by AXF Team | 4 Minutes With
4 minutes with Colin Rowntree
Welcome to the latest of our new ‘Four Minutes With…’ features, where we sit down and speak with leading CEOs and business professionals and ask them for their top tips and insights into starting a business. We are pleased to be speaking with Colin Rowntree, owner and CEO of multi award winning web site Wasteland.com.
With over 23 years in the adult industry and a member of the AVN ‘Hall of Fame’ owner and CEO of multi award winning kink site Wasteland as well as other adult sites we could not find a better business leader to be asking advice from.
1. When you launched Wasteland.com over 20 years ago, what were your original plans and did you find everything went the way you planned?
It was a dark and stormy night in 1994 and my wife, Angie, and I stumbled across an idea. At that time, we had two little mail order catalogues—one selling Celtic and metaphysical jewelry, and the other selling kinky leather gear and BDSM toys. This little idea was to see if we could figure out how to put the pictures from the catalogues on that new thing, the internet. So, we invested $347 on a used and beat-up IBM 386 and a dialup modem, had a friend scan the pictures of our kinky-gear catalogue at the mental institution where he worked, and stuck them on a web page, written in notepad, optimized for Mosaic. The goal was to get people to call or email us to ask for a free catalog.
Within a month, we discovered that a LOT of people were coming to look at the dirty pictures of pretty girls in leather corsets but were not ordering the catalogue, and it was costing us money for bandwidth! So, we thought, let’s figure out a way to charge them, let’s say, $10 to look at the dirty pictures and hide the catalogue pictures in a “secret directory” (this was before .htaccess) that we would email to the customer after we got the ten bucks. We redid the little website and woke up the next morning to 15 members. HOLY SHIT! A hundred and fifty bucks! That’s half a week’s salary at the day job!
But, alas, still no one ordered a catalogue. Well, we theorized, maybe they just want to pay to see dirty pictures of pretty girls in leather corsets? Kinda dumb, but why not try it? So, on our 14.4 modem, we downloaded every scanned .gif image on the local Boston BBS over the course of two weeks (a total of 100 pictures, one hour each per download), added them to the “member’s area,” and upped the price to a whopping $50 a year, thinking the world would laugh at this obscenely greedy folly. A little search engine called Yahoo listed us, and people came. Then a new little link list called Persian Kitty listed us. And then they came in droves, phoning and faxing in, and, yes, even emailing their credit card numbers. Wasteland was born.
Within a short period of time, we discovered there is no such thing as “public domain porn” so we began shooting our own photo and later video content. In 1999, we launched the first premium adult site for women - Sssh.com
So, since that accidental entry into the adult internet in 1994 it’s been a wild ride with lots of twists and turns as the internet and online adult developed everything from online billing to the ability to deploy video.
2. With the changes in the industry and the way we are all now connected, what advice would you offer someone looking to launch a new adult membership site today?
The golden rule as far as adult membership sites is “traffic is king, content is queen”. With that in mind, find a niche that you have passion for and start shooting original content for it. Rather than start right out with a membership site, begin to build traffic to a freesite or blog that is on the domain you intend to eventually lock down as a paysite. For this, Wordpress will be your best friend for content management and search engine optimization. Use the site to start getting as much social media traffic and search engine placement as possible.
While you are developing your free site, I recommend that you join a few relevant affiliate programs to get in some revenue from sponsors. Our is at spicecash.com and we offer many different sites to promote on a revshare or pay-per-signup basis.
Once you have a decent amount of targeted niche traffic coming in, create a premium area where you then movie your video and photo library into and make sure you have the ability to update it a few times a week. As far as billing and membership management, you can start out with turnkey solutions by such third party billers as CCBill and Epoch to get started, and eventually look at getting your own merchant account via Netbilling.com where you will increase your profit margin considerably.
Once you have your membership site up and running, I highly recommend that you offer an affiliate program. These are available for free if you bill through CCBill or Epoch, or for more robust solutions, consider NATS for a reasonable month service fee. Aside from having the ability to attract affiliates that send you traffic for revenue share, this is also invaluable for B2B deals with other membership sites for doing member area cross promotion with your and their content on a revshare basis.
3. What is the one key bit of business advice you can offer our readers whatever industry sector they work in?
Rule number one: treat it as a business. This means getting a good accountant and attorney that specialize in online adult, a reliable hosting service (we recommend MojoHost) and keep a very good eye on your stats to see what is working and what isn’t.
4. How do you feel companies can benefit from crowdfunding and using adultXfunding to launch or grow a new adult company or service?
Getting funding for any type of adult online business has always presented a major challenge as most traditional investors see porn as very risky business. To make it even more problematic is mainstream crowdfunding companies like Kickstarter, Patreon, GoFundMe, etc. do not allow adult entertainment campaigns on their platforms. Using adultXfunding is a breath of fresh air in this regards as it is very transparent, is on a professional platform, and it’s visitors are the ones that are interested in funding adult ventures.
5. With the planned addition of equity crowdfunding to the adultXfunding platform, how do you see this will change the adult industry and do you think the public will take up the opportunity to buy equity in new or their favourite adult companies?
There are many ways in which adultXfunding can be a major game changer in adult, and one that comes to my mind is the ability to leverage niche and lifestyle specific interest communities to attract funding from fans. For example, if a person is creating and publishing BDSM/Fetish content, by all means do daily photo and short video clips to Fetlife.com, Twitter, Tumblr, etc and interact with the other members there to develop trust and a fanbase which can then be directed to your crowdfunding page to be supportive of your efforts.
6. With a number of web sites you have in addition to Wasteland, including your female lead sssh.com and eroticscribes.com to your adult search engine boodigo.com what are your plans for the next few years?
Our primary initiative is to continue to ramp up production quality (we are now shooting in 5K on Red Cinema Cameras), continue to shoot Virtual and Augmented Reality content, and keep a sharp eye out for new vertical distribution platforms (i.e. cable, lodging, set top boxes, etc.) to have our content available on as many forms of technology as possible. And, as much as it might surprise you, we still do a very robust volume of DVD sales!
7. What is your favourite fruit?
About Colin Rowntree
As the founder and CEO of Wasteland.com, Colin Rowntree is a true pioneer of the online adult entertainment industry. Colin's stature within the adult industry is reflected by the many honors and recognitions he has received over the years from adult industry media outlets and trade organizations, including his 2011 induction to the Adult Video News (AVN) Hall of Fame. Colin was also the recipient of the 2015 XBIZ Progressive Leadership Award, the 2011 Leadership Award from the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and winner of multiple awards from other adult media outlets. Most recently, Colin was awarded the 2015 Progressive Leadership of the Year XBIZ Executive Award.
As a BDSM film director/producer, Colin has directed over 600 Wasteland films which focus on authentic BDSM play featuring lifestyle BDSM kinksters.
Colin is a frequent contributor to industry trade publications and websites, including Adult Video News and other media outlets. He has been interviewed by and featured on Forbes.com, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, International Business Times, CNBC, Rolling Stone Magazine, BBC Television, the Fox Network, HBO, ABC Nightline, NewsCorp, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan.com, LA Weekly, Edgy.buzz, Bizarre Magazine, The Rubin Report, MTV.com, Gizmodo.com, AskMen.com, TheBlot.com, Mens Health Magazine, Time Magazine, Wired Magazine, Cnet.com and Bnet.com.