A lesson in picking your sponsors wisely

We all know that porn has had something of an image problem from day one. Since the creation of the Internet the adult entertainment industry has been dogged by unscrupulous studios, fly-by-night sites active one moment and gone the next, sponsors leaking traffic you’ve sent them to another site of theirs, or simply payments not being made to those who have worked hard to earn that money.

Most of the time you can get a good sense of how trustworthy a studio is by the feedback of other affiliates, by the age of the brand, by their status in the industry. Sadly, however, even those with a strong standing and a relatively clean record can suddenly go rogue when they have the opportunity to rob you.

Several years ago affiliates for the Fratmen brand discovered that their payment rate had been dropped to near nothing without warning. When this was brought to the attention of other affiliates the company claimed that this was all just a mistake and that the system had been reset inadvertently to a default payment level. In reality, there was no default payment for it to “reset” to, and even if it had the company could have then calculated what it actually owed their affiliates in real terms and paid them correctly. Perhaps it’s no surprise that they didn’t do this, and as a result of this daylight robbery hundreds of their affiliates pulled all their links from their sites.

This was the start of the decline for the Fratmen brand. It attempted to come back from this several times, but failed to convince affiliates that it was a rehabilitated company.

The Fratmen/Fratpad site has pretty much ended, they’re currently flogging off their back catalogue of scenes for a few $’s a go. They’re not filming any more, their performers have moved on to better things, their sites are not being promoted by any serious affiliate or at least not as anything more than filler. The brand might still have some power if it were to be bought and polished up, able to offer something new, but as of today the company is basically dead.

I’m not suggesting that losing all their affiliates caused this on its own, there are other factors such as the development of competition and their inability to innovate (their arrogance was widely known) but there is no doubt that having their big famous brand disappearing from almost every gay porn blog in the world severely damaged any chance they had to keep up or even remain relevant.

I’ve seen another example just recently, involving a very large studio, arguably one of the biggest adult companies in the business. I’m reluctant to mention them by name just yet as the situation is still ongoing, but things are not looking good.

In this instance a wire payment was not received by the affiliate. He made contact with the company to inquire and was told that it would be investigated. This was almost a month ago. Since then the affiliate has attempted to contact them several times for information and the affiliate rep has not responded.

The affiliates bank has informed him that if the wire payment had not been accepted then it would have been returned to the sender. So, you would think that this would be a pretty easy issue to rectify, the rep should have been able to check that the funds were returned to the sending bank and issued the payment again to the affiliate.

A good business would have paid the affiliate immediately anyway once they had confirmed that the affiliate hadn’t received their payment, if only to continue the relationship and avoid any bad press.

This is not the first time this affiliate has been screwed over by a company either. Late last year he attempted to return some cheques he couldn’t cash to the IntenseCash affiliate program (he’s disabled and can’t get to the bank regularly to cash them, thereby allowing cheques to build up without realizing their expiration date). IntenseCash refused, quoting their terms and conditions which state that payments can be retained by them after a certain time. They knew he made that money, there was no question that he earned it and they were absolutely capable of seeing that he had, and that he hadn’t cashed those cheques – but he made a mistake, so they took advantage of it.

Someone there walked away with the hundreds of $’s he earned, because of a clause in their agreement stating that they had a right to take it after a certain time.

It can be argued that their terms allowed them to do this, and he agreed to this when he started promoting them, but does that make it right, ethical or moral?

Another unnamed company, one of the largest companies in the business, asked the affiliate to send back over $700 in cheques so that they could then update his affiliate balance and pay him by wire, perhaps not surprisingly they never paid him his $700 after he sent the cheques back. He never heard from them again and several attempts to contact the affiliate manager went unanswered, needless to say they are not “buddies” any more.

Not every studio or program is the same though. He experienced the same problem with cheques sent to him by HomoactiveCash and IndieBucks (Stunner), and they were happy to help. Within days of contacting them and seeking assistance they had both resolved the problem and paid him what they owed.

All he had to do with both of these studios was tear the cheques into two and send them a photo. They were then able to check the records to confirm the amount he was owed, they sent him a wire payment within days.

It certainly seems that for most of these networks and studios unless you’re earning a few thousand $’s a month with them they feel entitled to your money when they have the opportunity to take it. They’re not missing out on you as an affiliate, because they have others earning them far more, people who they wouldn’t dream of stealing from, people who would instantly have a blog post up on their site for thousands of readers to see decrying the company and their sites for their underhand tactics.

The message here is clear, even if a program or a brand is being recommended to you by large affiliates in the business, you are not the same. If you’re small, if you earn less, if you’re deemed to be “insignificant”, they will take that money for themselves when they find the opportunity to do so. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small company just starting out, or a massive brand with tentacles throughout the industry, if someone in those companies sees an opportunity to steal your money and you’re too small to be able to fight back, they will absolutely do it.

I’m keeping track of the situation between this affiliate and the as yet unnamed company. I believe he’s waiting to hear back from them after trying again to get an update. If he doesn’t hear back or this isn’t resolved then he’s going to remove their links from his site and replace it with a statement making clear that they stole his money.

I certainly won’t be recommending this program to any of the affiliates I work with in creating their blog posts unless this is resolved. Affiliates need to be made aware when a company is behaving in an underhand manner.