What does an erotic website have to do with solid IT work?

I have talked in the ‘sex sells…’ series of articles how ‘spicing’ your productions up a little bit might absolutely do well for the success of your production, as long as you don’t overdo it. Being raised in the Netherlands, it simply is not a big thing as it is here in the US. Making things visually appealing and attracting a users attention simply is a lot easier when sprinkling sexuality in it.

But, as I also warned for in those posts, if you even tilt a little bit out of balance, it might actually hurt your production, and hurt it badly.

I have to honestly admit; I am not a stranger to producing adult web productions, and it is actually not that easy if you do not want to lower yourself to the 99% trash level of online erotica. I started out with a company called World Online, back in the mid-90’s the up-and-coming Internet Service Provider that actually was also its own content provider, with a huge editorial department. I flew over the world with the editor in chief to create sites on location at major events, setting up one of the first big streaming events in a tiny video window on our site. It was wonderful. But, as the CEO recognized, catching the attention of the public, and selling ad space, meant that we needed more visitors. So, to do that, she decided to have our company produce a website called NightFly, a site that would only be online after 8pm and before 6am.

And this was bad… I mean, honestly, it was bad. Content was bought from a provider that ripped everything from the internet, and what we ended up with was third-grade grainy erotica. Sleazy, grose erotica. Also, the site never became a success. One of the reasons was that actually a lot of visitors of erotic website, visit them during work hours. So having our site being offline during those hours did not really well.

Second, we needed to go through all the content and filter the horrific from the horrible. That was especially problematic because we were also dealing with a lot of A-list celebrities that visited our studios, including a bunch of well-known models and actresses. Being a 21 year old guy than and wanting to last an impression on such a person, it did not help that they ‘catch’ me then going through all this material. And we all did… a room full of geeks, blushing while we had to go through all that stuff.

NightFly died an early death. Well, it actually stayed on our website, but we hardly had any visitors on it and we simply decided not to put any more time in it and moved on with clients like Ziff-Davis (ZD), Intel and others that had a bit bigger names (and budgets) behind it.

The next endeavor was a couple of years later, initiated by two girls from Marketing of a web statistics company, to see what attracted the most visitors, and if there were ways to actually still attract an instant audience. So, we decided to set something up, at that time actually buy our own content that we selected ourselves, get an excellent domain name, and launch it. And we did well. With a simple but effective concept we were able to launch on New Years Eve in 2000-2001 and within two weeks we had over 25,000 regular visitors. We counted ourselves rich!

Although, our success was very short lived. Not only did the maintenance of our simple concept did not turn out to be as simple… and required us to work another full-time job next to it simply to manage it. But the kicker came when our domain was hi-jacked. And this was a domain we actually had received a bid of $20,000 on after the launch of our site. Gone. Network Solutions, who handled the registration, forwarded us to the ICANN, who handled (and handles) all the .com domain registrations. But, there was nothing to do anymore, since the other party was now the rightful owner, even though they got it using questionable resources… ICANN could not ‘undo’ the false registration. Network Solutions mentioned they would cover our costs… which were a whopping $20 in remainder of the registration for that year. Nice. A quick talk with an attorney at that moment revealed that we hardly had any chance in getting it back because at that time, the legal departments had no clue what to do with anything going on online. This is back in the time of Napster, which should explain a lot.

So, five years later, we tried it again. But this time, domain security was beginning to happen, we got another excellent, maybe even better, domain, but now really started designing, building, rebuilding. We even started a small photo endeavor to handle the models and we started to create original, classy, content. Our team who built the site grew, also with the woman who later on became my wife. We had as concept that we would need a site that we would be so proud of, that we had no problems putting it in our resume, between productions like the World Wildlife Federation, Rutgers, NYU, government agencies, major car brands etc.

It became more than just a website, it became a complete environment and probably the largest media production I had done thus far. With three media companies working with us, a solid soundtrack even. But life happened, and before the official launch, we had to pause the project because three out of the four people working on it, emigrated. One to Australia, One to Canada and the third, me, to the US.

The site became a showcase for our work. What was able ‘back in those days’. And as a showcase site it still does magnificently, because it actually attracts still a lot of solid work, even until this day. Educational boards, government departments, even two commercial marketing firms, credit card companies… and don’t get me wrong, in those meetings it is not all men sitting there looking, but usually it is a 50% mixed crowd.

If done right, sexy doesn’t mean sleazy. If done right, erotica does not mean ‘dirty’. I still honestly believe in it. To be honest, I think that if done really well, it can be a more solid, and accepted market than any online market out there. Too bad there hardly is anyone out there daring to go that distance… artists like Rembrandt, Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso all went there… and that is seen as art right now.

And to be honest? I think a well done site should be a lot less sleazy than, for example, a car website.

Just a thought on Tuesday morning.

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