LOS ANGELES — The first round of educational seminars, sponsored by NETbilling, got underway yesterday at the highly anticipated XBIZ 360 Digital Media Conference, held at Hollywood’s stylish W Hotel.
Running from January 22-25, XBIZ 360 coordinates a series of events to deliver unique experiences for attendees, whether they are involved in the business of pleasure products or adult retail, digital media or adult film content. XBIZ 360 is highlighted by the 2014 XBIZ Awards show, presented by Fleshlight on Jan. 24 in Century City, where legendary adult film superstar Jenna Jameson will serve as the event’s master of ceremonies.
The first full day of the event kicked off early with informal networking near the event’s registration booth, segueing into XBIZ’ perennially popular speed networking session — after which, the learning began in earnest with “Traffic Trends: In Pursuit of the Adult Entertainment Consumer.”
Traffic acquisition is a topic that is near and dear to adult website operators, which must contend with censorship that limits audience sizes; cope with growth on the mobile front (especially throughout the developing world); as well as face ongoing competition from social media sites — all of this and more, makes obtaining visitors priority number one.
Exploring the latest trends and opportunities in adult traffic, were expert panelists such as Mark Bauman of Traffic Haus, Juicy Jay from JuicyAds, Judy Shalom of Wister/Adamo, Vivid’s Jean-Marie Kesch, and Alex Lecomte from StarAdvertising, ably guided by the moderation of Hustler’s Derek Meklir.
Meklir kicked things off by asking the panel about new trends in organic traffic growth.
Shalom noted that tube sites show the biggest growth in organic traffic and that despite their checkered past tube sites hold considerable promise for promoters.
Bauman agreed, warning against putting out too much content in exchange for the new visitors that it can attract, but advising targeted clip placement on tubes in order to get some of their organic traffic, which arrives in large part from favorable search listings.
Kesch cited the popularity of Vivid’s gentlemen’s clubs and Vivid Radio on Sirius XM, as ingredients in what he characterized as “a lot of branding and SEO work” that Vivid does as a means of generating organic traffic.
Lecomte underscored the value of tube traffic by explaining that two or three years ago, banner spots on tube sites were a no-go, but today, one cannot avoid using these ad spots.
Ads on tube sites are not a magic panacea for a site’s traffic needs, however, as Shalom pointed out; advising attendees to be careful with tube traffic and to use geo-targeting and frequency capping, before further filtering and refining their traffic.
Lecomte offered a tip in recommending the use of abundant tube traffic for speeding up A/B split testing, but cautioned the results would only be valid for that particular tube — a problem that could be compensated for by running the ad tests across multiple sites.
The topic then turned to social media with Lecomte saying, “Everyone is on social media and you should be there too.”
Jay agreed saying, “If you’re not doing anything in social media, then you should be.” He went on to characterize this traffic as being minimal in quantity, but very high in quality, noting that social media was a great way for B2B firms to stay in touch with their clients.
Kesch added that social media not only allows users to send out breaking news about their company but is useful as a tool for monitoring trending to stay abreast of hot topics.
The discussion then turned to the topic of fraud, which is a consistent factor in the online traffic business that both buyers and sellers need to be aware of before it is too late.
Jay explains that nobody wants to buy traffic that is not “real,” and notes that long-term, folks will not remain in business if they are selling bad traffic. Jay says that JuicyAds uses dozens of metrics for finding fraud, telling the audience that he believes around 35 percent of mobile traffic that sold or traded is fraudulent in origin.
Bauman agreed, saying that while bots are indeed problematic, “cookie stuffing” is far more damaging to the bottom line and an affiliate’s worst enemy, as this diverts sales. Banner farms received blame for poor traffic performance, as did hidden iframes and other fraudulent practices that can create false impressions and erroneous traffic fees.
Shalom summed up what a traffic brokers client’s can do about fraudulent traffic, saying that it is important to ask any prospective ad network about their traffic filtering practices before making purchases.
Next up was “The Next Web: The Changing Face of Online Adult Entertainment,” which examined the adult entertainment potential of the latest web technologies and the overall environment in which these breakthroughs are evolving.
From the latest design trends to the newest media delivery techniques, tech-visionary panelists such as Red Apple Media’s Remik Kolodziej and MiKandi’s Chris O’Connell, AJ Hall of Elevated X, Vegas Ken from The Best Porn, and XBIZ’ Stephen Yagielowicz, along with Utherverse’s Brian Shuster as the moderator, discussed today and tomorrow’s most promising web technologies.
“Unlike 3D, which is technologically cool (but I don’ think will take off), the ultra HD set is here today,” O’Connell explained. “It’s just ultra — of course you’re going to buy it. You don’t even need to know why.”
While other panelists thought it would take slightly longer, O’Connell predicts that 4K will be the standard within two years.
Not all new technologies succeed, however, with Shuster sagely noting, “You can have a lot of failures, as long as you have some successes that really kill.”
Shuster and O’Connell discussed how their respective teams develop many products after attending shows, and let their developers have a lot of freedom in exploring new ideas — knowing that many of these projects will never take off.
The future of the adult Internet is as dependent upon creating new policy as it is on new technology, with Yagielowicz discussing how the industry can work with regulators and policy makers to influence the direction that these initiatives take.
“If you look for those common grounds and inject pragmatism,” Yagielowicz offered, “You can have a positive impact.”
Vegas Ken notes that censorship in theU.K.is a big issue no one is discussing.
“TheU.K.is the second largest consumer of porn after theU.S.,” Vegas Ken explained. “People should follow what’s going on there.”
The session then shifted to the move towards making adult content appeal to women.
“Continuing to focus on the male demographic, there’s a little bit of futility in that,” Hall stated. “People that are doing very well realize that you need to cater to everyone.”
“[Porn is] trending towards more ‘couples friendly,’ more towards what women like,” Vegas Ken observed. “Even if it’s a few years before women actually take out their credit cards and start buying subscriptions.”
As for other trends, they were forthcoming:
“The big trend we see going forward is personalization,” O’Connell concluded, telling attendees “You absolutely have to read consumers’ minds, because it turns out they lie about what they like. The only way to find out [what they like] is by using statistical aggregates.”
For those attendees more interested in the present than the future, AWE offered an insider look at “The World of Live Cams,” with Douglas Richter paving the path to profits for performers and promoters through innovative new tools such as the White Label 3.0 and the company’s high quality feeds and other market-leading features.
Next came one of the event’s most popular sessions, the legal update, which looked at the current hot-button issues that are affecting the adult entertainment industry today.
XBIZ’ panel of expert adult industry attorneys, advocates and piracy pursuers, including Larry Walters and Corey Silverstein, Greg Piccionelli, Gill Sperlein and Diane Duke, with Nate Glass as moderator, took on the most important issues facing the adult industry today and for the foreseeable future, includingEurope’s Internet censorship initiatives to the ongoing war against digital media piracy.
Glass began the discussion by asking the panel if pursuing content pirates was still wise.
Piccionelli opined that when it comes to pirates, attendees “should nail their heads at the front of your castle to let others know you’re serious.” He also went on to discuss the role that quantum computing will play in locking down content rights, but this is years away.
Walters explained that while biometrics and other technologies could provide a long-term solution, in the interim, piracy remains an unpleasant fact for adult content producers — with Walters suggesting that having a focus on live, interactive, and personalized content that is not readily pirated, may be the way to go.
“Two or three years ago, tube sites were seen as the end of the world,” Sperlein stated, noting that today, file sharing through cyberlockers and the use of Bit torrents, has made the content theft situation far worse for many players.
Sperlein also explained that litigation against end-users is not viable anymore because bad cases and procedures spoiled the process, causing more harm than good.
“I absolutely agree that protecting intellectual property rights is vital,” Silverstein stated, adding “But while some people made money suing end-users, those tactics have hurt the industry.”
Duke noted that mainstream attorneys’ lament the bad case law created by inept attorneys in this regard that have established poor precedents and reaped unintended consequences.
Walters agrees that these efforts have often backfired, with judges now questioning ‘2257 compliance and the basic notion of extending copyright protection to porn productions.
“It is essential that you have a well thought out litigation plan,” Walters says, before you pursue pirates.
Getting back to the subject of the ‘2257 federal age-verification and recordkeeping law, Piccionelli notes that there is a huge lack of compliance in the popular live cam market — with Walters explaining that there are many other issues that cam performers must be aware of, including background music or images, such as a copyrighted poster on a wall.
Silverstein discussed how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is now taking a much closer look at the adult entertainment industry and any unfair or deceptive trade practices, especially on dating sites that use fake profiles and chat bots — common practice in adult — but practices that could even get affiliates in trouble.
Affiliates also listened closely when Walters explained that white label and other sites have their own set of issues, such as mistakenly using DMCA and ‘2257 notices, as well as site terms and conditions, privacy policies and CAN-SPAM compliance notices copied from the white label’s parent site (or elsewhere).
The technicalities are daunting, but the requirements come with a tinge of timely irony:
“It’s pretty rich,” Sperlein says, “That the government is talking to you about privacy.”
The final digital media session of the day was the Keynote address by Anthony Previte, CEO of FriendFinder Networks, which includes brands such as AdultFriendFinder.com, Cams.com and Penthouse.
In this executive session, Previte shared his experiences and unique outlook on the future of the adult entertainment industry, along with the challenges and opportunities it offers.
“I live in a legal world unfortunately,” Previte prefaced. “Anything I say should be considered advice because I’m wrong a lot.”
“If I didn’t like this industry, I wouldn’t have stayed for six years, but sometimes it needs to be criticized,” Previte confided. “This is the most polarized industry I’ve ever been in.”
Previte expressed a number of concerns over the current state of the industry, noting that there is no longer any “cooperative competition,” which he dubbed “coopetition,” and not enough self-regulation, using the “condoms in porn” debate as an example of the latter.
Previte lamented the fact that there is not enough sound legal and business advice sought out by members of this industry.
“Advice is cheap,” Previte said. “If you’re going to be in this industry, you better have your lawyer on speed dial.”
Previte moved on to explain how adult entertainment and adult-related social interaction stems from profound biological needs.
“This industry serves a vital role in people’s wellbeing,” Previte said. “If you don’t jerk off, you probably need psychotherapy.”
He then talked quite a bit about the diverse desires of the population, and how those niches can and should be catered to and capitalized on, echoing O’Connell’s earlier statement about how consumers habitually lie about their tastes.
“Often what people tell you they want is not really what they want — they’re using it as a cover,” Previte offered, noting that there is a significant group of guys on AFF that sign up “seeking women,” but who only look at male profiles...
Previte also confided that AFF is “half mobile,” and predicts it will have a 70-80 percent mobile audience by the end of the year.
“Consumers decide how they want their content delivered,” Previte says. “There is an intimacy that is still attached to the phone that the computer doesn’t have.”
As for what will come next, Previte predicts the fall of “the great tube sites” and thinks that net neutrality rulings might be just the thing to do it.
Although the educational and keynote sessions were now over, the day was not yet done.
The Mix & Meet and Happy Hour took center stage, providing attendees and exhibitors with a prime opportunity to mingle over drinks and make deals in the relaxing setting of the main hotel lobby, which also serves as the hub of all the event’s comings and goings.
The elegant Hollywood Suite Party followed the Mix & Meet, where attendees celebrated in true Hollywood VIP fashion, awash in the opulence of a W Hotel luxury suite.
Finally, The Hot List Rooftop Party hit the W Hotel rooftop, where partygoers enjoyed each other’s company at this official pre-awards party honoring 2014’s XBIZ Award-nominated performers. Those at this well attended bash enjoyed one of the best party venues in XBIZ event history, with guests uniformly awed at the spectacle — and with those that missed it, having another reason to attend next year.
Stay tuned for more…