The Phoenix Forum Kicks Off in Tempe

TEMPE, Ariz. – A few hundred of the top digital media professionals in adult entertainment gathered Thursday at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel for the first day of The Phoenix Forum

Hosted and orchestrated by the Arizona-based CCBill, The Forum has become a must-attend conference every March with its laid-back atmosphere, summer-like weather and robust schedule of networking activities.

This year appears to be no different as industry executives arrived at the scenic venue, which is closed to the public during the private event. During the sunset Welcome Reception in the Mission Palms courtyard, CCBill owner Ron Cadwell announced that attendance this year actually increased by 35 percent as a result of several first-timers and an influx of European companies making the trip.

Cadwell thanked all the sponsors for making it possible, and then he called them to the stage and handed each one a bottle of Cristal champagne as a token of his gratitude.

One first-time attendee was Andre Liao of the Silicon Valley-based Synova Interactive Group, a software consultancy firm that works with both mainstream and adult companies and also has offices in the Ukraine and China.

“We’re here to get new leads and more exposure,” Liao said.  “We’re ready to do more in the adult market.”

So is Ihsun Atsu, international account manager for Pay4, who traveled from Frankfurt, Germany, for the first time to Tempe. “In Europe we are known but we want to expand to America.”

Mickey Bojcsik, from and TemaCash, made his way to the Valley of the Sun from his home in Budapest, Hungary.

“The Phoenix Forum is one of my favorite shows in the U.S.,” said Bojcsik, who’s been a regular for the past five years.

This year’s event kicked off with a new and improved slate of educational workshops and business seminars tailored to fit the online community.

Utilizing a college course theme, the two-track seminar schedule got underway with Business 101 and Collaboration 201 – Leveraging Partner Relationships. The “Fundamentals” track continued with Gay Business 101, while the “Honor Courses” series of sessions delved into Traffic 201 – Advanced Concepts.

The Traffic panel featured no less than eight different experts including: Mark Greenspan of CCBill; Chris Hentrich from Wildline!; JT from Dreamstar Cash SL; Lauren MacEwen of 7 Veils Media; Sadiq Amar Muhamed from Paper Street Media; David Neawedde from Juicy Ads; and Nigel Williams of AdXpansion. YNOT president Connor Young moderated the seminar.

Young led the group through a list of topics that included numerous strategies for driving traffic using social media and tube sites, among others.

MacEwen, a social media strategist, addressed the vague rules related to adult-themed content with major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

“On Twitter you can almost do anything practically,” MacEwen said, adding that “85 percent” of social networking traffic now comes from Twitter.

She said that Twitter also has “the steepest learning curve,” but it’s worth the effort to hone one’s tweeting skills.

“It’s about engagement and proper targeting. You can’t automate everything you do,” MacEwen reasoned.

On the contrary, she said Facebook, which is projected to reach one billion users in August, is not adult friendly, so for the porn community “it’s more about branding.”

Google Plus launched in November and has already reached 140 million users, she noted.

“The growth ratio is 10 times faster than Facebook,” MacEwen said, adding that the majority of Google Plus users are men that are tech savvy.

She said a way to drive traffic to adult sites from Facebook is by doing blog entries and inserting links within the text.

“A blog entry is not adult. It can be shared and does get shared and they won’t track your links,” MacEwen said.

When it comes to working with the tube sites, AdXpansion VP Nigel Williams said there were two ways to get traffic from them: to buy it “and invest a lot in actively managing it,” or to give the tube site content and watermark your brand, which is less labor intensive.

JT, one of the founding members of YouPorn who is now doing business development for Dreamstar, said he has found that the optimum time for a tube site clip is between eight and 10 minutes. He also recommended that producers edit their best content into tube-specific clips and upload them to multiple tube sites.

“And it should have a beginning, middle and ending,” JT said. “It needs a buildup and it’s very important to have an ending such as an ejaculation or an orgasm. If you have a satisfied customer he’s going to click on your link.”

Charles Hentrich, the president and CEO of Wildline!, told the audience that if a person is trying to get their brand off the ground to use Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter and track the conversions.

“It’s a measured and scientific process,” Hentrich said. “You have to be thoughtful about what you’re doing.”

Meanwhile, Young asked how much time and energy companies should devote to running their own affiliate programs, and if it’s still worth the effort.

Amar Muhamed from Paper Street assured that affiliate programs are “alive,” but that “affiliate managers need to do a better job working with webmasters to make sure webmasters are educated on the proper tools to use.”

“The consumer is smarter so you need to be smarter,” Muhamed said.

The Day 1 seminars concluded with Piracy 101 and a lively opening round of Speed Networking moderated by XBIZ’s Moe Helmy and Kristen Kaye.

Carmen Lumina, junior affiliate marketing manager for BrokerBabe, said during the session, “What I really love about Phoenix is I get to do business outside and you’re not locked inside someplace all day. It’s great weather. And with the courtyard, and the drinks and the ice cream, it’s awesome.”

The three-day conference continues at 9 a.m. Friday.