TEMPE, Ariz. — Each year The Phoenix Forum brings together many industry leaders and upstarts as part of a tradeshow experience that has also become a good barometer of the way the entire industry is moving from one year to the next.
For many the show was a blur of activity, going from one meeting to the next in a fast-paced series of moments, setting up new deals or expanding on existing ones. But the blur of partying some attendees may recall from years back has definitely taken a backseat to a new era of productivity.
Among the attendees were several adult entertainment industry veterans who had not attended any events in many years, and each remarked with astonishment about how much the tone of the forum has changed.
The courtyard, once known for loud pumping music and a live DJ until all hours of the evening was filled more with business discussion and less with booming beats.
Many attendees sat with water bottles or no drinks at all, and while cigar smoking seems to be on the rise, overall it was definitely a more health-conscious group on the whole.
“Phoenix Forum is always great,” said Lane of ProcessingPartners.com, who organized one of the healthiest parts of the show. “I go to a lot of shows but this is one of my favorite. So many great people attended and we got a lot of business done — plus you really can’t beat all that sunshine.
“The exercise hike we did with a bunch of us going up the trail on ‘A’ Mountain was a real highlight. Such great people and such an easy atmosphere to connect with people – I’ll be back next year for sure!”
Quite a few new innovative ideas were discussed. Some are revolutionary products being developed by long-standing industry legends with a proven history of success, like MyPorn coming soon from the mind that previously created YNOT and TheBestPorn.com back in the day.
Others, like new startups NudeFlix, Dome-Online.com and Enjora.com showed a spark of new entrepreneurship.
“I haven’t attended a lot of shows in recent years,” said Rick Muenyong of MyPorn.com. “Ken does a great job of all that for us, but with MyPorn now on the horizon I made time to demo it to some of the people I respect most in this business.
“The fact that it got a lot of love from everyone who saw it means a lot to me, because The Phoenix Forum always brings out the best of the best and if a product gets smiles from them during a demo, it’s a clear sign we are on the right track with our development toward our launch a couple months from now.”
There was also a lot of talk with adult industry alums that are branching out where connections with others who share their porn past can also be used to springboard forward in other verticals.
Several attendees were primarily there to discuss the bourgeoning legal marijuana market in one form or another, more than a few conversations turned toward the future of legal online gambling and fantasy sports betting, while there was also keen interest in monetizing porn by leveraging its appeal as a hook rather than simply as a product on its own.
Within the gay community, conversation was often about the challenges that business owners face in marketing their products now that being gay is no longer as edgy or controversial as it once was in the past.
A lively roundtable discussion during the "Gay Evolution" seminar included several audience members and panelists working through the same sort of issues that have long hindered the straight side of the industry — how to stand out and differentiate your products with niche perfection now that the easy thrill has worn off because the audience has become more jaded and gay adult content is no longer thought to be taboo just because it’s gay.
“The gay vertical has been going through a period of transition that affects everyone in the space and the forum was terrific as a central location for everyone to share ideas on the ways to generate sustainable growth,” said Justin of GrowThisFast.com. “My work with Adam4Adam was definitely bolstered by the face time I had with many business owners in the gay community, and something I was really glad to see was a much greater focus on bringing everyone together without the silly gap among gay and straight businesses on the B2B side of things.
“Now that the markets are becoming so similar, it’s more important than ever that we work with all the terrific companies that attended rather than with any one small clique or another. The fastest growth always comes when the widest base of people and companies support the product. Helping companies broaden their connections for that purpose is a lot of what I ended up doing throughout the show and it was definitely worth attending.”
“This was another outstanding Phoenix Forum for the Daddyhunt App,” said Carl from DaddyHunt.com. “We had three extremely full days with new and existing partners. I leave overwhelmed and also inspired by the number of creative, interesting and innovative people I've met. Phoenix is the only gay event we need to attend and we will be back again next year. Also, a special thanks to CCBill, Flirt4Free and Next Door Studios for all the fun events and for their tireless hard work pulling it all together.”
This Phoenix Forum seemed to have a higher percentage of webmasters and business owners from other parts of the world than any U.S. show in memory. Europe was strongly represented, along with Australia and Asia.
There was also a hockey net in the XBIZ courtyard tent for part of the day, so it was very easy to identify the large throng of Canadians who traveled to the show this year.
It was also a big year for Women In Adult (WIA), as the event hosted by Kristen of KSquaredDynamics.com brought together more than 60 female businesswomen from the adult industry community for a more feminine round of networking at the popular RA Sushi restaurant a few feet from Mission Palms.
“I was really impressed by the number of women of various sectors that joined us for the inaugural Women In Adult event,” Kristen said. “To see people networking with those they had never met before, and discuss with various individuals what they would like to see come of the group was really very inspiring. There is a clear need and desire to see WIA grow and serve a true purpose. Being the leader of the organization is an honor."
Through it all the show definitely did serve its primary purpose effectively. The Casino Noir event was very well attended, featuring some eye-popping performances by a contortionist and plenty of prizes. The Bourbon tasting sponsored by Vendo was well received, and the late night poker suites were busy enough that at times they opened up multiple tables to seat all the people looking for some action.
Poolside, the Elevated X cabana was the place to be. Right in the middle of the scene as beer-pong, the "mankini" contest and lots of laughs were shared among old and new friends alike before naked dodge ball began and the crowd migrated to the hotel tennis courts for what has become one of the signature showcases of the forum.
“The 2015 Phoenix Forum was one of the most productive shows I've been to in years,” said AJ Hall, co-founder/CEO of Elevated X Inc. “Hats off to CCBill for delivering a great show experience. As a show sponsor Elevated X took full advantage of the courtyard meet and greet to connect with a lot of our existing customers without the chaos of trying to organize meetings with so many different people. The pool scene was definitely happening.
The Elevated X & Mobius Payments cabana quickly became a hot spot and provided a welcome refuge for our clients, partner vendors and lots of new friends. We had a great time at the show and are already looking forward to next year!”
Hooters Happy Hour also continued the tradition of beer and wings on the patio. On a high note, the waitresses were asking for ID of every person who ordered a drink, which was flattering to many of the gray-haired business owners who obviously had not been age-checked at a bar in a decade or more before that moment.
Given the social aspects and business importance of attending the forum, it isn’t surprising that a social media expert summed it all up best.
“The Phoenix Forum is one of my favorite B2B shows of the year, and this year was no different,” said Pete Housley of PornstarTweet.com “It's a great place to meet new clients and friends, re-kindle old relationships and catch up with everyone.
"The theme of the year was definitely ‘social media.’ Nearly every panel from affiliates, gay to ‘Evolution of Porn Stars’ spent time on the topic. We expect three big new projects this year with Eros.com, InSex.com and ICM Registry, which came from this awesome week in Phoenix.”