CNN - Danni Ashe on adult content online

Danni Ashe on adult content online

(CNN) -- While dotcoms struggle to stay afloat, adult content is booming on the Internet. The Web's 'Most Downloaded Woman' explains how she built a $7 million business from $5,000 and an HTML class.

CNN Chat Moderator: Welcome to the CNN chatroom, Danni Ashe.

Danni Ashe: Hi. Happy to be here!

CNN Chat Moderator: Danni Ashe joins us by telephone from Washington, D.C.; she is typing for herself. What made you think you had the temperament to be an online entrepreneur?

Danni Ashe: I've always been an entrepreneur at heart -- I can remember selling all sorts of things as a kid from cookies, to fruit to blue bird cookies.

Question from Guest50634: What else is part of the Danni Ashe Empire?

Danni Ashe: In addition to the Web site, we have a fully functioning, all-digital broadcast facility and we're just now starting to look into video tape distribution and cable programming.

CNN Chat Moderator: In the beginning, you were your own Web master, and did everything yourself. How difficult was it to make the transition to being an employer?

Danni Ashe: My entire adult life, I'd never really been an employee, let alone an employer. It's been a interesting and difficult transition for me but I'm learning.

Question from gIRISH: How do you feel about your success?

Danni Ashe: The success is obviously very gratifying, but it's also had its price. I don't have nearly as much free time to pursue my personal life

Question from Wendy: How did you get the funding to start your business?

Danni Ashe: At one point early on, I invested $8,000 of my own money into two computers, a scanner and some network cards. I made that money back in less than two weeks and have run out of cash flow ever since.

Question from CathyCNN: What do you feel is next for the Internet?

Danni Ashe: The magic question! Obviously, we're all moving quickly toward broadband and more video content but the question of which business models will prevail is still to be seen.

Question from X-71: Danni -- Do you have any future plans for your business?

Danni Ashe: I'm looking at expanding our brand into other forms of media ...cable TV, video lines, etc. But, we're also beginning to take some of the technologies we've built for DHD and offering them to other Web sites and Internet ventures

CNN Chat Moderator: What has been the most challenging aspect of managing your enterprise's growth?

Danni Ashe: The toughest part is always finding qualified employees and then keeping them happy and motivated. With all the glitz of IPO mania, dotcom mania, it's tough.

Question from Daniel_CNN: How do you feel about the COPA commission's decision to not recommend mandatory Web filtering at schools and libraries? And do you endorse a .xxx domain name?

Danni Ashe: The issue of filtering is a complex one. I believe the COPA commission is being cautious to only recommend measures that can be successfully accomplished and not hung up in the courts. I'm not in favor of a .xxx domain because it offers too much potential for censorship on the governmental or ISP level. What we want to see are tools that will empower parents and individuals to make their own decisions. We want the power of censorship in the hands of individuals, not large agencies. What I do advocate is the creation of a .kids domain. This is a much more practical and efficient step in that it doesn't require compelling people who don't want to be labelled to do so.

CNN Chat Moderator: What is your management style? Are you laid back, or hands-on?

Danni Ashe: I'm definitely hands-on -- almost to a fault

Question from Guest50634: Will you take DHD public?

Danni Ashe: Probably not. But the way things change in the Internet universe, you never know. First of all, I've never needed the capitol. Secondly, I feel that the net moves, churns, evolves so quickly that if you allow yourself to get wound up in a public offering, you can't keep your eye on the ball and guide your business quickly enough

CNN Chat Moderator: Did you have a business plan when you first started your business? Do you have one now?

Danni Ashe: I have a great idea in my head, and I've built on that idea over the years. Every time I try to write a business plan, it seems impractical to make predictions about the future. So I tend to observe and react as things happen.

Question from X-71: Do you have any major problems in operating your business?

Danni Ashe: The two biggest problems are finding enough qualified staff and dealing with issues of credit cards. Currently the only widely adopted payment system online, credit cards, is not truly suited to an online enviroment. They were developed for face-to-face, swipe transanctions. Once you get online, a number of holes show up in the systems and the result is a high level of fraud.

Question from dahoz: What was the darkest time since you began DHD? Ever thought about giving up?

Danni Ashe: I can't say it's ever been dark -- but it's definitely been difficult. I'd say when I launched the subscription side of the site in 1996, I was completely unprepared for the volume of business and as a result ended up working 14-hour days, 7 days a week while I tried to hire and train staff and automate our systems.

Question from Tony: Do you experience prejudice in the business world because your business is adult?

Danni Ashe: I find most of the Internet business community to be very liberal and supportive. I speak regularly at business conferences and am covered favorably by the trade publications. I do find, however, a lot of approach avoidance in some situations. Often times, large companies will approach us looking to get a piece of our traffic and share in our commerce, but it always seems to stall in the end when they start to worry about shareholders or parent companies knowing what they're doing.

Question from Thumper: What was your experience at the London Streaming Media Conference last week?

Danni Ashe: I spoke on two panels last week. One on business models, and one about the adult industry. I was very well treated and received, yet I found it interesting that few of the attendees seemed interested in the practical information we were offering. Most still want to pursue silly ideas that will never work. Too many .coms still seem to have their heads in the clouds.

Question from mike_s: What's the oddest Web partnership that someone has proposed?

Danni Ashe: There was the company that came in and demonstrated their -- oh boy, what do I call it? -- their cyber head/mouth thing. It was supposed to work in synch with a video, complete with sanitary handy wipes.

CNN Chat Moderator: What should people consider about their own temperament and personality when considering whether to start a business, especially a Web-based business?

Danni Ashe: You need to be persistant, yet flexible at the same time. The Net is so byzantine and changes so rapidy, you have to give it your full attention all the time.

Question from dahoz: Can you expand on the "seem to be having their heads in the clouds" phrase? What are they thinking?

Danni Ashe: Many start-up dotcoms fail to look at the Net practically and insist on believing people will pay for all kinds of entertainment when, in fact, TV and movies are a whole lot easier and more entertaining at this point. You have to offer something people really want and can't get elsewhere to succeed. And you have to make it easy for people to make that purchase.

Question from Brownie: What do you do to create a balance between managing a demanding business and maintaining a sane personal life?

Danni Ashe: Good question! That's tough right now and one of my biggest challenges. It's so hard to stay on top of things and still take care of your personal life. Right now my personal life is losing.

CNN Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts for us?

Danni Ashe: Thanks for inviting me here. I enjoyed it -- wish I could type faster. Great questions! And watch CNNdotCOM this weekend. They spent two days with us, so it should be a great piece. Thanks!

CNN Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Danni Ashe.


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