Longtime AEBN exec Bishop says he’s enjoying his expanding role, where he’s having much more interaction with all of the company’s departments and divisions. While AEBN’s staff hold no titles, Bishop looks out after various aspects of marketing and advertising and wears numerous other hats. “I try to provide feedback and support wherever I can,” said Bishop, a pillar at AEBN for more than a dozen years.
XBIZ in late September chatted with Bishop to find out more about him, as well as one of online adult’s most famous properties — AEBN.
At the beginning of 2015 we gave the affiliate program its first major overhaul since it was initially created. We altered the model so it would be relevant to the way business is done today.
XBIZ: How and when did you get your start in the adult entertainment biz, and what is your role at AEBN?
Bishop: Prior to working in adult I had an IT and banking background. In the late 1980s I operated an electronic bulletin board that had an adult area. This was well before the birth of the World Wide Web that we know today. I considered ways to monetize it at the time but the hardware and landline investment made it too expensive for a college student. I created my first website in 1994 for an IT company that I was working for, and by 1998 I began learning how to get ranked in the search engines. I needed a product to sell.
Porno was the perfect product as it could be delivered digitally and there was a significant demand for it. Sales were easy to come by back then. Within three months marketing porn was my full time job.
AEBN was founded in 1999, and I came to the company in the summer of 2003. I primarily look after various aspects of marketing and advertising, but I also wear many hats around the office these days, and I try to provide feedback and support wherever I can.
XBIZ: What does AEBN exactly offer?
Bishop: AEBN has a great deal to offer depending on the nature of the relationship.
For our content partners we offer multiple distribution channels to help them promote and monetize their content. It starts with placement on our video-on-demand (VOD) theater system, inclusion in our content feed product for paysites, our new subscription site, and now extends to broadcast distribution through our sister company, ALIGN Broadcast.
To our affiliate and webmaster partners we offer customizable VOD templates that can be styled to the same look and feel as their website. These branded theaters allow affiliates to expose their consumers to the vast catalog of content, or any preferred subset of content that is available in our system, while still presenting the affiliate’s brand. These custom template sites also feature a mobile ready component making them compatible across multiple platforms.
If a partner operates membership sites, we can also offer a content feed solution that will greatly expand the content available in their member’s area to help attract and retain members longer. Content feeds are fully customizable from styling and branding to the content selection and refresh rates. Content feeds use responsive design and are multiplatform compatible as well. These products are also available to our content partners who wish to use them to promote their content and brand in order to maximize revenue generation through AEBN.
AEBN offers consumers access to one of the largest and broadest libraries of adult content available anywhere, with multiple ways to access and view content. We offer pay-per-minute viewing, rentals, downloads, and subscription-based access to meet most every preference. We provide consumers with an affordable price and a great value.
XBIZ: What trends lately have you noticed with online adult consumption?
Bishop: Consumers today are embracing the convenience and portability that their tablets and phones offer them. They are exploring smart TVs and connected devices like Roku in larger numbers every year, and we are aggressively pursuing technologies to support these trends. Each month we see more and more consumers making transactions on these devices. We have seen them become more fluid in their viewing habits, moving back and forth between desktop, mobile, and other devices.
Last year we rebuilt our mobile environment to offer our affiliate partners a mobile solution and improve the consumer’s experience on these devices. We’ve also created a Roku solution that is very popular and supports a growing audience. We continue to develop and improve the consumer experience on all of these platforms, as well as proactively developing new products and tools to stay ahead of the changing industry trends.
Years ago we could see how important a unified video delivery platform was going to be. Our entire catalog is now available using modern adaptive streaming technologies (like MPEG-DASH) which means that virtually any device that supports video playback can play the content on our network.
XBIZ: What are straight porn fans really looking for these days?
Bishop: Consumer’s tastes are always evolving when it comes to content trends. Popularity of content comes in waves. On the straight side, taboo, transgender and some fetish content has seen increased interest recently. Before that, reality porn, massage, MILF, interracial and gonzo/POV had the most dedicated following. Those categories of content are still popular but we see that there are shifts in interest every few years. Fans of straight content tend to be more drawn to stars and particular genres of content. Straight fans love fresh faces but they also follow their favorite stars over time, maturing right along with them.
XBIZ: How about trends for the gay content side of the biz?
Bishop: Fans of gay content tend to show more dedicated loyalty first, to the studios that are producing the content that they find appealing and then to their favorite performers. Gay studios tend to maintain a production style unique to their brand with the content that they produce, and if consumers like it they will continue to seek out content from that studio.
The bareback vs condom debate is still active among gay viewers, and we see movies in each camp that are successful. The popularity of black-on-black, and twinks-on-daddies is on the rise. Hard fetish content is less popular today but it has been replaced with hard bareback content.
There is a style of content that is gaining popularity among both gay and straight viewers. We have had some debate in the office as to what we should call it … story porn, plot-driven porn, porn like it used to be made? Movies with fairly sophisticated story lines and solid acting are on the rise for all both sets of viewers. It used to be that all adult movies had some sort of plot, and later seemed to stray away from that formula. We are seeing story driven productions coming back around in a big way. Consumers are enjoying the story and the build-up as a more engaging and fulfilling experience overall.
XBIZ: How about trends in the affiliate business. What have you noticed?
Bishop: The affiliate business has evolved a great deal since AEBN began in 1999. We have paid our affiliate and content partners more than $350 million over the years. For all the success the program has had it was starting to show its age. In 2014 we began the process of reimagining the program. How could we change it to reward the affiliates that were generating sales and transition to a more sustainable model that would carry us into the future?
At the beginning of 2015 we gave the affiliate program its first major overhaul since it was initially created. We altered the model so it would be relevant to the way business is done today. The new program now gives our affiliate partners much better opportunity to generate revenue from the traffic they send to AEBN. Since the program has been updated to reward the affiliate that generated the last sale, active affiliate payouts are increasing.
With the new program we have also implemented a sliding scale that supports automatic payout percentage rate increases as the productivity of the traffic increases. The more consumers spend the higher the percentage the affiliate is paid. It is now possible to make up to 50 percent of each sale.
Through these changes, AEBN continues to be a productive and profitable partnership for our affiliates.
XBIZ: Some mention that virtual reality combined with haptic technology as the next big thing for the online adult and live cams industries. AEBN perhaps had the most experience in marketing such offerings with its RealTouch product and service. What are your thoughts on the future of viewing adult content?
Bishop: Virtual reality is not for everyone. It is certainly cool and it makes for great headlines but in practice it is still a novelty. It will certainly become more common in the future but not fast enough or in wide enough use for those who invest money into it today. Having had a very advanced product in this vertical in recent years, I can tell you that it is not easy. There are hardware, software, content, and patent issues that you don’t fully appreciate until you are working through them.
Virtual reality and haptic technology hardware is going to have to become more affordable and available to more consumers for any adult angle to have the potential to be profitable.
I think the adult industry can add to the experience but for the consumer we can’t be the primary purpose for the hardware. There is just not a large enough audience for that sort of product at this time. Launching RealTouch was years ahead of its time. It worked. It would have continued to evolve and the experience would have continued to improve if there had been a great enough demand to justify the continued efforts.
In talking with many of the people that were involved in the project here at the office, there were many ideas about how it could have matured as a product, and how the consumers might have been able to engage with the product as the technology evolved. There is no way to know for sure if you are positioning yourself in the right place for the future. There are too many variables to predict the future well enough to be comfortable investing additional funds. We did that once.
We worked on RealTouch for about eight years through the product development and the marketing and expansion, from being functional with movies and then later the live cam interactive experience. A lot of time and money went into the product and though it worked well, it was disappointing that it never attained the broad adoption of our original vision.
The general consensus around the office is that haptic has a brighter future than visual virtual reality as it pertains to adult content. The touch sensation is the more gratifying of the two sensations. For all the amazing ideas anyone might come up with and for as much money as anyone may be able to pull together you can be certain that whatever the idea is it has been covered under someone’s patent. It will be necessary to work with the patent holders. That seems to be the last thing anyone thinks about and I can tell you for this technology it should be the first thing to consider.
After all our experience with RealTouch ... If we started over today knowing what we know now, we may have seen greater success with the product in time. The reality is that our willingness to invest in a future that was not arriving fast enough came to an end in September 2014 when we officially retired the RealTouch project.
Perhaps RealTouch will be revived at some later date when the time is right, and technologies have matured to a point that mass adoption by consumers is inevitable … timing is everything in that game. We are the same company that built our first mobile compatible website back in 2005, two years before the first iPhone came out. Ten years later, we now see our current mobile product is one of the fastest-growing segments of our business.
XBIZ: What’s coming up for AEBN as we look forward to 2016?
Bishop: Promotion of the new affiliate program that was launched in 2015 will continue gaining momentum into 2016. It took a lot of planning and a great deal of development to make the new affiliate program come to life but we aren’t done yet. More stats are on the way for both our affiliate and content partners.
Enhanced statistics and reporting tools will help our partners to make insightful and well informed decisions that lead to increased revenue. These tools will help affiliates understand what consumers are buying and show our content partners exactly what consumers are watching. We are actively developing the infrastructure that will be the base for more rapid product development in the future.
We will also be looking to do more collaborative content deals in the coming year. Because we have access to massive volumes of consumer data it makes sense that we would start to provide content partners with data related to current user trends and other data specific to drives content popularity. We see what consumers are watching and we know which categories of content are lacking in the catalog. We are looking to actively fill in the gaps. Sometimes consumer demand for a particular style of content out paces the production of that content.
We will soon announce a new initiative to help our contentment partners fight unauthorized and pirated distribution of their content. The details of this have yet to be released, as we are currently in the final testing phase of this program. Look for an announcement to follow very soon.
Piracy hurts the entire industry. Anything we can do help stop illegal and unauthorized distribution of our partners’ content, while promoting easy affordable access through legitimate sources like AEBN, is a benefit to everyone in the industry.
Last but not least we have a new subscription site called AdultMovies.com which is very similar in form and function to other popular mainstream movie services. The objective with this site is to extend the lifecycle of our partners’ content catalog, and give the consumer another affordable option for viewing quality adult content. Repurposing amazing content that has sold well through our pay-per- minute platform is the objective of this new venture.
XBIZ: Can you name a person in the adult industry who has had a tremendous impact on you?
Bishop: I feel fortunate to have known and worked with so many great people. I feel like I would be slighting people if I mentioned one over another. There are lots of people who have traits that I respect and try to emulate. Some I admire because they started before I did. They got a head start on me. Some were inspired with ideas and were willing to take risk that maybe I wouldn’t have. Gumption like that is admirable. Though not an industry person I got advice a long time ago from my father to choose a career that you didn’t mind getting up and doing every day. Good advice. I am certain he had no idea I was going to choose porno as my career. I don’t mind going to work each day.
XBIZ: What’s a typical work day like?
Bishop: I am in the office Monday-Friday, and I am always busy while I am there. There are lots of meetings, projects, spreadsheets and statistics to keep up with. The team dynamic is evolving within the company, and I now have much more interaction with all of the departments and divisions within the AEBN family. I feel that is a positive direction, and I am enjoying my expanding role within the company.
XBIZ: When not thinking about the biz, what do you like to do?
Bishop: I’m a fan of gadgets. I love technology, old and new. If I have time to myself I will likely be found tinkering with something. I enjoy riding my motorcycle and I have a few neat cars that get driven recreationally on occasion. The couch and a history documentary is also high on my list. Though these are welcome distractions, I have to admit that I am constantly thinking about some aspect of work no matter what I am doing outside the office.