XBIZ Miami 2015 Sets New Standard of Success

LOS ANGELES — The 2015 XBIZ Miami event has successfully concluded, following three full days of fun in the sun, coupled with educational and networking sessions that targeted an elite audience of adult entertainment industry insiders and professionals.

The event ran from June 1-4 at South Beach’s luxurious SLS Hotel, sponsored by AdultFriendFinder, Epoch, SegPay, PussyCash, NETbilling, DatingGold, Exoclick, Gamma Entertainment, and Streamate.

For most participants in the 2015 edition of XBIZ Miami, the event began Monday by picking up their show badge at the AdultFriendFinder-sponsored registration booth, but a couple of special networking opportunities were available for those early bird attendees wanting to dive right in to the action.

Launching this year’s event with a giant stride into the warm tropical waters of the Florida Keys was XBIZ Miami’s Scuba Spectacular, hosted by GameLink’s Jeff Dillon. An annual event, this year’s dive visited the famous underwater bronze statue of Jesus known as the “Christ of the Abyss.” The trip was even better than expected, says Dillon, who noted superb visibility at this popular scuba site near Key Largo — spotting two sharks and a variety of other underwater life during the dive — in addition to the awe-inspiring visage of Guido Galletti’s memorable masterpiece.

Landlubbers had their share of opening day fun, too, with the annual XBIZ Miami Golf Tournament going into full swing at the elegant Miami Beach Golf Club. Presented by X2K Consulting and Media Services’ Stephen Bugbee, the tournament, sponsored by NETbilling, Camspower, Chargeback Help and X2K, provided a relaxing afternoon of golf and executive networking. Bugbee told XBIZ that this year’s golf tournament was a huge success, with its participants enjoying the camaraderie, great weather and top-tier golf course — all while supporting ASACP and its mission of keeping children out of and away from adult entertainment.

Returning divers, sun-soaked golfers, and other attendees later joined forces for the opening night Kick-Off Mixer, where cocktails and conversations flowed at the show venue SLS Hotel — setting the stage for the event by starting on a positive note — with the night capped by an exclusive “sponsors’ dinner” at the nearby Redbury Hotel.

Tuesday, June 2, ushered in a beehive of activity with the return of the popular XBIZ Speed Networking, where a full complement of attendees took advantage of the comfortable poolside location of the SLS Hotel’s Clyde Ballroom — introducing themselves, and making new contacts, one-on-one.

The Clyde Ballroom also served as the hub of XBIZ Miami’s educational seminar series, sponsored by NETbilling, which explored the latest in cams, billing and traffic, and the current state of the industry — along with the latest in mobile technology and the newest legal considerations for adult businesses.

Tuesday’s sessions included “Cam Mania: Making Money Selling Live Entertainment,” featuring ImLive’s Shay Efron, plus Douglas Richter of CamsPower, Chaturbate’s Shirley Lara, Yuval Kijel of Streamate and its new Cambuilder affiliate program, along with Jasmine from Flirt4Free and Tim from iFriends, with the able moderation of Affil4You’s Joey Gabra. This experienced group of cam industry experts revealed how live cams are leading the way for today’s adult entertainment industry — providing pirate-proof profits for models, promoters and providers.

“Millennials are the ‘now’ generation and they don’t just want to watch, they want to become the director,” Lara explains, noting that webcams are becoming a strong market segment among these consumers, which she says are especially fond of interacting with Chaturbate’s mobile live cam app.

Efron, who says, “The webcam is one of the only true live products there is,” echoed this need for interactivity and control. “Cams are the biggest moneymaker for our partners,” Yuval confides, noting that this profitability comes in part because “the technology is much better these days” than in the past — but he was swift to add that technology alone will not result in profits, unless marketers can keep their promotions fresh.

Jasmine underscored the need for offering fresh, updated content, but noted that the primary appeal of cams is that consumers want to have a human connection, which they are willing to pay for. She also said that there was a lot of opportunity in the live gay cam market, where one-on-one contact is vital.

Richter reinforced one of the best benefits of cams for those who seek to profit from them, when he explained, “you can’t pirate interaction.” Beyond the negative actions of content pirates, the positive actions of affiliates play a major role in the profitability of live cams today. “Affiliates have their fingers on the consumers’ pulse,” Tim, a 17-year veteran of the cam space, reveals. “A lot of our affiliates know exactly what they want, and are building [the custom promo tools] that they need.”

The panelists all agreed that the near-term future of live adult cams revolves around improving the user experience and flexibility, with an emphasis on the importance of catering to mobile cam customers — by focusing on responsive designs and better billing techniques.

Next up, “Billing Basics: Online Payment Processing for Dummies,” moderated by Stephen Yagielowicz, featured CCBill’s Gary Jackson, Epoch’s Frank Gannon and Wendy Nelson of NETbilling, plus OrbitalPay’s Karen Campbell, SegPay’s Cathy Beardsley, Chris Rodger of Payze and Webbilling’s Ines Peterson.

These expert panelists explored everything from the differences between having a merchant account and using third-party billing, to the latest mobile billing strategies and alternative payment techniques (hint: Bitcoin is a bust, at least as far as processing adult entertainment transactions goes). They also offered insights into recent regulatory changes — such as new VAT requirements for website operators to pay taxes to the country of their customer’s origin.

The day’s final seminar, “Traffic 4 Sale: Ad Buying Best Practices,” hit the stage with Chris Coupland of Grand Slam Media and its new Adnium brand, plus AdultAdWorld’s Daniel Alvarez, Rainey Stricklin from JuicyAds and Thomas Skavhellen of PlugRush, with MojoHost’s Brad Mitchell serving as moderator.

The group delved into the changing face of the Internet, where mobile users (including billions of new users from developing countries) are supplanting traditional desktop users, altering traffic profiles and profitability, causing advertisers and publishers to rethink marketing approaches and content offers.

Coupland kicked things off by explaining that while mobile traffic is huge, today’s media buyers target traffic based on nearly every imaginable data point — from specific carriers through “all of the popular targeting options taken to the extreme.” Alvarez noted that this targeting is most effective when it is dynamic, stating, “everyone wants to see their traffic stats immediately and they want to optimize their campaigns in real time.”

“The gay market offers a strong trend that is worth targeting,” Stricklin says, while noting that publishers are often uncomfortable asking visitors for more information that might help better define their desires.

Despite this reluctance for the gathering of such personal information, Skavhellen explained that user profiling is important, and that keyword tagging was an unobtrusive way of targeting users with related content and advertising. For some companies, however, spending this effort elsewhere is better. “Retargeting and behavioral targeting provides a lift,” Alvarez offers, “but not enough of a lift that advertisers remain interested.”

Stricklin reinforced the need for tracking traffic, such as through precise pixel tracking, as well as the need for working with local market reps that understand the nuances of various audience segments.

One message that came through loud and clear, is that in 2015, driving quality traffic to a website and profitably monetizing it takes care and effort, with Coupland concluding that “as [the adult industry] gets more competitive, it’s important to optimize to squeeze every last dollar out of your traffic.”

Once the first day’s educational sessions wrapped up, it was time for some fun in the sun, with activities that ran the gamut from an Epoch-sponsored volleyball tournament in the SLS Hotel’s Hyde Beach Pool, to the Happy Hour Mix & Meet in the comfortable Mediterranean Garden of the Hyde Beach Bar & Grill, where attendees and participating companies gathered. Next, the heat turned up to “maximum” for the Ms. XBIZ Miami Bikini Contest (and the equal opportunity “mankini” contest), where South Beach’s most bodacious bodies were on display. Later, saw the start of XBIZ’s annual “Miami Vice White Party,” where attendees mingled in their finest white attire. For those with an extra dose of stamina, the after-hours party at E11EVEN Nightclub provided a memorable and sexy end to the evening.

Wednesday got off to a great start with the debut of XBIZ’s exclusive Open Mic Marketing Hour, which put a one-to-many spin on XBIZ Speed Networking, where participants provided their best elevator pitch to a roomful of attendees, in a well-received session.

Next up, round two of XBIZ’s NETbilling sponsored educational series began with a look at the “State of the Industry: A Mid-Year Snapshot,” moderated by 7Veils’ Lauren MacEwen, and featuring GameLink’s Jeff Dillon, ICM Registry’s Steve Winyard and MojoHost’s Brad Mitchell, plus Mitch Farber of NETbilling and Ron Cadwell of CCBill. This group of veteran industry experts explored the most up-to-the-minute factors and trends currently shaping the adult entertainment industry today, leaving some attendees to consider their plans for the future.

Winyard began the discussion with a sobering look at the inevitability of mandatory age verification and its genesis now underway in the U.K., with its roots extending to ATVOD’s 2011 requirement that adult sites serving the U.K. incorporate age verification. While this regulatory body’s specifics were scant, it did allow the use of a credit card as a means of age verification, leading to adult sites abandoning debit cards as an authorized payment mechanism for customers in the U.K.

Winyard serves on the Digital Policy Alliance, which advises the U.K. government on issues related to online age verification and other technological issues, and told XBIZ Miami attendees that he expects an official announcement from the U.K. government in the next 60-90 days — followed by age verification requirements mandated within the next year or two. A global mandate is expected shortly thereafter, first in the EU, and then in the U.S. and elsewhere.

For perspective, Dillon noted that the lucrative German market has required user age verification for several years, while Cadwell opined that in the short term, many operators may simply move their businesses to the Netherlands or other open jurisdictions, and Mitchell discussed the role that web hosts play in policing content and reporting bad deeds to the authorities.

Another hot topic was the increasing hostility of banks towards adult entertainment companies and individual performers, with reports of accounts being closed without prior notice — and in some cases, funds being held back for extended periods of time, harming companies' cash flow.

“Since ‘Operation Choke Point’ eased up, it’s easier to do banking,” Farber explained. “But using blatant porn names [on your accounts] is a ticket to getting bounced.”

Another topic was the expected rise in online fraud as chip-enabled credit cards are released in the U.S. beginning later this year, replacing the magnetic stripe used in most U.S. cards, which will shift criminal’s focus from stealing tangible goods to online chicanery. The problem of declining conversion ratios was also addressed, with the consensus being that much of the blame could be laid at the doorstep of site operators that do not disclose pricing until the join page is reached.

One major take away from the session was the need for optimism and for relying on the help of others.

“Call your vendors for current information: your billers for new features, your web host for new services, and get free consultation targeted to your current needs,” Cadwell explained. “We all have more money in our pockets than 3-4-5 years ago, so it’s not all doom and gloom anymore.”

Next up, GameLink’s Jeff Dillon moderated “Mobile Tomorrow: Catering to the New Generation,” with panelists including Affil4You’s Joey Gabra, Andy Wullmer of SexGoesMobile, Juicy Ads’ Rainey Stricklin, Vendo’s Owen Kavanagh, and XBIZ’s Stephen Yagielowicz, which shed light on the watershed changes underway in the realm of Internet usage today.

The short course is that the Internet as we know it has already changed, boasting a more cosmopolitan audience that accesses it primarily from a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. This is evidenced by Google’s recent moves to reward mobile-friendly websites while penalizing those that cater solely to a deskbound audience — a move that Yagielowicz says resulted from Google seeing the preponderance of searches within the U.S. and other major markets now coming from mobile users. The best advice is to ensure responsive web designs and mobile friendly payment forms.

Stricklin discussed the various mobile ad options and traffic nuances, while Gabra and Wullmer talked about the importance of separating carrier and Wi-Fi traffic, explaining that their businesses rely on the database of carrier-specific IP addresses that they have accumulated over the years — trade secrets that they consider confidential and the key to maximizing revenues from mobile users.

Kavanagh was quick to point out the profit potential of catering to the countless number of entry-level “feature phone” users, and the need to offer this audience unique products and price points — with Wullmer noting his belief in “the beer index,” with services priced similar to the average price of a cold beer in each targeted country.

The final seminar of the 2015 XBIZ Miami event was a special executive workshop session entitled “Legal: Adult Under Attack, What's Next?” presented by Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) Executive Director Tim Henning, and featuring noted adult industry attorneys Larry Walters and Corey Silverstein.

The first topic was the recent ruling in the ongoing battle over the 18 USC ‘2257 federal record-keeping requirements for providing age verification of depicted performers, with new direction from the circuit court that ruled that warrantless record inspections are unconstitutional, violating Fourth Amendment protections, and removing this fear from producers. Walters laid out an in-depth introduction to ‘2257, with both attorneys being quick to point out that the statute remains in effect as the law of the land — and adult operators should consult with a qualified attorney as to their exposure on this count.

The issue of banks targeting adult businesses and performers also came up in this session, with the two attorney’s advising attendees to have a backup plan in case of an account closure. Silverstein says that company owners should have their own attorney examine the bank’s terms of service before making major deposits, but Walters chillingly explained, “The reality is that you have no negotiating position with the bank.”

Another topic was the continued practice by some website operators of using other site’s documents, such as terms and conditions or privacy policy statements — documents that are applicable to the site’s that they were stolen from and not for the site they may appear on. Even in cases where those terms were not stolen, but used by license (such as on a white label site), the site’s operator still faces liability in the event of a problem. 

This line of thought extended to a range of issues, from accepting Bitcoin to allowing user-generated content, with Silverstein telling affected audience members “you created the instrumentality that let the crime occur.”

As for the future, the prediction is one of a changing and challenging playing field.

“The ‘War on Porn’ is over, and we won!” Walters exclaimed. “But that war has swiftly switched to the war on human trafficking,” and this will increasingly target cam, dating and escort sites, keeping content producers and marketers on their toes.

Following the fear of legal challenges was the frolic of afternoon festivities — starting with the unique Jumbo Jenga Challenge, which provided an entertaining exercise in networking and team building based on the classic block-stacking game using oversized wooden pieces.

Next up was a special event for women only — the exclusive WIA Mixer, an executive cocktail reception hosted by Women In Adult that provides a unique networking opportunity.

“It is truly amazing to see women come together and talk business in an environment like the ones WIA creates,” WIA Director Kristen Kaye told XBIZ. “Interest in the organization continues to grow and with the support of sponsors such as iFriends, we will be able to create many opportunities for women to unite, network and learn from one another.”

Bringing the boys and girls back together, the SegPay Happy Hour celebrated the conclusion of another successful day at XBIZ Miami, providing free drinks and a venue for informal conversations at the Hyde Beach Bar & Grill. The party then moved over to the rooftop of the nearby Redbury Hotel, for a special cocktail reception — co-hosted by XBIZ Miami and the subsequent CamCon event.

Thursday, June 4, crept up on many attendees all too swiftly, concluding the latest edition of XBIZ Miami with a Farewell Toast at SLS Hotel’s Bar Centro, where plans for the future were made, which capitalized on the connections cultivated at the event.

While the early word is that XBIZ Miami will return to South Beach in 2016, the show’s promoters are already hard at work on their next event — XBIZ London — set for September 15-18 at the stylish Hilton Doubletree Tower of London Hotel.

For more information, visit XBIZLondon.com.