GAYVN Summit Covers Range of Topics

Joanne Cachapero and Jeremy Spencer
SAN FRANCISCO — Gay adult industry members from the online and video production sectors gathered in San Francisco for the GAYVN Summit seminars, held Feb. 15-16 at the W Hotel.

The first day’s seminars kicked off with product branding with a panel moderated by Epoch’s Rand Pate. Hot House Entertainment founder Steven Scarborough, Channel 1 Releasing partner Rob Novinger, NakedSword.com founder Tim Valenti and TLA Video managing director Eric Schut were speakers.

Scarborough highlighted the importance of a consistent brand, a strong product offering and how to avoid “trying to be everything for every consumer.”

Schut advised monitoring consumer reaction to the brand through sales research “to see if people are responding to it and it’s still growing.”

Valenti encouraged attendees to associate a consistent face or image with the company brand, while Novinger pointed out that C1R always tries to launch products with a gimmick to keep retailers’ interest and to differentiate themselves from the pack.

Also discussed were multitiered advertising across several formats and the need for print advertising and strong online viral approaches. Search engine optimization, or SEO, was pointed out as a necessity for most successful branding campaigns, as well.

Other tips from the panel included use of a blog site to drive more traffic to other sites and using exclusive original content to distinguish your brand from competitors. Schut told attendees they should make use of customer surveys. He also recommended split-testing, which involves using several ads for one product and then finding the one that evokes the best response.

The first seminar was followed by a panel called “Maximizing Your Content,” moderated by AVN Online’s MJ McMahon, with CCBill’s Gary Jackson, SilverCash Albert, NakedSword’s Jack Shamama and C1R’s Tony Rios. The discussion revolved around strategies that would benefit adult webmasters trying to make the jump from DVD to online formats, or vice versa.

The panel agreed that DVD will continue to sell for at least the next five years but that producers need to have a presence in several different distribution streams in place to maximize the availability of their content to wider audiences, including video-on-demand, Internet protocol TV (IPTV), mobile and streaming formats.

The “Industry Speak” seminar was the best attended, with more than 80 people in the room. The attraction was what promised to be a replay of last year’s lively discussion between moderator and C1R founder Chi Chi LaRue and panelist Michael Lucas, founder of Lucas Entertainment.

Other speakers included Raging Stallion founder Chris Ward, TitanMen exclusive Diesel Washington, Fabscout Talent Management’s Howard Marr, Ridgeline Films owner Jason Ridge and Raging Stallion exclusive Steve Cruz.

Much of the discussion centered on models and performers, with two models on the panel giving their perspective on healthcare issues, exclusivity and the difference between being a contract performer or a freelancer.

Washington, who is black, gave his opinion on interracial content and issues around being an ethnic performer.

Marr and Ward discussed performer fees and benefits. Ward noted that fees were “going through the roof” and that the studios were generally unable to provide medical benefits for performers due to cost.

On exclusivity, Lucas referred to the recent incident with COLT exclusives Carlo Massi and Adam Champ breaking their contracts, then sending a mass email to other producers to offer their services.

Lucas felt that no studio should hire the pair because it would set a bad example to other talent about fulfilling contract obligations, and as a show of support for COLT.

The barebacking issue also was discussed in terms of whether STD testing was a viable alternative to condom use on a production set. Response from the panel was typical of the mainline condom-only studios represented there, with LaRue pointing out that testing creates a “false sense of security.”

Saturday’s conferences started off with a panel on traffic, moderated by Traffic Dude’s Scott Rabinowitz, with speakers Brain Grabowski from Wildline!, Mark Bauman from gay affiliate program Suite 703, Michael Branvold from Gamelink and NakedSword’s Michael Stabile.

The panel addressed traditional methods of acquiring traffic through affiliates and traffic buying, as compared to cultivating traffic organically through in-house promotional techniques.

Panelists were surprised to discover, with a show of hands, that out of the audience of nearly 40 people, perhaps a third were newbie webmasters.

Tips and tricks recommended by the panel included the use of customized conversion tracking and the use of Google AdWords and other search engine optimization techniques maximize a company’s online presence.

Most panelists agreed that banner advertising had limited success ratios, and that navigational or text elements that look like part of a webpage probably work better to attract clicks.

The liveliest seminar of the day featured a consumer panel moderated by Sister Roma, hostess of NakedSword’s “Tim and Roma Show,” asking panelists about their adult viewing preferences.

Panelists ages ranged from early 20s to mid-50s. Favorite adult content of the group spanned everything from amateur (which several of the panelist noted as “more real”) to fisting and bareback.

The discussion of bareback was typically heated, with pros and cons on both sides. One panelist said that he felt bareback videos should carry a disclaimer and information on prevention of HIV through safe sex practices.

The final panel, which included attorneys David Adelman, David Dempsey and Gill Sperlein, featured legal issues, with attorney Clyde DeWitt moderating.

A featured topic was current trends in content piracy, with Sperlein outlining several steps for producers to take to help protect their content from pirating. As Titan Media’s in-house lawyer, Sperlein has pursued more actions against pirates than any other industry lawyer and has never lost in more than 40 cases.

The panelists also remarked on the recent developments in Texas, which declared unconstitutional the ban on sale and possession of adult novelties.

The 2nd annual Summit was thrown in conjunction with the GAYVN Awards, which were presented on Saturday night