Ashe on making
it in the web porn biz
skinny from famed stripper turned entrepreneur
According to Guinness, Danni Ashe is the most
downloaded woman in history. On Dec. 5, 2000, she recorded her
historic billionth download. That makes her several times more popular on
the internet than her nearest female competitors, Oprah Winfrey, Britney
Spears and Martha Stewart. Danniís web site, Danniís Hard Drive, is
one of the oldest and most successful adult-entertainment sites on the
web. She got into the business six years ago with nothing more than some
racy pictures of herself and a do-it-yourself HTML guide.
Where does your business-savvy come
from? Whatís your background?
I started stripping when I was 17. I
worked off and on in various clubs around Seattle for about five years,
and then I moved to L.A. and started modeling. From there I became a feature
dancer for a short period of time.
That meant I would travel around the
country and be the headliner at various clubs. It didnít last very long
I never finished high school. I got a GED
and went to a couple of years of junior college, so itís definitely not
from my education.
Iíd say itís more blind determination and being a
bit like a pit bull when I decide I want something.
I got fixated on the
internet and I knew I wanted to be involved. I sort of taught myself
everything I needed to know.
There doesnít seem to be much brand
loyalty in the adult entertainment industry. How do you keep your fans so
There are plenty of strong adult brands
in the publishing and video worlds, but for whatever reason it hasnít
happened that way on the internet.
What most have done is really a game of
pushing traffic around.
There are four main models in the adult
1) There are free sites who trade traffic with other
free sites, then sell off some of that traffic to pay sites.
sites are big link-hubs. All the free sites send traffic into the hub,
then the hubs will send some new traffic back.
3) The pay sites buy
traffic through affiliate deals, where other sites send them traffic and
the pay site tries to sell them subscriptions.
The rate is about 3.5
subscriptions per thousand visitors. Obviously thatís pretty low. So it
becomes even more important to move more traffic.
4) Then there are the
content syndicators. They put together pieces of content, live feeds,
photos or whatever else, that they sell to subscription sites. So there
are many sites who do not produce original content, and those people donít
develop brand loyalty.
How DHD has done it differently is that
we produce a lot of our own content, and we try to produce a much more
Itís my goal for people to feel good about their
experience; I donít want them to feel bad about what theyíre doing.
want it to be a light, bright, well-lit place.
What are the trends in the business? Is
there a lot of consolidation, where bigger companies are scooping up
The business is hitting a point of
saturation. Any scheme where you just keep moving people around like that
is ultimately going to fail.
There is some consolidation going on, but not
really with the smaller mom-and-pop sites. I donít think anyoneís
rushing out to buy Bob and Lisaís homepage in Ohio. Iíd say 90 percent
of the industry is made up of those small mom-and-pop sites.
There has been a lot of publicity lately
about sites and groups of sites overcharging or defrauding customers in
huge amounts. Is that something that has always gone on in the adult
There are a couple of really bad actors
in this business, as there are in any industry. There are bad lawyers and
bad doctors too.
Itís unfortunate that the bad actors in the adult
internet tend to suit peopleís stereotypes, so they get a lot of
attention. There have been some companies that have abused the privilege
of taking credit cards online.
Visa and Mastercard are set up for
face-to-face swipe transactions. Once you turn that into an internet
transaction, big holes in the system present themselves, and the ones who
get punished are the merchants.
Weíre all waiting in anticipation for a
better system of payment over the internet.
The web grew up under Bill Clinton. Now
that thereís a Republican in the White House, how will that affect
online adult entertainment?
I think it will be very interesting to
see what happens.
There are a lot of players in this business who are
toning down in anticipation of problems.
But DHD is so far at the
softcore end, I donít feel like I would personally have a problem.
I certainly censor myself all the time
based on my own values and feelings about things. Thatís really what we
Government censorship is just an impossibility when you think of the
global nature of the internet and the differences across cultures. Itís
not like closing down some video store in Jacksonville, Florida. What the
internet needs are better tools for parents.
Can you sum up your business model in a
few sentencesóare there any maxims or golden rules you run your business
on? Anything that mainstream content sites can learn from?
Itís a subscription model, but one sort
of rooted more in branding than in the numbers game that most of the adult
internet runs on.
Our profit margins are about 25 percent,
which is decent. In general we tend to be much leaner than a lot of
companies because we donít have a lot of VC behind us.
I have to be
very realistic when I spend money about where itís going to come back. Iím
forced to be more practical and thatís why weíre profitable.
The business is expanding, moving into
Over the years weíve developed a lot of technology to
support the content on DHD, like credit-card processing, web serving,
video streaming and security/fraud protection.
Some of those systems have
gotten so good that theyíre now worthy of being used by other, more
mainstream companies. In the last few months weíve taken in a number of
Danni is the only pure adult internet
brand out there. Now weíre moving it into cable sales, pay-per-view,
video/DVD and other ways of exploiting the brand on different media.
As for me, Iím about to sign a book
deal, and Iím going to Hong Kong to speak at the streaming media
conference there. Weíre working on a Japanese-language web site, weíre
about to launch a video and DVD line, lots of deals.
It seems like your company is run
primarily by women. How rare is that in this industry? How does it make
Initially, in the early days, the site
was run entirely by women, and many of them came from the industry. It was
very important in terms of building the company culture and our brand.
Eventually, it functionally became a problem; all of anything is not good.
Itís gotten to the point now where weíre a good blend of males and
females, different backgrounds and countries. Our staff is very eclectic.
How did it feel to become the most
downloaded woman in the world?
Itís really fun. I got into this
business because I have an exhibitionist streak in me, so itís a real
thrill to know that so many people are getting my pictures. Itís also
very gratifying. It speaks to everything weíve done and how Iíve
poured my soul into it for the last six years.
Spitzer is a staff writer for Media Life.
Version | Send
to a Friend
Cover Page | Contact
© 2001 Media Life