I was honored once again this year to deliver the welcoming address at the second annual Adult Entertainment Virtual Convention (AEVC), where I took time to discuss the need for excellence and innovation; how technological change drives opportunity for entrepreneurs; and how the extremely diversified nature of adult entertainment fuels an industry with no end in sight.
XBIZ recognizes excellence and innovation in adult entertainment, with AEVC and its parent Red Light Center exemplifying this commitment to quality by delivering a sexy and technologically sophisticated experience, which provides a platform adult developers can build upon.
AEVC and Red Light Center are at the crossroads of sex and technology today, attracting consumers and producers to its virtual world. No mere novelty, this environment showcases a vision of the future, as well as provides a new communications medium for the present. Interactivity and social media are keys to online success in 2013, and Red Light Center is an often overlooked example of the confluence of computing and carnality that has widespread implications.
There is something for everyone here and an environment where lone performers, smaller mom-and-pop players and other operators can still compete — there’s not a lot of pressure from tube sites and Google algorithm changes because the virtual world is its own walled garden that provides a closed but permeable ecosystem, where links to the outside web allow Red Light Center-based marketing to extend out to the real world — although that may not even be necessary, as there is a vigorous economy developing in this realm that is centered around offering products and services to other participants.
It is an example of how technological revolutions drive entrepreneurs to enter emerging markets, bringing new blood that combines creativity with new ideas, energy and optimism.
I emphasized these points by relaying details of my personal journey in this regard; such as how when as a young man in 1986, flying erase head technology revolutionized the video market — opening the door to my first production company and allowing me to profit from what I could demonstrate as a visibly superior product, simply by embracing something new — or at least new to my market level.
My initial competitive advantage was based on this new technology alone, however; and as that advantage disappeared due to product maturation, my skill and style became the primary differentiators between me and my competitors.
A similar pattern played out when Hi-Definition (HD) video hit the marketplace, but the lessons remained the same: excellence and innovation work together hand-in-hand.
Fast forward to 1993: I’m living in the Virgin Islands, feeling isolated, but hearing about this new Internet thing, which sounded like a great way to market my landscape photography and production services, via “billboards on the Information superhighway.”
I once again recognized that a watershed technological change was underway and once again I wanted to be a part of it. There was a new opportunity and I could smell it — and I understood the value of being an early adopter.
I began developing web pages using DOSEDIT from the command line, with a big keyboard in one hand and the HTML1 reference book in the other. There was no mouse or stylus — this was before Microsoft Windows and just as JPEG images where arriving.
While we take the Internet for granted today and indeed rely upon it to facilitate our day-to-day existence, 20 years ago it was a different story, and a technology that many dismissed as a fad, or scorned as being too clumsy to be worthwhile.
It seems odd today, but back then, I literally went door to door to the big name resorts that I was a photographer for, as well as the main street jewelry shops, condo rentals and attraction operators, such as sailing charters and the like, trying to explain what “e-mail” and “the web” is — and how it would profoundly impact the way they do business. Like a missionary at their front door evangelizing some intangible concept, I was greeted with much disbelief, accompanied by the polite (and not so polite) closing of those doors with a “no thank you, it’ll never work.”
Just because you might recognize the value of a new technology, it doesn’t mean that others will see that same value — yet. I’ll also note that way back then, commerce was not something you did on the Internet, due to the academic culture that controlled it — my first web pages were greeted with threats, hacks and denial of service attacks because “the Internet is for education, not for selling things.” That’s real hard to understand today, when the Internet is all about selling things.
I’ll also draw a parallel to this situation and to that of today, where some naysayers, including folks who have not actually experienced the event, criticize AEVC’s concept and execution. If you haven’t been to Red Light Center lately, or attended AEVC, then you simply do not know what you are talking about, or what you are missing.
This isn’t SecondLife, or a video game, or like something else you have done before. It is a virtual world representing a technological evolution that creates opportunities for a wide range of entrepreneurs seeking a spot on the ground floor of this expanding realm.
Whether you are a porn fan or a functionary, there’s a place for you here — and that is a source of excitement that provides the impetus for commerce and communications, bringing people together, to enrich them in many ways.
How many ways? How many ways are there to get off?
Red Light Center takes social media into the bedroom by providing a level of sexiness that is unheard of on more mainstream platforms and that reflects the diversity of modern sexuality — which takes many forms, shapes and sizes. And unlike the early Internet, at RLC, marketing is more than welcomed, it is encouraged.
While I spend most of my time working on XBIZ World magazine, with its focus on digital media and technology, I also like to read through sister publication XBIZ Premiere which focuses on the video and novelty market segments; providing a glimpse at a whole other “adult entertainment industry” — a novel notion but one that makes sense when one considers the diverse tastes of the global audience. Glancing through the magazine’s pages it is hard to deny the size, scope and universal appeal of erotica and adult pleasure products and services. It also inspires me to see what other industry operators (and fans) are up to, and find either sexually appealing or profitable (or both).
Some folks like to watch adult videos, some want to watch live cams online, others want to play with a dildo or go to a strip club. Others still, will want to chat and have virtual sex at RLC, and some want a bit of all the above — it’s all about different strokes for different folks — and the differences in how that is expressed at RLC are not only entertaining — but can provide inspiration and revenues across market segments.
It is a huge lesson, especially if your idea of “working in porn” centers around, say, promoting paysites or cams, with a daily process that is orchestrated to a strict formula.
You many never notice the stratification within the marketplace, while you drone on and on in your little hamster wheel, doing the same thing for a decade or more; but it is now time to look up, and to look around — and that is a big AEVC takeaway.
The event is also a huge networking opportunity and I had the chance to meet a lot of new people, across many market segments — providing exposure to different ideas and operational concerns.
For example, I chatted with veteran transgender performer Elle St. Claire, a sweet lady who made some insightful comments in the live chat running during the seminars — asking a range of thoughtful questions that illustrated the interactive potential and ease of use of this virtual convention platform.
Elle enjoyed this year’s event but lamented the lack of a transgender category for the AEVC Awards, which offers awards for the year’s Best Working Girl and Working Guy — as well as for Transsexual Site of the Year — but that’s a different product, not a comparable category.
“I don’t want special treatment, I want equal treatment,” she told me, which set me to focusing on a theme of comprehensive inclusion — there’s a place for everyone in adult, and I viewed this gathering through that lens of equality, inclusion and open-mindedness.
AEVC is not your typical industry event composed of program owners, affiliates, billers, web hosts and other service providers — but is far more varied in its attendance, reflecting a much broader vision of “adult entertainment” than the typical tunnel vision that many adult industry entities suffer from, and operate in today.
Inclusion is all over the place at AEVC, as my avatar discovered while being hugged by a naked guy who really likes bacon. Of course, the less daring avatars could have their virtual photo taken alongside their favorite CCBill rep, and like last year, “Baddog” was wandering the show floor taking pictures of attendees — just like in real life.
Colin Rowntree and Diane Duke, Greg Piccionelli and Brian Shuster, Quentin Boyer, Alec Helmy and other adult industry mainstays, contributed to the virtual edition of what Rowntree called “our travelling road show” — providing the interpersonal familiarity and experienced presenters found in real world industry events.
But this isn’t a real world event or for that matter an entirely virtual one; it’s a hybrid of the two that combines audio, video and visual elements into the meeting space, at as deep a level of interaction as the participant’s creativity, imagination (and budget) allows — and it’s an environment (and opportunity) that must be experienced to be understood.
AEVC runs until Saturday evening, Feb. 23, so you still have time to get in on the action and see what the buzz is about. Perhaps you’ll become a believer too.