opinion

XBIZ Summer Forum '10

Stephen Yagielowicz
I have just returned from XBIZ Summer Forum '10 in Las Vegas, which provided a unique glimpse of the state of the online adult entertainment industry today. Attended by a group of determined survivors, seasoned veterans and persistent newcomers, the event attracted a variety of players from around the world.

One of the most obvious takeaways from this event is that while adult has obviously shrunk in size and profitability, this has sown the seeds for resurgence by traditionally strong brands, which are leveraging some new initiatives — such as PrivateCamZ.com and its re-launch as CamWorld.com. There were other signs of the continued evolution of the business, at this, the adult entertainment industry's premiere summer gathering; and I would like to share several of them with you:

One of those moments came during the "SEO: 2010 Strategies, Techniques & Best Practices" seminar, when moderator Mark "Greenguy" Jenkins asked audience members to raise their hands if they were involved in affiliate promotions. Only a couple of hands raised in acknowledgement, spurring Jenkins, a well-known adult webmaster affiliate, to ask how many paysite, network or affiliate program owners were there. Once again, very few hands rose in affirmation. The vast majority of those attending this SEO seminar do not promote their own (or someone else's) traditional, premium adult website.

Jenkins seemed as surprised as I was and this led some observers to question just what these folks actually "do" within the adult industry, since only a few short years ago, many more hands in such a seminar would have been raised in response to Jenkins' queries.

Of course, this is simply the "new" industrial reality, where many business models are in play and the ones that now remain are not necessarily those that worked in the past.

Sure, there are still paysites and networks, affiliate programs and affiliates — but you will no longer find the sort of pervasive "affiliate manager" presence at these events, nor, without the advent of sister show XFANZ Expo as a draw, would you have seen the same amount of industry talent poolside, as XBIZ Summer Forum attendees were treated to.

Many companies are scaling back their event presence, sending fewer representatives and even fewer "booth bunnies" to brighten the day. There are fewer parties and those that are occurring are typically not as extravagant as in years past. Instead, doing business and receiving a return on attendees' show presence investment is more starkly in focus.

Business is being done, however, even if it is not as easy or as ridiculously profitable as before — and while few expect a return to "the good old days," sales are on the uptick — it is just a matter of working harder for less and of being smarter in your processes.

A new generation of premium content sites enabled by open source software apps and bolstered by sophisticated systems such as ClickTruth's consumer profiling and targeting; highly advanced leased adult content delivery from AdultCentro; sales-saving tools such as the intelligent chat agent offered by Intellichat Adult; and the T3Report competitive analysis service create new marketing possibilities for forward looking operators. These technologies were on display at the XBIZ Summer Forum, allowing adult operators to see how some of their peers are profiting from porn in today's challenging consumer market while providing inspiration for future product developmental efforts.

Another defining moment occurred when noted adult affiliate webmaster "XXX Jay" Quinlan arrived promptly on time for his 10:00 a.m. SEO panel appearance — and did so sober.

Those of you who know Jay understand that he is an iconic symbol of old-school adult webmaster excess and success, who has rarely if ever it seems been on time or sober at one of his on-stage presentations. This day, he walked in early and clear-eyed — and I thought to myself, "it's all over now…"

In a twisted way, it was a bit sad, because it showed how far we have come and just how serious this industry has gotten. In my head, Van Halen played "Where have all the good times gone?"

We are not alone, however, as my final example illustrates.

While thumbing through a hotel-provided copy of "944" magazine — the music issue — a pull quote from an interview with popular recording artists Maroon 5 caught my eye. It quoted front man Adam Levine as saying, "The rock star industry is effectively over. I think it's great though. This is the fuel for a new renaissance in music."

"Everything is so splintered into a million different micro-categories, labels don't have the dough to even spend anymore — there's just no real focus," Levine said. "It feels like a big karmic retribution."

"It's not just in music. It's everywhere," added band mate Jesse Carmichael. "In art, business, whatever, it's more about taking the initiative and doing something meaningful. Bands are no different."

Neither is porn any different or more immune to the overall pressures faced by all entertainment sectors today — especially those as easily pirated and redistributed as is digital content, whether it is adult entertainment, mainstream movies, or music.

You will see the adult operators that figure it out at an XBIZ event in 2011.

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