"When we first started HardcoreMoney, we didn't want to create just another affiliate program," co-owner Tom Avery says. "We wanted to create an affiliate program that people wanted to participate in, where they would actually contact us and say, 'Hey, I would like to promote your sites.'"
The Global Media, Inc. concern, stepping up as a corporate sponsor for the 2004 January Internext, is still paying $40 a signup, a number that's history for most other major players. In October, HardcoreMoney endured a bit of board flaming, most notably at GoFuck Yourself.com, regarding alleged late payments; but Avery's posted reply was immediate and concrete: "Let's lay these rumors to rest. From my lips to your ears, HardcoreMoney is not going out of business and we aren't in financial trouble .... All paychecks and payouts should be back on track."
Like other companies, Hardcore-Money has been battening down the hatches in the face of industry-wide change. "We've tackled trying to improve member retention and lowering our refunds and chargebacks. Much of our work has been behind-the-scenes efforts," Avery stated in his post.
"From the outside looking in," he reflects, "which is maybe the perspective I should be taking, it looks like we're having growing pains, or going through troubles; we're actually not. We're tackling a lot of the same problems as other companies - we've actually gotten a little more proactive about it. Rather than running this huge race to release new sites and get caught up in all the niches and new content and this and that, we wanted to revamp a lot of the things we already have.
"We actually are pretty advanced .... If we want to program a processor in on one Website, it automatically gets replicated to all of them. Even though we have 56 Websites, [when it comes to] managing them, it's like we have one or two."
The company's trademark transparency has stood them in good stead: "Hardcore tours and accurate, detailed stats means more cool, quick cash in your pocket!" hypes the site. Avery backs it up by saying, "We maintain realtime stats. We've always been a company that has nothing to hide.
"We go in, we show you all the countries of origin for your traffic, where your referring URLs are; you can actually go in and click on your link signup and see the sale there." With regard to shaving, Avery says, "Well, go and click on your link, and if it doesn't show up [in your stats], then start yelling.
"We've always been very open."
That's about as hype-y as it gets at HardcoreMoney. "You've probably noticed that we've never been huge when it comes to promoting ourselves on the Webmaster boards," Avery notes. Instead, that kind of energy gets funneled into the processes that maintain the company's framework. "We pride ourselves on everything that we do, we try to do it the best way possible, and I think word of mouth will prevail."
Avery got his start working for XPics Publishing. "They were one of the first major affiliate programs out there. A lot of these guys - TopBucks and SilverCash - they were actually affiliates of mine when I was heading up the Webmaster program there."
After a couple of years at XPics, Avery went to work in Santa Fe, NM, "for a company called Wired Solutions, [also] based out of Toronto. I worked out of Santa Fe on sites like Smutland.com, Club Hardcore Live, doing a lot of programming. That's when I started to get into programming, Webmastering, that sort of thing. Toward the end, I was pretty much running all of the sites, their tours, doing all of the maintenance.
"In July of 2001," Avery remembers, "I walked into my boss' office and said, 'I want more money.' He said okay, but as I walked out I realized, 'Hey, I'm still not fulfilled.'
"I just had a feeling that I was going to move to Miami and start my own company."
The long version was that Wired Solutions was looking to buy out Avery's current partner, Robert Gifford. "At some point, the talks went south ... he came up to Santa Fe, came into our little board room, and started talking about how nobody could steal his video feed, and they had all this programming invested in their business and it was iron-clad.
"About 15 minutes later I called him and told him I had stolen all his video feeds."
Gifford was "a little impressed." He gave Avery his number and told him if he ever wanted to start a company, he should give Gifford a call.
"I put the piece of paper in my wallet, and I don't know ... about a year passed by. I never saw that piece of paper again, never gave it a second thought ... " Until that one day in July, when Avery knew he wanted something more. By chance, talking about what to do for lunch, Avery looked into his wallet to see how much money he had.
"There was that piece of paper," he says.
"I called the number and said, 'Are you still interested?'" Gifford said yes, and got Avery down to Miami the next week.
"Essentially, he had a company called East West Telco - he'd been in the phone sex industry for quite awhile - way back in the day, he actually used to host Cybererotica here, out of Hollywood, FL, when they first got started.
"For me, I guess I was the perfect partner for him ... I said, 'I'm a programmer, too, and I know all these people who can design sites for us' ... we came down here in July of '99, and right away started getting to work developing our domain names - pornvideos.com, teengirls.com, interracial.com - a lot of big domain names that he had. We called in favors, and before you know it, we were up and running."
HardcoreMoney.com, as it is, is almost entirely Avery's program. "It took me about six months to get it where I wanted. I was lucky enough to come down to Miami and find Michael Zimmerman, who's been a very, very valuable employee. Everything I didn't know about servers and networking and machines, he definitely has all that knowledge."
Zimmerman's CTO for Global Media, although sometimes he wears two hats: "He's my punching bag at times," laughs Avery.
"We own a little over 4,000 domain names, and they're all great. As far as releasing new sites, it's as simple as a Webmaster calling me and saying, 'I would like a Website for this niche.' Give me about a week and a half and you'll have that Website with content and everything that you can promote.
"We can chase the niche thing all day long," sighs Avery. "I don't know if that's really the future for HardcoreMoney, but I want people to know that the comments and criticism that they give us, that's what's going to make our program better." His ICQ number is 9729909, by the way.
Avery wants to meet Webmasters - "We'd like to invite any Webmaster who hasn't tried our program to give us a try," - and of course, "don't forget to stop by the booth in Vegas!"