing the software, setting up the systems, and building the initial database of members."
SexyAds (www.sexyads.net) went online in 1998. "It's a personal ad Website for sexy adults who want to meet other sexy adults," Maureen explains. "We cater to singles, couples, gays, lesbians, and anyone who has a sexual preference beyond the missionary position. We offer a free basic membership to anyone over 18. SexyAds doesn't offer any paid advertising so our members access only ads from other members."
SexyAds is user-friendly, and even those who are newbies to personals-speak, and don't know the definition of "SWM," can navigate their way around the site fairly easily
"SexyAds has a hugely popular online magazine called SAGazette (www.sagazette.com), which contains a list of abbreviations and acronyms there that you'll find at SexyAds and other personal ad sites," Maureen states. "The SAGazette also has articles of interest to our members like: 'How to write a great personal ad', 'What it's like to meet in person,' along with news items of interest to sexy adults."
Of course, SexyAds isn't a philanthropy, and like most adult Internet free sites, has a portal to a pay component. "We pay the bills through paid memberships in the Kama Sutra Club," Maureen says. Kama Sutra Club members receive all the benefits of SexyAds basic members, plus enhanced capabilities to search all the member profiles, not just actual ads. Members have access to X-rated photos, the ability to place and reply to an unlimited number of ads, and preferential placement of their ads, according to Maureen.
SexyAds also has a 50/50 revenue sharing partnership program for Webmasters, found at http://reseller.sexyads.net. However, adult Webmasters cannot currently pay to carry SexyAds on their sites. "Although we'd like to do that, it creates a problem in that we need to retain the ability to remove and/or ban people who abuse the system in some way, for instance by running commercial ads or abusing other members," Maureen explains. "After all, what keeps our members coming back and paying month after month is the fact that we run a system without those hassles."
Maureen believes some key attributes set SexyAds apart from its competition: "Service - to our members and our reseller partners," she asserts. SexyAds answers 90 percent of support mail within eight hours and every e-mail within 24 hours. Personal touch - we have product knowledge and a friendly staff who are genuinely interested in helping our members find partners.
"Speed - we only keep active members on our database, so it's not bloated with people who are no longer interested in our service. We run seven servers located at a premium co-hosting site in Silicon Valley.
"And real members - you only have to look at some other personal ad sites to see that they pad them with phony ads and fake photos. All our ads and photos are submitted by the members," says Maureen.
For that reason, among others, she says, "We won't permit any commercial advertising on SexyAds. Our members have told us that they want us to keep our site for people who wish to meet real new friends for relationships and adult fun. We have nothing against prostitution; it just has no place on our Website any more than commercial ads for anything else."
Maureen says SexyAds also has other taboos. "Since our members provide all our content, they are exchanging photos and information that is of interest to them. We consider ourselves 'naughty' rather than pornographic. We will not allow any illegal content including children, incest, or bestiality. Further, we won't permit any personally identifying information in any of the ads or photos. We want our members to choose which members have access to their personal details."
What is SexyAds' male/female ratio? "There are more men than women registered, but often around 50 percent of the people online at any given moment are women", "Maureen states. "The women and couples who take the trouble to register are not lurkers and tend to be way more active than men. Women love to chat, and the chat room regularly has more women than men in it."
The firm, which has 11 employees, is based in a small town between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's most populous cities. "As it turns out, being in Australia has at least one advantage: the busiest time on the SexyAds site - 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., U.S. Eastern Time - corresponds to normal working hours in Australia. So we can give our members great service without having to have heaps of staff working shifts."
The Aussie-based firm is waving its flag at industry trade shows; at January's Internext, they handed out cute, nationally distinctive mini-koalas holding boomerangs, and business cards containing a droll sex-ometer. "January's Las Vegas show was the first time we've exhibited at Internext, but we've attended before," Maureen says. "We had a great time and registered for the June show. We find that it's a great way to meet others in our industry and it's always easier to do business with someone you know and trust."
To paraphrase the old Levi's rye bread commercials, you don't have to be Australian to use SexyAds, which, like most text online, is in English. "Just like the rest of the Net, SexyAds is worldwide," says Maureen. "While the majority of our members come from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and a couple of European countries, we have members from around 120 countries including places like Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, China, Bangladesh, and others. Our members are meeting all over the world."
But just how effective - and dangerous - is it for e-strangers to meet online for offline hanky-panky? "We hear every week from members who've met, are planning to marry, have decided to live with each other, or who've just had a sexy time on a great date with someone or some couple they've met through our site," Maureen says. "We regularly hear of people meeting others tens of thousands of miles away. Recently we were notified of a Canadian man who moved to the U.K., a woman from Kansas who went to Hawaii on vacation to meet with a couple, and loads of other people who traveled across their own countries to see someone they met online.
"We love reading these e-mails because we know the excitement that comes with meeting someone this way. We know Americans can meet Australians online, since I'm American and moved to Australia from Orlando," Maureen proclaims.
On the other hand, the unregulated nature of the Net can lead to potential problems. "We've had remarkably few instances where a member has had a bad experience in meeting someone in person," Maureen claims. "However, as in real life there are people who misrepresent themselves online by posting old photos, lying about their marital status, and generally being assholes. Thankfully, it is rarer than you might expect."
How well is SexyAds doing? Maureen claims more than 350,000 current members. "We have over 2,000 new registrations and some days we delete nearly that many," Maureen says. "To us, it makes no sense to have a huge database of people who've registered with us but aren't still looking. This keeps the database tight and fast and our members have a better chance of getting a response because all the people on the database are actively looking."
The Webmistress discusses SexyAds' future plans: "We're introducing a new design for the site that will give us a more progressive look and feel," she says. "We're also constantly updating and improving our software to make it faster, easier to use, and give the members more features. We also have some enhancements for our reseller program coming up, including more comprehensive online stats, automatic banner rotation, and multiple pages tailored to specific niches.
"Business is great," she concludes. "Our best advertising comes from our members and our resellers. We put service ahead of everything else we do and it's paid off really well."