Recently held in Phoenix, Arizona, from April 3rd – 5th , 2003, The Phoenix Forum was a world-class adult Webmaster event, bringing some of our industry’s best and brightest together for a little fun in the sun, and a whole lot of learning, networking, and deal-making.
I’ve been to a few shows before: InterNext since it was ia2000 at the Monte Carlo, a couple of Fay Sharp’s great CyberNet Expos, and Host4Porn’s intimate Toronto affair. Each had its benefits and drawbacks, and its own particular personality. Out of this selection, I am tempted to say that this past Phoenix Forum (my first) was “the most productive” – and as such, I must heartily recommend that serious adult webmasters attend this event whenever possible.
Not (Just) for Newbies
At the outset, I should say that I think there are much better events for newbies to attend, such as InterNext with its endless displays and carnival atmosphere, or CyberNet with its fabulous mix of “quality time” and ‘accessible’ exhibitors. The Phoenix Forum, on the other hand, was an excellent networking event, where a group of seasoned veterans had the opportunity to spend extended ‘face time’ with one another. This is the type of event where real business can get done.
I found a very ‘political’ overtone apparent at this show however, as if virtual battle lines were being drawn between those who were ‘in favor’ – and those who weren’t. The ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ being segregated at times, as if those who have been around the longest are banding together and holding onto one another, as our industry loses more familiar faces – faces that aren’t being replaced as quickly as they once were…
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. Having a venue where you can find people you have known and trusted over the years, and being able to do business with them suits our industry’s current state of affairs, and helps everyone involved. And newbies weren’t ignored (far from it!). There were a variety of “old school” Webmasters that were more than willing to share their experience, even if some of these folks experiences prove a bit intimidating (I can see the look on a noob’s face as BigBear describes the quarter of a million free sites in his personal network).
For me personally, I found this event a perfect place to expand my contacts – with a more ‘casual’ Stephen spending increased time with a different group of webmasters than usual. While some of these ‘high level’ contacts left me a bit dazed, the more cliques you can fit into, the better… And in such pursuits, Phoenix shined, since the relaxed, casual atmosphere lent itself to introductions and unhurried conversations.
The seminars were somewhat more informal than others that I have participated in, and offered plenty of opportunity for audience members to ask questions – and get real answers. As is usually the case, the panel offered enough pearls of wisdom to make even the most hardcore ‘sound bite’ junkie satisfied, and a few of these remarks were valuable enough to become enshrined in my notes, awaiting presentation to you here:
Aly from Python is one of my favorite personalities, and oldest friends, in the business. She is someone who is a fixture at nearly any event you can name, and has an endless wealth of valuable knowledge and insights to share, including: “Where pessimists see problems, creative people see opportunities. There is no void – there is only growing opportunity” and “…‘shit loads’ is a matter of perspective…” This reinforces my own personal belief that there is still plenty (if no longer ‘endless’) opportunity to be found in the online adult entertainment industry. Where the search for these remaining opportunities leads some less scrupulous folks astray, resulting in increased governmental opposition towards our business and the consequential need for industry self-regulation and group action, Aly wisely opined that “1 unified movement is worth more than 1,000 brilliant perverts…” When asked for “…just one word to give us hope in this business…” panelists gave three quick replies: “innovate,” “pay per view,” and “international.”
One of the topics that kept cropping up in a variety of contexts was the perceived threat level of increased governmental regulation, a subject that almost everyone had something to say about, including these well informed and thoughtful remarks: “They’re simply looking for consensual adult sex – just leave out those who can’t defend themselves, and you’ll do alright” and “make sure the risk you take is worth the reward” (and vice versa). Joan Irvine from Adult Sites Against Child Pornography (ASACP) worked her themes of “Best Practices” “Sponsoring ASACP” and how supporting what ASACP stands for will help you to avoid any trouble with the powers that be – themes that several of the panelists reiterated throughout the event.
When asked for “…just one word to give us hope in this business…” panelists gave three quick replies: “innovate,” “pay per view,” and “international.” Grasp this, and you will grasp much of what this event was focused on. Along this theme, much of the conversation over evolving pay site marketing models centered on retention rather than acquisition. Retention techniques were given lip service (hey, nobody’s gonna give ya ALL their secrets for free!) such as “make the surfer want to be there.” While some thought the advice to be a little vague, it truly was the bottom line…
When questioned about the process of finding a content niche that appealed to you and then building a site around it, Steve Lightspeed commented that “If you don’t understand your own fetishes or sexual impulses, then go ‘rub one out’ – and figure it out!” illustrating the fact that once you understand your own personal preferences, it becomes easier to create a profitably marketable product. He later received a warm ovation for encapsulating many of the audience member’s feelings by underscoring that “…the key to success in this business is honesty, integrity, and ethics...”
This is only a small sampling of comments from the seminar floor. For newbies especially, the seminars were likely to be the most productive portion of this event, and I recommend that attendees not pass them by…
While I found the seminars as well as the socializing to be valuable and filled with timely, moneymaking information, things change – or as Aly pointed out: “With this changing industry, what I say today, won’t apply tomorrow…” And given that fact, it’s a very good thing that there are other events down the road, and another Phoenix Forum taking place next year. I’ll see you there! ~ Stephen