To paraphrase a well-worn koan: If a pair of dirty hipster sex blogs get NSFW on the internet and nobody links to them or knows they exist, can they bring in any revenue?
Village Voice Media has been quietly publishing two sex-oriented websites—Naked City NY and Naked City LA—for more than five months, paying two contract writers competitive weekly rates and somehow never quite getting around to actually launching either site. Though both are live, neither the Village Voice nor the LA Weekly appear to have bothered linking to the sites or acknowledging their existence in any way.
The result is that despite publishing hundreds of posts (three per day on average), the blogs are operating on the DL, largely accessible only by readers canny enough to key in their URLs. That turns out to be a limited audience: according to Compete, the sites’ best recorded month was October, with a combined 11,315 page views, not enough—given the typical CPM rates for sex-related content—to finance a single blog post.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” Jamie Peck, the Naked City NY blogger told The Observer. “I just keep posting and they keep paying me. It’s a good job, and I’m really grateful to have it. It’s enough money that I don’t have to do other work, which is great.”
Naked City LA’s first post, by Peck’s West Coast counterpart, AV Flox, dates back to April. Entitled “Sexploits: The Real L Word at the Viceroy,” it’s an account by an anonymous tipster of a hotel tryst (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith was on. I was the aggressor…”). Since then, Flox has gone on to write more than 300 posts, covering such subjects as the discomfort of getting semen in one’s eye and news of a forthcoming Tron porn parody.
The New York site flickered to life on July 6. Peck, the author of an infamous account for The Gloss about her experience as a model for Terry Richardson (she’s also a contributor to the New York Press, Vice and Black Book) told friends about her new position with the Voice back in the summer, only to continue plugging away on unread items for months as the launch was pushed back (a few highlights: “Hasidism: They’re Just Like Us,” “Pets and Sex: Eternal Awkwardness,” and “What to Get the Horny Christmas Enthusiast Who Has Everything”).
Such a long beta period for a website isn’t unheard of. Elizabeth Spiers, the founding editor of Gawker, who also launched The Gloss and Crushable, noted that Jezebel was in beta for up to six months. Even so, she added, “You don’t really know what works until you’re in front of an audience, and it’s demoralizing for the bloggers to keep writing in a vacuum.”
VVM director of new media Bill Jensen explained, “The long period is simply because we have other things to promote. Our music and food verticals have been incredibly strong this year—both from a sales and pageview point of view—so those were a big focus.” He added that the company plans to start promoting the Naked City sites in the new year.
According to AV Flox, “The soft launch has enabled us to build the content and design the direction based on reader response. As a result, the growth has been organic and enabled us to really mold the blog into something readers can enjoy.”
Although evidence of reader response is minimal—currently, none of the top 10 most-commented posts carry any comments—Flox cited one critical reader reaction: “No one needs to see collages of dicks from Craigslist on a weekly basis.”
After looking at the beta sites, Henry Copeland, ceo of the blog network Blogads.com, thought the development period seemed suspiciously long. “Something so cookie cutter with no radical new features should be beta for a few weeks,” he emailed. “So the beta must refer to ‘Is there an audience or an economic model here?'” Copeland thought the racy content might scare off some advertisers, predicting a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) of 10 to 40 cents.
Nonetheless, like Flox, Peck seems content to keep filing those posts, despite getting little feedback from her bosses, much less the public at large. “There have been a few comments, but mostly from porn-bots, I think,” she said. “And my mom found it! Apparently it’s Googleable.”
Meanwhile, it seems like a shame to have all that great content go to waste. The Naked Cities are now on our RSS feed.