This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see a copy of the digital edition.
In May of 2015 Google announced that more searches were taking place on mobile than on desktop in ten major countries, including the United States and Japan. To put that in perspective, Comscore had previously reported that mobile search was 29 percent of all searches as recently as Q4 of 2014. With that level of sustained growth and new audiences coming online for the first time via mobile devices every day, the speed of change—in viewership, billing practices and technology—is also becoming difficult to keep pace with for many business owners. AVN sought out leading experts in the field to provide information that should be useful in successfully charting the mobile future.
“The mobile landscape has been pretty dramatic in the last 12 months,” said Joey Gabra of Affil4You.com. “We are seeing a massive surge in the acceptance and advancement of VR technology. We are becoming more and more regulated by mobile carriers in Tier 1 countries while we are also seeing growth and unexpected success in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 countries. The mobile carriers themselves are competing against each other with more liberal data plans and friendly price points for their users, which in turn affects our business models. We haven’t yet determined if this affects us positively or negatively... but so far it seems it’s a little bit of both, dependent upon the local economy and which country or carrier is being used.”
The density of that statement gives you a good idea just how often and in how many ways mobile content distribution continues to evolve. Stefan Muehlbauer, director of marketing and sales at Brokerbabe, agreed. “The Directcarrier billing opportunities are getting more rare and more regulated. The industry adapts and goes again more into apps and dating. This progress will continue. I think the next years will bring the rise of live content and VR—both are things that are talked about and been tried since eternity without proper results.”
Virtual reality is a popular buzzword these days, much the same way mobile itself had been years ago. It seems as though most of the industry believes VR will eventually become a major force in adult content sales, but there is a lot of disagreement as to whether that shift is imminent or still a few years away. Just as with mobile, there were plenty of companies that lost fortunes moving too early or too late, and with VR mobile many of those same timing dangers and opportunities are at play.
“Virtual reality is already an awesome development in mainstream mobile,” Laura Cebrián, affiliate manager of FirstMobileCash, said enthusiastically. “It is only natural that it has extended into the adult world. I mean, having the possibility of not only “watching” your favorite performers in action, but also “experiencing” the action in your own flesh ... how cool is that? The impact of VR can only be positive, in all areas mobile. Phone producers, for example, are going strong on VR too because this way they will increase their sales, for sure...”
However, Carmen Lumina, managing director of BitterStrawberry.com, cautioned that “The availability of low-cost virtual reality gear will drive the creation of VR mobile video content and apps, and will drive advertisers to experiment with VR mobile video advertising, but for the moment, from a consumption perspective, your mobile remains a two-dimensional information exchange. Once you require [more] gear to make use of VR, is it really still what could be considered mobile?
For some, mobile VR is a great idea that is not yet ripe. “Virtual reality will impact mobile dramatically ... however, I don’t see it happening for at least five or more years,” warned Gabra. “It will be hard for people to enjoy adult products while wearing a big helmet or funny glasses on their head, but the helmets and glasses will get smaller and less awkward over time and people will eventually learn to appreciate how cool the whole VR thing can be.” With other aspects of mobile, innovation comes faster, because so many of the foundational elements of mobile are already known to people as opposed to the more speculative VR market.
Due to rapid changes in the way content is reaching customers, the field of testing and tracking has become undeniably important to the success of any mobile campaign. Getting your mind wrapped around so much data from so many sources, and making accurate decisions in real time that allow your company to profit from the information it has on hand, is simply becoming too complicated for even the smartest minds to do manually. That’s where better tools are needed and why companies like Wister are leading the way.
“There is a big movement in how we assess and utilize and optimize data,” explained Gabra. “It’s always been an important part of business, but the tools being used have never been ‘smart’ enough. We have learned that obtaining good data and having the ability to confidently make good reliable decisions about how you utilize that data is becoming more and more significant. The recent successful launch of our optimization tool KHEPRI (Khepri.tech) has proven to us that there is a huge demand for quality tools to assist marketers scrutinizing data with maximum potential and minimum risk. We have finally found a powerful way to fill those demands and the results are exceptional.”
Ad blocking has also become an important topic recently, thanks in part to Apple’s decision to allow ad blocking as a native feature of its IOS9 build, but the impact has been much smaller than many outsiders expected. “The average usage of ad-blockers in the US is about 2.5 percent of the mobile market, while the world’s highest ad-block using country is Germany with up to 12 percent,” explained Carmen Lumina. “We believe that the ad blocking will have no real impact on the advertising market, but it will more likely hurt the content providers and site operators rather than advertisers. Ad blockers affect not more than 5 percent of the business, as they do not interfere with advertisements within apps, through which the majority of content consumption is done. There are already sites like Forbes.com, which are fighting back and they won’t allow the user to log in while using ad blocking and for sure this practice will expand.”
Once mobile traffic finds its way into the app ecosystem it can be advertised to with native ads that are unblockable, as the audience becomes almost entirely agnostic to browser changes, device hardware differences, carrier anomalies and many of the other variables that impact mobile traffic. For that reason many companies are starting to pursue app development as a new parallel alongside traditional browser based mobile websites.
“Within adult itself, there are a lot of restrictions on the kind of content that can be distributed in-app, but clever companies are finding ways to push content to app-based audiences without breaching iTunes or Google Play terms of service,” said Justin of Monetize.xxx. “Where there is a will, there is always a way, and as mobile becomes a larger audience, the will to penetrate that market is becoming immense. It’s something the gay side of the industry has done far better so far, but I do see a fair amount of catch-up taking place right now.”
It is also becoming apparent that many so-called adult companies have expanded far beyond the traditional notion of adult-only content into new verticals that lend themselves to proliferating their message in app, online and across any medium without being so obviously from one niche or another.
As Laura of FirstMobileCash said simply, “At FMC, we are always innovating and finding new smart ways to reach our markets accordingly. A good example is that we are one of the few companies offering unique products for mobile Wi-Fi traffic built and managed in-house in several geos. This is a competitive advantage in the industry, especially for our affiliates, as the amount of Wi-Fi traffic keeps growing.”
When mobile first came to prominence it was all about having a desktop business that offered a parallel mobile presence. Then the world shifted and everyone pursued responsive designs that worked equally well from any device. Now, it appears a new shift is well underway, and is leading many brands to build several versions of their products for the specific purpose of taking every advantage in each iteration of content.
Perfect Wi-Fi, exceptional content optimized and translated for each region, the right carrier relationships, in-app builds, feature-rich versions for competing devices, future-proofed content to keep pace with improved displays—and solid analytical testing of each new campaign. In short, to succeed with modern mobile you really do need to be everything for everyone anytime and anywhere they want.