Was TrueTeenBabes a Big Mistake?Thinking from a strictly business point of view, and using information I've learned in the last several years, its not hard to come to the conclusion that the website TrueTeenBabes may have been a mistake. Clearly it was a less then perfect expenditure of resources and a weaker investment than other options I could have selected way back in the early days of my website history.
The key to answering this question is looking at it from a money making business point of view and leaving all other details, such as fun, travel, ego and opportunity out of the equation. To do that we need to look deep at how subscription websites operated back in years 2001 through 2010.
Subscription websites operate by charging a monthly fee for access to content located in a secure area, commonly called the "members" area. The New York Times website is an example of a subscription website; Some content available free of charge, but other content in the members area available to those that pay the fee.
Readers of this blog most likely know of subscription websites from the pretty girl, non-nude or adult markets. A company, webmaster, photographer, or combination thereof, creates content he or she feels is worth charging a fee to access, builds a site, installs a payment system, and opens for business.
If they spend $5000 a month to produce content, pay helpers and models, and run the website, they certainly hope to sell enough subscriptions to produce $5001 or more in income. Preferably, much more of course - just like any other business.
You can have the highest quality and most sought after content on the fastest and best looking website, with the most user friendly interface and navigation, but if nobody knows its there you'll not be able to sell a single subscription. None, zero.
In the website business there is this saying; "Traffic is King", often followed by "Traffic gets customers, content keeps customers coming back".
In 2001 when I was first creating TrueTeenBabes there was already thousands of pretty girl, non-nude, nude, softcore and hardcore websites online featuring millions of photos and videos. I had no ideal how to stand out from the rest and get a few subscribers.
The simple answer is "Advertising" and "Marketing". Those two terms have dictionary definitions, but on the internet they take on slightly different meanings, and over time have a way of morphing from something well intended to something much hated; Advertising often becomes annoying pop-ups, Marketing quickly became unsolicited email / spam.
Those two terms are closely related, and have much cross-over, but for the purpose of this writing, and remembering I'm speaking about the year 2001 timeframe, I'll define the two terms as follows.
Advertising - To me this is something the website pays a third-party to do under defined terms, such as per week, per month, per click or per sale. The most common advertising is to pay another website to host a banner on their website that links back to your own website. Other options include paying to be included in an email newsletter, or paying a website to use a software script to redirect a web surfer to your own website without the surfer clicking a link.
Marketing - To me this is something usually done in-house using your own time and labor, and your own resources. Back in the years I was starting TrueTeenBabes it meant starting a group on Yahoo to post samples, and discuss the site or photos in other Yahoo groups, on sites such as the NNPortal and NNBabes forums active at that time. These days it would mean Facebook profiles and pages, Twitter and Instagram profiles, YouTube pages with samples, and more along those lines. All of which can usually be done without cash payment, just time and labor from the site owner.
Note - Both advertising and marketing can also relate to search sites, such as Yahoo, Excite, Lycos and AltaVista (all popular in 2001), along with Google and Bing that dominate now. You could pay those search companies to "advertise" and be listed higher in the results or on the right side of a results page, and you can also market your site without paying them by optimizing your pages to show higher in the search results for certain search terms or keywords.
The overall goal of both methods is simply to get more visitors to the website in the hope that many of them will be converted to paying customers.
Without those two methods of promoting the website - advertising and marketing - nobody will know its out there and you'll have a damn hard time getting people to find it, much less pay to enjoy it.
Now lets look into the specifics, as of year 2001, of these methods and how they relate to pretty girl websites.
AdvertisingAdvertising a pretty girl website can be done a number of ways. Some are more affective than others and some are infected with extensive fraud on the part of the sellers, but for now we'll leave those two details for a future discussion.
Affiliate advertising was by far the most popular method of generating visitors to a pretty girl website over the past 20 years. This method involves creating large numbers of banners, text links, sample photos or videos, full sample galleries and other promotional materials and embedding them with links that include some software scripting and tracking of the viewer. If the viewer clicks on the banner, link or photo a tracking cookie is planted in his browser and he is redirected to the destination website. If he subscribes, the affiliate that sent him there receives a commission. Those commissions had been around 25% when I started, and grew to as much as 50% or 60% around 2010 as more and more websites tried to work with the most productive affiliates.
Productive affiliates are ones that work the hardest to drive traffic to a website, and thus earn the most in monthly commission fees. There are tons of true stories out there about affiliates making in the tens of thousands of dollars a month just sending paying customers to pretty girl websites.
TheHun.net is an example of a large affiliate site. They get free samples from many other sites, post small image galleries that fans can view for free, and offer links to the original subscription website. Take this link for example. A few free photos of the model, but if you hold your mouse over the text links that start with "Get Your Twistys" or "Check Out Twistys", and then look in the lower left corner of your browser you'll see the link and some unique tracking code. If you clicked, went to Twistys and subscribed, the boys back at TheHun.net would get 60% of whatever you paid at Twistys.
Pay-per-click and pay-per-view are very simple advertising methods. The website owner works a deal with a second website owner for a banner or text link to be placed on the second site and pays based on how many times it is clicked or how many times it is viewed. This method can drive hundreds or thousands of visitors to the website being advertised and some of them may purchase a subscription.
The pay-per-click and pay-per-view banner or text link method is now more organized. The owners of a new website doesn't need to find and negotiate with dozens of other website owners to get his banner out in the public view. These days pretty girl website advertising is sold through brokers that act as a middleman, centralizing the tracking and payment systems, as well as managing networks to minimize fraud. JuicyAds and Ero-Advertsing are just two of the many pretty girl or adult website ad brokers.
Email newsletters back in the day also worked with the pay-per-click or affiliate methods and could produce decent results if managed carefully.
All of the main advertising methods are affective and expensive. If you are hoping to create a 1000 subscriber website you best plan on spending thousands of dollars yearly on advertising, in addition to the website costs, production costs and employee costs.
MarketingAs I explained, in-house marketing efforts usually mean more time and labor, but less outright cash spending. Back in 2001, and up through about 2010, it could be done many different ways.
Yahoo groups were very popular back around 1999 to 2006 before outside social sites started taking over. Marketing in a Yahoo group was easy. You could start your own group to discuss your own site, and you could participate in other groups that discussed sites with similar content and hope group members became interested and visited your site.
Outside forums would include places such as TeenPlanet, NNPortal (which I eventually purchased), and others. Please remember that I'm talking about the time frame of 2001 up to about 2006. After that, many forums became havens for massive piracy and went from being a fun hobby for the administrators to big income sources as they ran pay-per-view advertising programs or became affiliates earning commissions from file lockers such as Hotfile and Oron, or webcam sites, while doing damage to the original sites. I'll save those stories for some future post.
Myspace was a useful marketing site for a time. They had rules limiting the exposure of sites that offered nudity, but many did find it a source of traffic for a few years.
Traffic trades using link lists and toplists sort of fall into the same category. Traffic as used here means visitors to a website. A site with lots of traffic is simply a site that gets lots of visitors on a daily basis. Many websites would be there for the sole purpose of redirecting traffic, and others would use link and top lists as part of a larger website management strategy.
A link list is simply a list of links that is managed by software scripts installed on the website. When a person clicks the link he is taken to another site to view whatever the link was promoting. A link list may have 75 or more sites participating with only the top 10 or 12 showing on the page where the links are displayed at any one time. The software keeps count of all outbound and inbound clicks (visitors), and those that generate the most traffic are move up the list into the area where they get displayed.
A toplist is the same basic thing but usually features banners, with some text under them, as opposed to just text links. Banners move up and down the list based on popularity - both how many times they are clicked, and on how much traffic the destination sites send back. The purpose of both list styles is to trade traffic with other webmasters and hopefully get something back in return, usually more traffic to your own site.
Example: Say I have a visitor to TrueBabes that isn't searching for a softcore website because he prefers sites that include sex scenes. If I'm smart I have a link on my free tour area that says something like "Our Friends" or "More Sexy Sites" and he clicks that link. He is shown my version of the toplist and clicks a banner that attracts his attention. That click might send him away from my site but is recorded in the trade database and eventually some other site in the toplist program will send traffic back to TrueBabes - maybe somebody that was on a hardcore sex site but was interested in softcore and clicked a banner that said "Naked College Girls".
Cross content deals were a common way of marketing sites. Two sites may provide free samples to each other, with links back and forth, hoping that the paying fan on one site would also join the second site. In later years this was also done with webcams - in particular on solo-model sites - where girls might cam on each others site hoping to attract fans back and forth.
Email newsletters that you run yourself are a good marketing technique in general, but not so good when you are first starting because you don't have a large list of opt-in email addresses to use.
Many of these marketing methods remain available here in 2016 with small changes. Myspace is a dead zone, but careful and casual use of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and others are viable options.
Overall, with a good investment and plenty of honest labor, a new pretty girl website starting back in 2001 could advertise and market itself to generate lots of visitors to the free tour area and, with fingers crossed, hope the visitor found something they enjoy and would be willing to pay for.
Super successful websites such as Twistys (2001), FTVGirls (2002) and OnlyTease (2002) all started in roughly the same time frame as TrueTeenBabes, and had access to the advertising and marketing options discussed above.
I speak with owners or employees (former in case of Twistys) of these sites on a fairly regular basis and have learned a lot about how they started, how they advertised and marketed in their first few years, and how affective those efforts had been.
Each of them managed to pass 10,000 average monthly subscribers within the first 24 months of being open for business using the tools and techniques discussed above. Each of them broke 15,000 or 20,000 in the years to follow, before piracy started taking its Toll.
In comparison, it took TrueTeenBabes a bit over 70 months to break 3000 subscribers, and right about 88 months to break 4000 subscribers. It never managed to break 5000 subscribers.
While there are several others to consider in the same time frame I selected those three because (1) I know people there and can get honest figures from them and (2) they are as close as I could find to what TrueBabes would have been had it started at that time and been advertised or marketed using the same methods and aggression those sites did.
Each featured very pretty models, ages 18 and above, nude or non-nude teasing, some models posing softer than others. As close to what I feel TrueBabes may have been if I started it in 2001 and did it correctly at that time.
Note - The Twistys site you see now is not the version I'm referring too. That site started with popular nude models - most from the southern California porn scene - with open legs, active hands, and very sexual poses. That is the site I am referring to today. Twistys was sold in 2011 and the new ownership group have filtered in a large amount of hardcore, boy-girl and girl-girl, sexual content there so the tour pages seen now don't relate to the topic at hand.
Continuing my comparison please take note that back in that time frame each of these sites, and TrueTeenBabes, charged $24.95 for a 30 day subscription. Just for giggles consider this: 10,000 subscribers times $24.95 equals $249,500 gross income monthly. 3000 subscribers times $24.95 on TrueTeenBabes equals just $74,700 gross income monthly.
That paragraph doesn't clearly state that it took them only 2 years to get to 10,000 subscribers and TrueTeenBabes almost 6 years to get to the 3000 subscriber level in used in the comparison, meaning not only did they have much higher monthly gross income, but they had those higher numbers for a substantially longer period of time.
Dammit Jimmy, what the fuck where you thinking?
Truth is, I wasn't thinking because I didn't know all about the advertising and marketing techniques back when I started. Somebody told me I should build a site, and there was a few teen girls nearby wanting to be involved, so I did it.
Whats the damn saying... "If knew then what I know now".
Note - In the paragraph above discussing gross income I left out things like DVD sales and linked solo-model sites, which I had on TrueTeenBabes and they didn't on their own sites. Also, be aware that I've rounded off all numbers there, and up and down this page, to keep things simple.
Unfolding Those NumbersThose numbers are... well, damn they are just numbers. Gross income numbers, not deducting any expenses, costs, fees, taxes or licenses. Maybe we can venture into those numbers just a little deeper.
The first thing that comes to mind is the size of the sites and the server power and bandwidth capabilities. A 10,000 subscribers site with thousands of photos and videos requires multiple servers networked around the globe to run smoothly, and pretty much full-time tech support to keep it all running smooth. Additionally, because the company is also running the large affiliate program and hosting tens of thousands of banners and other files for affiliates, it needs a second fast network. In 2006 dollars, maybe $7500 or more monthly on servers and network, when I was at something like $500 for TrueTeenBabes and a few sites related to it.
The large affiliate program is by far and away the single largest expense for a site like Twistys (2001-2010 version). That affiliate program was titled "TwistysCash" and here is a quote from materials they gave to other site owners wishing to partner with them.
TwistysCash offers a 60/40 revshare option. Membership to Twistys is $24.95 per month. An average Twistys Member stays just over 3 months so that is roughly $45 per signup for you. We pay out every 2 weeks and you are paid by us. Send your traffic to our site and get 60% of the signup and 60% of all rebills for the life of the member. This is by far the number one, most preferred method of promoting our sites, as most people have found out that we retain VERY well, and can make you on average over $45 a signup. We have some members from 5 years ago still going strong, so we know that people like what we offer!
What that means is that the website pushing traffic to them would get 60% of the sale price for each visitor that subscribes, and 60% of the price the subscriber paid each month he stayed.
Certainly not all subscribers to Twistys came there from the affiliate program. Some came from advertising, Myspace marketing, paid banner ads, Twistys own feeder sites and links, and search engines. A rough estimate would be something like 70% of new subscribers come from affiliates earning that 60% commission. That 70% of 10,000 is 7000, with each paying out 60% of the sale price, meaning that $104,790 of the $249,500 gross income monthly is sent right back out to affiliates. Some knowledgeable people tell me it would be more like 85% of new subscribers came from affiliates. I selected the lower end just to be safe.
Before we leave the affiliate discussion we must remember that running a program like TwistysCash requires a lot of labor and money. Somebody has to work with all those affiliates, create all the promotional materials they gave out to affiliates, manage the payment system, watch out for fraud and more. At least two full time employees, and likely more. Thats not cheap, likely coming it at around $6000 a month (bit over $17 an hour when insurance, taxes and benefits are included).
This of course only covers the subscribers coming in from affiliates. We still have something like 30% of new subscribers coming from other sources, such as in-house marketing, paid advertising through brokers, and search engine placement. Each of those things calls for additional expenses (ads, promotional material creation, hosting) and labor. At least one more employee, likely two. Thats not cheap, likely coming it at around $6000 a month.
I would guess at least two more employees to run the site itself, do customer service, manage updates, work with content, etc. That might seem like one person too many, but please remember that sites like Twistys updated more often - maybe small updates daily - and 10,000 subscribers is a heck of a lot of email coming in. I can recall days when TrueTeenBabes was over 3000 subscribers, TrueBabes about 800, and a few solo sites each had 300-500, and I would get 100 or more emails a day, 7 days a week - almost all of which the sender was hoping I would be available for a quick reply. Figure at least $6000 more monthly.
Note - The email figure just mentioned for my sites combined might be a bit misleading and not relate to a site like Twistys. I was always open about contact with subscribers, providing comment forms, Toll-free phone number, email address widely published, and of course writing news pages and blogs (old "Photographer's Corner") that would attract or invite subscriber questions. A large, sort of corporate site like Twistys was at the time didn't work that way and didn't invite direct contact.
To house employees, and computers for them to work on, they need office space. I have no idea of the rates back at that time in Canada where Twistys was born, but I'm guessing we are talking about $4000 a month with the utilities, ISP, etc.
Thus far we have accounted for almost $127,000 a month in expenses and have not spent one dollar paying other websites for publishing the advertisements, for other labor (managers / owners), and paying a giant expense - the content itself. Wow.
As for the advertisements (banners and text links placed on other sites through brokers), I don't have a number from anybody I talk to. Most site owners seem sort of private about it, but one gave me an informed guess for affiliates and advertising combined. Using that, subtracting the affiliate costs listed above, we are left with about $40,000 a month.
I'm not going to include a figure for manager / owner. I'll assume, like I did for years, that the owner was incorporated and personal income was based on success (profits) of the business.
Content, well thats a huge expense but also incredibly hard to estimate. We are talking about during the prime time of these websites (both mine, and the three mentioned above). Rates for paying models, renting locations, paying make-up people and more have changed drastically over the years, as have the costs associated with production (helpers, outfits, cameras, etc).
The main difference between Twistys, which I'm using as an example here, and my website(s) is that I did all the photography. Twistys purchased all their content from photographers around the world - most in southern California - and those photographers paid the models themselves. No way to know now what the models may have been paid but I can estimate the content costs.
Close to around the same time frame I often spoke with some of the same photographers to see how much it would cost to have them help me with TrueBabes. The prices they quoted me in 2008 and/or 2010 wouldn't be exactly the same as what they charged in the year 2006 I'm using in this example, but close enough to guess.
Using a standard size update, but spread over 3 days a week as many sites do to make it sound bigger, and averaged over a 30 day month, I would guess we are talking something like $18,000 in content purchases monthly. Remember, the material is exclusively produced for Twistys, which makes it much more expensive as compared to mass-sold content seen on hundreds of sites. Some of this material would arrive retouched (photos) and edited (videos), but if not that labor would be covered by the two website employees discussed above.
To meet affiliates and do business to business deals all the large websites attend a few convention type shows each year. The largest is Internext Expo held each January, followed by The Phoenix Forum put on by CCBill, and The European Summit in Spain. The cost for 2-3 staff members to attend those shows and distribute materials is likely $20,000 each, spread among 3 shows in 12 months, meaning $5000 in the monthly budget.
Add in a bunch of taxes, fees, legal costs and other miscellaneous payments.
This "best guess" math has us spending at least $200,000 monthly without management payroll or owner profit sharing (likely same people).
At the end of this sample month there is something like $45,000 to $49,000 remaining. Naturally the owner takes some as his share, but a large chunk is left in the company for cash flow, upcoming expenses, and expanding the company and/or websites by increasing the budgets listed above.
Remember, this multi-paragraph example features 10,000 subscribers, but we know the site(s) being discussed eventually far surpassed that. To do it they had to spend more money each month. More affiliates joining the program (likely met at the trade shows), more money spent on advertising, more employees, more, more, more.
Curiously, the estimated $45,000 to $49,000 they would have before management payroll or owner profit sharing in 2006, if correct, would not be that much more than TrueTeenBabes was around that time, with the TrueTeenBabes average being about $38,000 in 2007 (no 2006 records available as I write this). TrueTeenBabes expenses came from different areas, such as the photographer, webmaster, customer service and owner being one guy (me), having no affiliate program or paid advertising, but TrueTeenBabes having 2 studio building leases and traveling to other locations for shoots a few times each year.
There you have it; Estimated 2006 monthly revenue, after expenses before management/owner share; about $45,000 for Twistys (and likely the other sites mentioned) and in 2007 about $38,000 for TrueTeenBabes.
Certainly not bad for either site or company but thats where the sites start to veer off in different directions. Twistys continued to invest, predominately in the affiliate program because those outside webmasters can send giant amounts of traffic - totaling tens of thousands of new visitors per day - to the site, and in building a giant network of their own free websites to be used as feeders for the main subscription site. By 2010, the guys behind Twistys using their feeder sites managed "more than 1,000,000 unique visitors daily".
Damn, thats a ton of people!
By 2008 they certainly passed 20,000 monthly subscribers and by 2010 at least 30,000 or more, while I at TrueTeenBabes didn't break 4000 until September of 2009 and only added a couple of hundred more by the end of 2010.
30,000 subscribers on Twistys at the end of 2010 equals $748,500 gross income monthly.
4200 subscribers on TrueTeenBabes at the end of 2010 equals $104,790 gross income monthly.
Normal inflation and employee raises would have caused both sites to have increased expenses over the period being discussed, but clearly their end of the month totals before management payroll or owner profit sharing grew greatly and TrueTeenBabes didn't.
Note - By 2010 monthly subscriptions to TrueTeenBabes became $29.95, with a recurring discount making the average about $27.25 and moving the gross monthly income closer to $114,450. I'm using the $24.95 and $104,790 numbers in the full discussion to compare as close as possible to the other sites.
Dammit Jimmy, what the fuck went wrong?I'm not sure anything actually went wrong with TrueTeenBabes. I think the mistake happened way back in the late summer of 2000 when the decision was made to open TrueTeenBabes when enough content could be produced, and hold TrueBabes (18+ with nudity) until some date in the future.
By now many readers are likely asking why I didn't just use the tools and techniques discussed above to try growing TrueTeenBabes into a massive site like the guys at Twistys did? I'll have to answer that in parts and pieces.
First, in the summer of 2000 when I decided to create my first site I had no damn idea what an affiliate program was and didn't learn if the tiniest bit about them until a few days before opening in July 2001. I didn't know how to do traffic trades, how to secure a website, how to watch for fraud in advertising networks, or any of the other website business details and techniques.
When TrueTeenBabes opened in July of 2001 I quickly created a few banners and started a tiny affiliate program, first using software scripts provided by iBill (original version), and shortly later provided by CCBill. Within a few months, and certainly before I got serious about the affiliate program, CCBill and other third-party billing companies stopped working with sites that featured non-nude models under age 18. Soon as I had a tiny affiliate program started it was gone and the new billing software didn't feature affiliate scripting or tools until 2010.
Some website programmed their own affiliate program software but I didn't have the skills. Other companies came along with awesome affiliate tracking and management software products, but because they lease it monthly (software as a service) and it ties into their master databases, they didn't want to work with sites that featured non-nude models under age 18. The brings to mind another problem I didn't expect and wasn't prepared for.
There were very few affiliates, or affiliate sites, that wanted to work with sites that featured non-nude models under age 18. Looking back it makes perfect sense. If I owned a site showing tons of free samples to adult sites like Twistys I also wouldn't be comfortable posting samples next to them of 14 year old non-nude girls in tiny bikinies.
Meaning that even if I had a full affiliate program going I could never have reached anywhere near the number of affiliates feeding in traffic that sites like Twistys, FTVGirls and OnlyTease managed.
The husband and wife team that opened Twistys in 2001 had been in the adult website business, as affiliates or managing smaller sites, for almost 5 years prior. They had developed all sorts of connections and business relationships, and knew the business methods and techniques. Me on the other hand had only dealt with website owners selling them photos or scanning film shot by others.
I simply failed to learn the pretty girl subscription website business before starting a pretty girl subscription website.
Second, even if I couldn't, or simply didn't, try and grow TrueTeenBabes with a full fledge affiliate program back in those early days, the same issues came up when I would try to buy advertising or place my banners on other sites.
Compared to what the large sites did, I could very rarely find other websites that would link to a site like TrueTeenBabes. While legal, it just made a lot of pretty girl or adult webmasters uncomfortable and they didn't want the drama of connecting to it. This pattern continued for years and in some ways right up to today.
Third, and maybe somewhat surprising to followers of TrueTeenBabes, is that the total number of internet surfers interested in, or comfortable with, models in the 13-17 age range is tiny compared to the number interested in general pretty girl nudity or porn.
One portion of that is that a very large percentage of persons surfing the Internet looking at pretty girls don't realize, even to this day, that a 15 year old model in a tiny bikini or lacey lingerie is legal. It is safe to assume that the number is large - maybe close to 70% - and that most of them would quickly close their browser window as soon as possible when TrueTeenBabes popped up.
To this day, from the archive sites TrueTeenBabes.NET and TrueTeenBabes.TV, I continue to get emails asking if the materials there are legal in general or legal in a specific state or country. Now, with only archives active, it happens just 2-3 times a month. Back when TrueTeenBabes was going full blast it was a 2-3 times per day deal and I had a standard email template I would use to save time in replying.
Those are the few surfers that would take the time to email. Note that if a surfer had doubts about a website they most often would be safe and click the back button or close the browser window and not be sending email to a site they had those doubts about.
Even persons that had consistently joined pretty girl websites with models in the same age range had questions about TrueTeenBabes. Example; In 2006 a pair of sisters had been using the names "Sherri" and "Marie" while posing for another website company. That company went out of business, and for one shoot "Marie" came to TrueTeenBabes. As soon as the photos went online, including "Marie" in a thong, dozens of emails came in from her long time fans claiming I was breaking the law, thongs illegal in the USA, she would be sent to prison, and on and on. This all coming from fans that had been subscribing to sites with models her age and below for years - yet they somehow thought a thong was illegal.
Thongs are not illegal on any pretty girl websites and that model, formerly known as "Marie", is now using her first name on a long standing site called Brittany-Marie.
Leaving out the issue of most pretty girl fans not knowing the law, we are still left with the absolute fact that most pretty girl fans online that are willing to spend their hard earned money of a website preferred at least nudity at that time. A pretty 16 year old in a bikini is fine, but a pretty 18 or 19 year old naked is even better, to most fans.
I didn't know, or even consider, things like "potential market" or "consumer demand" back when I first started TrueTeenBabes, but the bottom line is that in the early years of TrueTeenBabes and Twistys - roughly 2001 to 2006 - hundreds of thousands more fans surfed around looking for nude college age girls than surfed around looking for non-nude high school girls.
The math is simple, and used in any business - there is a lot more people looking for new 4-door, high gas mileage, sedans than there is for noisy snowmobiles, which is why Toyota sells more Corollas than Ski-Doo does its TNT 800R.
In late 2000 (planning stages) and 2001 (shooting and building stages) for TrueTeenBabes I simply didn't consider such things. They never crossed my mind.
Uncontrollable VariablesA day to day, month to month or year to year comparison between sites that started around the same time is impossible, even if all parties wanted to make it happen. They are all pretty girl websites, much like apples, plums, mangos and oranges are all fruits, but after that generalization, they differ too much to be compared side by side, much like apples and oranges.
They had access to the best software scripts (usually through CCBill) to put affiliate programs in place, when I didn't until about 2010, which by then the market was already declining. An affiliate program, to be most affective, needs to be in place right from the start. The classic example is the 2006 solo-model site RavenRiley. The owners had been in the adult game for years and had 100s of other site owners and affiliate webmasters as friends. They planned the site for months, had thousands of banners, free samples and text links in place with a set opening date. When all that was made active the site got so much traffic it almost crashed, and by years end had grossed more than one million dollars.
The other sites starting around 2001 had access to paid advertisements on other pretty girl websites, which I never did except a few tiny forums over the years.
What they didn't have - and most adult pretty girl websites never had - was a bit of controversial media coverage. The biggest subscription selling day for TrueTeenBabes was the night it was featured on the TV show Inside Edition. That is closely followed by the days when it was featured on local TV news and newspaper stories in Tampa, Orlando, Nashville and others. FTVGirls, Twistys and OnlyTease have never received that exposure as far as I know.
Another thing they didn't have was giant legal bills. We can't forget that TrueTeenBabes was offline for 14 months (April 2002-June 2003) fighting a very expensive legal battle. Not only did we not have income during that time, growth momentum was lost and it took almost 2 years after reopening to get back to the subscriber level it was when the battle started. Legal fees for that battle top $180,000 and over the years legal fees for the site, or in local areas where models/parents needed help talking to local authorities, easily add another $200,000 that standard (18+) pretty girls sites don't face.
While discussing this with a friend recently he mentioned that at least I didn't have to pay as much to the non-nude teen models as he does for 18+ nude models. Thats not really accurate. The rate we paid for TrueTeenBabes had to be high enough to get attention and make it worth the potential teasing a girl or her mother may receive. In general, with the exception of large companies such as Playboy, I was paying the non-nude teens damn near the same as nude girls age 20 would get at the time for nude shoots.
Note - Paying good for TrueTeenBabes in some ways created a hassle for TrueBabes. I couldn't pay the same amount, so I had to pay much more - twice as much - if the girl was on TrueBabes, which made TrueBabes production costs high compared to other sites like it.
Closely related to payment to models is the cost to work with teen models. The easy example is when I fly a girl to town for TrueBabes I pay for her airfare and meals. When I fly a girl to town for TrueTeenBabes I pay twice as much because I have to bring her mother, aunt or big sister along.
Speaking off models - back in the time frame I'm discussing, it was easy to find models for a site like TrueBabes or one even more sexual. You had sites like ModelMayhem and OneModelPlace that would not stop a good photographer from contacting 18-20 year olds for softcore nudity, and even had that in their profile description and search options, but if that same photographer approaches a 14-16 year old about a site like TrueTeenBabes, they are banned and deleted.
Additionally, there are several other sites that specialize in profiles of girls that want to be nude models (see SexyJobs) and agents / agencies in California, Florida and Nevada that will send you nude models all day if you do production nearby. You won't find that with non-nude teens.
Hiring was also an issue behind the scenes. Dozens of times, particularly when I tried to run the entire business from Florida, I would advertise for some sort of help - video editing or Photoshop work - and darn good applicants would lose interest when they found out it was models under age 18 in tiny outfits for TrueTeenBabes. I'm confident that wouldn't have happened if it was just TrueBabes featuring models 18+.
Imagining a Different RoadIf I didn't know now what I didn't know then I would have no reason to dream about this shit, or bore you guys with my writings about it. Unfortunately, I do know now what I didn't know then and it causes me to realize that starting a non-nude teen model site (-18) wasn't the best option I had at the time.
Before TrueTeenBabes I was known here and there among website owners (18+) because I did photography for some, and my photo lab did film scanning for dozens of them. I attended, even spoke at, some of those trades shows in 1999-2001, and had open communication with webmasters. I didn't know the business or the techniques, but I knew those guys.
If my first site, or only site, would have been TrueBabes and 18+ nudity, I think some of those guys could have given me good advice, helped solve tech issues, or help me find resources I didn't know about.
As it worked out as soon as TrueTeenBabes was open most of those people put a tiny bit of distance between themselves and I. Even third-party resources, such as some hosting companies, graphics guys for banners, and server technicians kept their distance.
Long established companies, like CCBill and EPoch, are very important in the 18+ website game. They manage billing, provide the tools to build a large affiliate program, and even have a system where they refer affiliates or help others refer affiliates in your genre for a small cut of the commissions. Using these resources is a big deal but by featuring models under age 18 TrueTeenBabes couldn't take advantage of them. FTVGirls, Twistys and OnlyTease all used them and continued to even when they grew big enough to move all billing and customer service in-house. (Twistys was sold in 2011 to a foreign firm and now uses an in-house system).
My imagination tells me that if I had started with TrueBabes back in 2001, concentrated strictly on it for years as other companies did with their sites, it very likely would have grown bigger than TrueTeenBabes ever did and would have done so over a shorter period of time. And, it would have done so without the hassle, legal battles, silly drama and hair pulling frustration I bumped into while running a website featuring models under age 18.
I'm not saying it would have been as big as FTVGirls, Twistys or OnlyTease, but I am saying it would have grown bigger than TrueTeenBabes in terms of total monthly subscribers, total gross revenue, and total number of people it could comfortably employ. I'm talking about something maybe the size of Colorado based MPLStudios (8500-9500 subscribers).
And, most important of all, much less drama and hassle.
You can't imagine the hassle, drama and wasted time or work associated with running a site featuring models under 18, as compared to running a site with models 18+. I can't begin to count the number of Myspace, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twiietr or modeling site profiles started, then then deleted when a person that didn't like under 18 models would complain, but would happen if strictly TrueBabes with models 18+. Hours and hours of time wasted debating the site with law enforcement and media that could have been better used promoting an 18+ site, and more and more bullshit that doesn't happen with sites running strictly 18+.
That less drama and hassle likely means TrueBabes would still be active to this day, and I'd be sitting around drinking tequila while other photographers dealt with the silly naked babes!
Let me close by saying that in no way am I saying TrueTeenBabes was a big mistake - no matter what the title of this blog is. I'm happy. That damn website changed my life, paid me plenty, and took me to exciting places with awesome people. I'm set up to coast along for many, many years thanks to that darn site and the thousands of fans that paid to enjoyed it. No regrets.
The purpose of this writing is to bring you readers into my thoughts of how things might have been different.
If I could twist the clock back in time to 2001, but maintain in my hard head and computer hard drives the things I've learned over the years, TrueBabes with models 18+ would the website created.
I also would have started using Rogaine... but thats yet another story.
As always - I welcome all comments, questions and suggestions. Blog ideas and requests are encouraged. Please feel free to use the form down this page or on the contact page to send me your thoughts.
January 25th, 2016