January 13, 1998
So who is getting rich on the Web? Well, San Francisco Web administrator George Spelvin won't say how much he's making from his Pam Anderson Cavorting With Naked Space Aliens Conspiracy Homepage, but well-placed sources (or at least loose tongues wagging at certain Multimedia Gulch parties) have it at $200 per day. He will only admit it adds up to a "healthy part-time income."
Spelvin didn't need a team of writers to make a money-generating site; all he needed was the right title. "I was aware that 'Pam Anderson' was one of the top-10 phrases most frequently entered into search engines," Spelvin e-mails me. (In Yahoo's list of topics most sought by Internet surfers Anderson comes in 12th, right after "Penthouse," "weather," and "porn.") Spelvin saw "an excellent guerrilla-marketing strategy" in naming this site after the popular Baywatch babe. He tacked a few more popular search words onto the title-"conspiracies," "aliens," and "naked"-and now 3,000 surfers stumble onto his site daily.
Content is not king here-the page consists of a few black-and-white cheesecake photos of Anderson with some blinking aliens sprinkled around her. It's just enough for people to notice the banner ads for sex-related Web sites on the page's left-hand side. The ads bring home the bacon: The advertisers pay Spelvin 10 cents for each Internet surfer who jumps from his page to their's.
According to Andrew Leonard's recent article about the online porn biz in the Web zine Salon ("Pornutopia Lost"), there are somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 commercial sex sites on the Web, and the competition for eyeballs is quite, er, stiff. It's a "worldwide computer game," writes Belgian resident Gunter Gillot, creator of the (now defunct) Virtual Cybereros Center. Gillot pays out about $100 a day to other sites just to bring traffic in.
Spelvin is not the only one making money in this fashion. Romana Machado is a former Silicon Valley tech worker and Playboy model who put artfully rendered nude photos of herself on her page (Free Nudes of Romana). Again, the site is free, but it's filled with plenty of banner links to sites that cost money to access.
Ironically, I find these teaser sites more interesting than the commercial ones. But I've always been a big-concept guy.