In the Executive Seat: Eric Matis
Matis now manages all of Playboy's adult programs, including ClubJenna, PlayboyWebmasters, Adult.com and RealityCash, and is getting used to a leaner, more corporate environment working with the production teams and development staff between the company's Sacramento and Chicago-based offices.
"I've enjoyed the challenge that's been there, it's in my nature," Matis said. "There are challenges where the industry stands right now, where we've been as a company, and where I think we can go in the future."
Since Matis began working for ICS eight years ago, years before its acquisition by Playboy, he's seen all kinds of developments and downsizing, but doesn't see the doom and gloom that so many other industry members have been heard spouting at various trade shows and happy hour sessions.
"It's always been about adapt or die," Matis said. "This industry from day one has been about either you adapt and figure out ways to generate traffic on your own or just be complacent and let rebills happen. And if they happen, then good, and if not, then retire and go away."
Matis remembers a time when a webmaster, much like himself soon after he finished college and began a career in traffic generation, could post a single photo and a link and the joins would come in floods. Sure, those days are over, but there's no reason to fret — it just means everyone has to start working with a different mindset.
"You have to be willing to work; you can't just sit there, throw up a little paysite with a crappy member's area and not create a good experience all around and expect to have 6,000 members tomorrow," Matis said. "That's the difference, you used to you be able to work two or three hours a day and make a killing."
Matis said if you're not putting in a solid day and looking at every billing, design, traffic and content creation option under the sun, then you may not be able to stay on top of the game for long.
And that's what he plans to do for the handful of renowned programs he's now helming in his new role.
"A lot of the programs didn't get the focus they deserved so we've been in the process of changing that in the last few months," Matis said.
He said Adult.com will be getting a facelift in the next few months, RealityCash and its backend is in the process of its own nip/tuck, and new promo tools are being created for all of the sites in order to strengthen the company's outreach and relationship with its affiliates.
"We're trying different things," Matis said. "In mainstream, they can easily do focus groups and things like that to understand what works. In adult it's different, the focus groups are yourself and seeing how members like it, and in the end you either win, but you don't ever really lose. You just find out a lot of data and information to use to your advantage later."
Matis said while he and his team attempt to anticipate their affiliates' requests for new promo tools, they also are relying on surfer feedback as well as input from their partners, an opportunity he feels is unique to adult.
"That's the great thing about the online adult industry," Matis said. "Often your biggest competitor is also your biggest affiliate, so you have the option to share information and not have to worry about necessarily losing business from it. Share it, and in the end everyone makes more money from it."
One significant online industry entity that will not be undergoing any e-surgery quite yet will be adult forum GFY.com — which Matis calls "the 800-pound gorilla." Though the company attempted to make some changes earlier this year, opening the forum back up and enforcing a new set of rules, Matis said some things worked and other didn't whatsoever, and the industry won't see many changes made until at least the end of the summer.
However, much change is underway industry-wide, as everyone is well aware, and Matis said it's going to be interesting to see what happens in the next year. For example, he's seeing companies who used to purchase ads on illegal tube sites folding and disappearing, and he wonders how the tubes are going to make up the lost revenue to pay for bandwidth costs.
"That huge," Matis said. "If they can't pay for bandwidth, then they will just go away."
And that is of course what most content producers would like to see — but it's probably not going to happen. Offering free content has, and will always be, a part of the online adult industry — it's how you use it that will determine who will sink and who will stay afloat and eventually learn to swim.
"Free porn will always be a part of the industry, there just needs to be structure and limitation," Matis said. "It's going to get to a point when tube sites will be the next TGPs — not running rampant, but as more valuable traffic sources, limited on the content they can use."
Matis feels similarly about cross-sales — there's a right way and a wrong way to do them, and he sees nothing wrong with utilizing tubes and cross-sales for biz dev as long as you do them legally and stop complaining about the industry's "cowboys" who don't.
"Everyone bitches and moans about cross sales, but there are legitimate ways to do them and shady ways to do them," Matis said. "I truly believe that if you follow the legitimate format for cross sales and tube sites, then there's nothing wrong with it. Do it legitimately and you will never hear me bitch and moan, and I even will provide FLV clips to fill the tube sites."
Playboy has not remained untouched by the economic setbacks that have been rocking the boats of many adult companies in the past year or so. Following Playboy's acquisition of ICS, the CinemaPlay DVD arm was discontinued, and most recently a series of significant personnel and staffing changes gave some in and out of the industry the idea that Playboy might be in trouble.
"Contrary to popular belief, we're not looking to [get] out and sell the company," Matis said. "We're very much active in making changes and pushing to have the company turn as best a profit as possible for all the people out there who still own shares."
But Matis is not afraid to say that these changes, though significant, simply poise the company for what the future holds for adult entertainment.
"Everyone looks at layoffs as a bad thing," Matis said. "But in the end it streamlined [the company] really well. From our standpoint [discontinuing CinemaPlay] was a good move for us. We had to streamline and get more efficient as far as business was concerned. We only have so many people we can pull in so many directions before we see diminished returns, and we didn't want to see that anymore."
The company's Webmaster Access trade shows — also helmed by Matis until recently, when show coordinator Shelly Riley stepped up to take over the events — also have undergone some changes as a result of smart thinking and staying on top of what the industry needs.
"We knew it was time to make cutbacks with [the shows] and instead of having quantity, focus on quality," Matis said. "With the reduction to two shows [per year] we decided to make them our two best shows."
Webmaster Access previously took place in a variety of places around the country, but now will call L.A. home each May and continue making Amsterdam its home away from home in September — and Matis believes the international convention will be the company's biggest show.
"It's not my right to tell anyone to scale back or not do a show, but we have to think what's best for the industry," Matis said. "I think some shows run purely on ego and not on business, and it makes me wonder about the time and effort spent running these events and how much time and effort does someone want to spend on something that makes very little revenue."
Matis also is not afraid to admit that the industry has experienced some significant "fattening" over the years, and many companies have found the need to trim it.
"There were a lot of people out there that were in positions and making a lot of money," Matis said, "and I'm not going to say they didn't 100-percent deserve it, but when you've got affiliate managers bouncing from company to company and getting a little more [money] each time, and the only reason is because the next guy just wants the Rolodex of webmasters and contacts, it's going to go away."
Matis said this industry lean-ification has had a positive impact on those industry members, who may have been getting too comfortable in some positions, rather than branching out and going their own routes.
"It's sort of like a bad relationship," Matis said. "No one wants to be single. Or like when you go bungee jumping. No one wants to do it, but you sometimes just need someone to push you off the ledge."