Web Fame

In the olden days of porn, a model needed to align with a movie studio to become a sensation. Vivid Video was instrumental in creating the model for today's starlets with the introduction of the Vivid Girl. Ginger Lynn might not have become a sensation if she hadn't done so many films with Vivid, and Jenna Jameson saw her star shoot by launching Club Jenna in association with the studio.

More recently, models like Stormy Daniels (Wicked Pictures), Tera Patrick (Teravision, distributed by Vivid) and, on the gay side, Johnny Hazzard (Rascal Video) and Matthew Rush (Falcon Studios) have found that signing as an exclusive with a production house is an easy ticket to fame. While it's still true that working with a studio can benefit one's career, the Internet has emerged as a crucial player in the making of a porn sensation. "I think the Web proved in not only adult, but also in so many other areas, that if a person has a specific talent or something that stands out, the world will see it," SilverCash President Mike Price said. "The Web can really create some huge opportunities."

Everyone is familiar with the story of Danni Ashe, the "most downloaded woman in the world," who went from posting naked pictures of herself on the Internet in the mid-1990s to becoming a video megastar and, eventually, the owner of her own company. In more recent years, however, starlets such as Jordan Capri, Raven Riley and Naughty Allie have become examples of models who managed to achieve Internet stardom, while studs such as Blake Riley (who started out as a model for RandyBlue.com) and Diesel Washington (who ran his own solo site) have helped to pave the way for other gay models to cross over from the Internet to video stardom, proving that signing with a studio isn't the only method of becoming America's next porn sensation.

"Not only do I feel traditional routes are less necessary to achieving stardom, I don't think they're a prerequisite at all," said NaughtyBank owner Jake Chase, who helped turn his shy wife into the dirty-talking nympho known as Naughty Allie, whose vanity site is NaughtyAllie.com. "Allie never did any traditional modeling or worked with any of the large studios, and she's still managed to achieve a following that's far greater than most models who have taken those routes."


The fan connection

Part of this phenomenon is related to the immediacy of the Web. "The Internet can catapult an aspiring starlet to fame literally overnight," Chase said. "Unlike brick-and-mortar outlets, which can take months of production and marketing to promote a new model, the girl next door can shoot a video from her bedroom this afternoon, post it to the Web tonight and - thanks to the viral nature of the Web - she can be on her way to stardom before she get out of bed in the morning."

SpunkyCash owner Spunky agreed: "Give a girl a webcam and hook her up with all the tube sites and community sites, and she can be a star."

Tom Leach, owner of affiliate program JayManCash (which hosts RavenRiley.com, as well as sites for fellow Internet sensations Liz Vicious and Kat Vixen), said he believes there are more Web stars due to other reasons. "The Web offers the opportunity to reach a more diverse fan base," he said. "And it also affords the models the ability to have more personal interaction with their fans. If the model makes all her customers special and remembers from day one that every single customer is what's important, she will go far."

Naughty Allie said she has experienced this firsthand. "My experience with Web fame was a bit overwhelming at first," she said. "I would have never thought that starting my own amateur website would have led to being recognized at the grocery store or the mall on a regular basis, but it has. I've gotten used to it now, and I have a lot of fun with it. It's really cool meeting fans in person."

Of course, it helps if the model seems down-to-earth enough for customers to feel comfortable reaching out to her or him. "I think it's about the girl-next-door appeal," said Lightspeed Media owner Steve Lightspeed, who has championed solo-girl sensations such as Tawnee Stone and Jordan Capri. "Our models are real college girls, not porn stars. They are more approachable to the average guy. There are guys who just aren't into seeing women getting fucked by groups of random men. Our models appeal to the guys that prefer women to be innocent and inexperienced, not slutty and used-up."

Price concurred. "Some of the biggest, most popular single girls all have one thing in common: They look innocent but yet aren't," he added.

RandyBlue owner Randy Blue also has found that guiding exclusive models like Reese Rideout and Chris Rockway to Internet stardom has depended upon their approachability. "The guys seem real and fun and, most times, very funny," he said. "People like the kind of guy they can have a beer with, and I think our guys are like that. You can be a god when it comes to looks, but if you don't have a personality to go with it, who cares?"


Creating a buzz with affiliates

A model's connection with fans is important in establishing a following, but, as some affiliate programs have found out, getting the word out to consumers sometimes takes a bit of help. "Getting an affiliate to promote a model is very similar to getting a surfer to join her site," Lightspeed said. "We promote our models to our affiliate network first. If an affiliate is tempted to join her site himself, he will be much more likely to promote her. When a surfer sees a model on many different sites, he might decide he needs to see for himself what the buzz is about."

The formula for creating a buzz around a particular model seems to be similar for straight and gay webmasters. Blue said he frequently pairs with club promoters and hookup sites like Manhunt for bar events, schedules his models for appearances on talk shows and reaches out to RandyBlue affiliates via webmaster forums like GayMainStreet and GayWideWebmasters.

Similarly, Chase uses various avenues to promote Naughty Allie's name. "We take advantage of every opportunity to get Allie's name out there by posting on forums, doing live webcam appearances and interviews on fan-based sites, getting affiliates to write reviews of her site, et cetera," he said. "You just have to do everything possible to get your name out there in front of fans."

Spunky said he has gotten results by giving fans just enough to whet their appetites. "We don't give everything away for free," he said. "We advertise only with non-nude material, leaving fans wanting more and more."

Leone, a frequent guest at webmaster shows and on adult and mainstream talk shows, said one can never have enough exposure. "I work every angle I can," she said. "I get a lot of type-in traffic because I am always promoting myself in the mainstream world and in adult. Always mentioning your site name is important, even if you think people are sick of hearing it. Internet fame comes from hard work. You can have the best-looking site in the world, but if no one knows your Web address, then you are nothing."


The gut instinct

Regardless of what a webmaster or performer does to achieve Internet fame, there are no guarantees that it will work. "Honestly, it is hit-and-miss," Lightspeed noted. "We've launched dozens of sites for different models, but some have underperformed, even using the same promotion and marketing techniques as the ones that skyrocketed."

"I think it's just being genuine," Chase suggested. "I think fans have grown weary of all the overhyped crap on the Web. Just giving Allie's fans an opportunity to see that there's a real person behind her site has created a level of loyalty that I would never have expected when we first started her site."

Leach agreed. "You need to let the model be who she is, rather than try to make her into something else," he said. "You can't try to turn someone like Liz Vicious into America's sweetheart."

According to Blue, "keeping people guessing about what you're going to do next" is one way of attracting fans. "You always have to be willing to take chances and not always think of the bottom line," he said. "When you see someone who has potential, you work with them to bring it out. It's really about showcasing their talents, whatever they are."

Perhaps trusting one's gut is the way to go. "Every model isn't cut out to be an Internet star," Lighstpeed said. "I've been pressured into opening new sites for models that I wasn't 100 percent behind. I've learned to trust my instincts. I've regretted every time I didn't."

"It all lies in the hands of the webmasters and the customers," Leach added. "You can offer people steak, and, sometimes, all they want is hamburger. I'll never completely understand what makes a star, so I just offer quality sites with quality girls and let the world decide who's next." 


This article originally appeared in the August 2008 edition of AVN Online magazine. To subscribe, visit AVN Media Network.