October 22, 2002
Interview With Philip Brandes of
This week, we bring you an interview with Philip Brandes of AdultWebmasterSchool.com. As the name indicates, the site is an online school that teaches Webmasters methods for creating and marketing TGP pages.
As to Philip, he was originally a dot-commer working for a New York (Silicon Alley) company which was building an "AOL for Active Adults," better known as seniors. He left that effort in August 2000 when the mainstream Internet ship was sinking and companies were closing left and right. He then moved to San Francisco to be in the heart of Silicon Valley, but found the situation there to be just as bad. Faced with the decline of the mainstream Internet industry, he jumped into the adult industry and the rest is history.
AIL: Initially, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. What gave you the idea to start Adult Webmaster School?
Philip: …in January 2001 I looked up an old friend from high school who lived in Berkeley. The last time I spoke to him, he was an Adult Webmaster (this must have been late 1996). To my surprise, he was still one and making a killing. With the non-Adult Internet economy the way it was, I decided that I wanted to learn more. Morgan [McNerney] was nice enough to show me the ropes and soon I too was doing quite well. There was only one problem: in no way could I look people in the eye and tell them I was an Adult Webmaster - especially my family. To take the middle route, I decide to start teaching people how to become an Adult Webmaster. I told a few close friends and started to offer private lessons…but soon word spread. I began getting e-mails from people I didn't even know, asking how they could become an Adult Webmaster. Unable to handle the volume of inquiries, I began work on the site. In late June 2000 we opened our doors.
It sounds a bit cheesy, but I love AWS because it makes other people money. Our students are spending more time at home with their family, working for themselves and making a decent living. A lot of jobs don't help other people - what's the point?
AIL: Why should a Webmaster take the course?
Philip: Actually, the school isn't for existing Webmasters. AWS teaches people how to become a Webmaster. We've assembled a pretty thorough and straight-forward set of written and video tutorials to teach even those without HTML experience how to build Adult galleries and start getting traffic to them. In fact, we've had people who just started surfing the 'Net go through our course without a hitch.
AIL: What benefits would experienced Webmasters get from the course?
Philip: I think "experienced Webmaster" can have two meanings. One type is those which have been doing Adult Web stuff for years but aren't making very many sales. Those people can benefit from AWS because our approach is very specific. Do that, don't do that. Put this picture or banner here. We teach our students to be focused, something Adult veterans can appreciate.
Experienced Webmasters that are making sales would probably find the information to be a little basic. However, we still have a few of the latter type as students, primarily due to our message board. Our message board is probably the shining star of our school; nowhere else do you have a central hub of Adult Webmaster putting sponsors, content providers, and hosting companies through their paces and reporting back to their peers. Sure you have the Adult Webmaster Info sites and the Go Fuck Yourselves of the world; unfortunately, those boards are full of misinformation, flames, and biased posters. We run a tight message board and the end result really is useful to our student base. I don't think it's all our doing by the way. We targeted laid-off dot-commers in our marketing campaign, creating a much older student-base than most groups. Therefore, our community is more mature, more helpful, and more inclined to share their experiences. I don't think we've had one flame since our opening…it's really incredible. ;-)
AIL: Can Mac users take the course as well?
Philip: Yes. We have converted the tutorials to a Mac-friendly format and provide support on the major Macintosh Web software. The software in our tutorials are PC, but they are basic enough that Mac users can translate the knowledge to equivalent Macintosh titles.
AIL: Does a person taking your course need to have any particular knowledge of html or programming?
Philip: Nope, none at all. In fact, I think a good number of students go through our course just to learn how to build a Web page (they skip the Adult aspect entirely). For $140, it's a pretty good deal. Maybe we should change our name to just Webmaster School! ;-) You're not going to learn Flash and Java from us, but if you want to learn how to put a basic Web page together, we're the school for you.
AIL: Does Adult Webmaster School offer lessons in non-TGP areas such as creating AVS sites?
Philip: Yes, we have an AVS tutorial. We're pretty TGP-centric though, especially since it can generate some pretty good revenue. We are going to be releasing a paysite tutorial by the end of the year.
AIL: If one of our reader's joins the Adult Webmaster School, what can they expect in relation to the number of lessons and time required to complete the course?
Philip: It really depends on prior experience. If you have Webmaster skills, you've already conquered a good part of the learning curve. I would imagine a week to learn the marketing side if you fit into that category. Otherwise, 2 weeks for both building and marketing, then another week or so to hone your skills.
AIL: If a student has questions regarding a lesson or particular problem, how can they get the question answered?
Philip: We've developed a pretty extensive knowledge base in our message board which generally answers most questions. If they need assistance beyond that, we have teachers available during business hours to provide assistance via phone, chat room, and e-mail. This "live support" differentiates us from the one or two other newbie "academies," which don't offer any type of assistance. Our support personnel are great and generally get a response back to you within 10 minutes.
AIL: There is a common perception in the industry that TGP traffic converts poorly. What is your response to such an assertion?
Philip: Any traffic converts poorly if you don't know how to market it correctly (even search engine traffic!). And yes, the majority of Adult Webmasters doing TGP galleries are taking an incorrect approach to it, which results in extremely high conversion ratios. Most of them learned this stuff on their own; like most trades, sometimes you need a teacher or a mentor to correct the mistakes you make. The majority of our students that complete the course are successful. In fact, we guarantee their success.
AIL: Does a Webmaster have to be concerned about excessive bandwidth costs if they pursue TGP traffic?
Philip: Bandwidth is probably the greatest concern a TGP Webmaster has, because yes, it accounts for a good chunk of your expenses. To overcome this, our students begin on free hosts so they can make mistakes on someone else's dime. Once they become more experienced and consistently generate sales via low conversion ratios, we suggest a transition to paid hosting. The most common mistake non-AWS students make is rushing out and buying a hosting package from their local ISP. Not only are they not ready for it, they're likely paying an exuberant amount for bandwidth overages. AWS students who make the transition from free to paid are ensured the best rates available on bandwidth.
AIL: Do you recommend specific sponsors to your students?
Philip: Yes we do. A lot of sponsors are pretty shady these days. From skimming a few sales off the top, to not paying their Webmasters at all, finding a good sponsor can be difficult. We go through a careful evaluation process when recommending a sponsor: do they pay out on time, do they offer their Webmasters promotional content, who is their credit card processor, do they offer a free host, and most importantly, do they convert well…are a few of the many questions we ask of our sponsors. We should also note that we do not get one dime from our sponsors, not even a referral commission.
AIL: Once a Webmaster completes the course, how long does it take to start making money and what kind of money can a Webmaster expect to make?
Philip: The average is about 4 - 6 weeks to see consistent sales. We're seeing more and more students get sales before the 4 weeks, but you need around 40 days to get your traffic up and gallery building style perfected.
AIL: Tell our readers a little bit about your money back guarantee.
Philip: We offer a full refund if you go through the course and don't generate more than the cost of the course ($140) within 60 days. You have to follow the course precisely (you can't expect us to give you a refund if you don't do what we tell you!). ;-) Only 2 people have ever requested their money back, and that was because they failed to tell their wives! ;-)
AIL: You recently revised Adult Webmaster School. What motivated you to make the change and what new improvements are on the site?
Philip: We're actually going through another revision. Sponsors and freehosts change frequently in the industry. We try to keep up with the trends and adjust our tutorials accordingly. We're always adding new tools and lecturers to help the students keep informed on new marketing techniques and gallery styles.
AIL: Based on your knowledge of the industry, what would you tell a person just getting into the business and why?
Philip: One thing we teach is "be persistent." It's sounds funny, but I think our Webmasters are more successful than other groups because they have something at stake. They go through the course, building and submitting a lot of galleries. They have to, otherwise that's $140 down the drain. And you know what? They see the results of their efforts! Non-AWS students who try and do this on their own give up after a few days or weeks. They didn't put much time in, so how can they expect to get much out? Rome wasn't built overnight, so neither will your traffic.
AIL: In your opinion, what is the biggest problem with the online adult industry and how would you fix it?
Philip: There are 2 things: Accountability and child pornography:
Accountability. You have a lot of companies who run just on the other side of legitimate. We see a lot of Webmasters outside the school get cheated and taken advantage of. That's why I love our community. The second some company cheats a student, our entire student base hears about it.
Child pornography. As a school which teaches Webmasters, it is out duty to maintain strict regulations against the promotion of child pornography. We have a zero-tolerance policy which states the following: Not only will we expel you from the school without a refund, we'll 100% notify the proper law-enforcement agencies. And without our doing, we've sort of made an entire community of child porn police. All of our students share our policies and if they see any wrongdoings, they notify the proper law-enforcement agencies.
AIL: Where do you see the Adult Webmaster School heading in the next five years?
Philip: As the Adult industry changes, so will we. I think we'll keep on adding new tutorials, and perhaps even expand to other aspects of the Web such as gambling and non-Adult affiliate marketing.
AIL: Any curses or closing words of inspiration you would like to give our readers?
Philip: We get a lot of criticism from people who think they can find the information we teach at other sites on the Web. I think those people need to think twice when taking advice from a site which is funded entirely by advertising. Don't think for a second those other sites won't push a sponsor or content provider even if they aren't the best. That's what makes AWS different. We have your money already, so it's up to us to provide you with the most current and unbiased information available. We don't make anything from our students once they join, aside from selling software and other things in our student store. All of these other resource sites which have an occasional tutorial are telling their visitors, "Hey try this hosting company…they're the best." The problem is, you'll see that the URL has a referral code in it. Of course they are going to say it's the best - they're getting paid to! My point is, you can directly spend $140 with us and get useful information, or you can end up indirectly spending hundreds more by going with some of the other free resource sites.
Philip: Any time!
Any offers contained herein to provide legal services are void where prohibited by law. AdultInternetLaw cannot represent clients generated through this Web site from states or countries where the material and information contained herein does not comply with local ethics rules. AdultInternetLaw has endeavored to comply with all known legal and ethical requirements in compiling this Web site. In the event that any material on or communication from this Web site does not conform with the laws or regulations of any state or country in which it may be received, AdultInternetLaw will not accept legal representation based on this material or communication from a person in such a state or country. Further, this Web site is for informational purposes only and your use of this site is not intended to and does not create an attorney-client relationship, does not constitute legal advice, and is not a substitute for legal advice from qualified legal counsel. Information on this Web site is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, and AdultInternetLaw cannot be held liable or responsible for any consequences, seen or unforeseen, arising out of your use of this Web site and the material contained herein. Any links provided on this Web site to other Web sites are not endorsements of the linked sites, and AdultInternetLaw is not responsible for your use of any linked Web sites.