TEMPE, Ariz. — The Phoenix Forum cut through smoke and mirrors with a slew of “Real vs. Hype” panels, bringing together the best and brightest for a clear-eyed look at which trends are flash in the pans, and which are here to stay.
The “Consumption Tech” panel consisted of moderator and CEO of Wasteland.com Colin Rowntree, SexLikeReal CEO Alex Novak, CCBill Sales Executive Colin Powell, Stocky Entertainment founder Teddy, and BaDoinkVR Head of Production Xavi Clos.
Rowntree first asked the panel what technology people were using to consume adult entertainment in the modern era.
Teddy tailored his response to address the inevitable rise and fall of hyped up tech from a general standpoint. “It’s the same pattern with almost every technological breakthrough,” he said. “If porn is going to employ it, they make a huge buzz out of it, so it’s cycles that keep repeating. We’ll see what’s really next!”
Powell explained, “From the billing point of view, consumer stored payment provides a quicker checkout process for the customer. It improves throughput and we believe that a stored payment option for our customers will also help merchants.”
Next, Rowntree inquired how the use of multiple devices across various social platforms, affects consumer purchasing habits.
Powell said, “Mainstream sites are always looking to upsell you, quickly with a click, so add-ons, whether you’re adding on a toy or cross-promoting from merchant to merchant, is an easy way for a customer to make a purchase.”
Chiming in, Teddy expressed, “Something I’ve been doing on my membership site is understanding how people want to consume now and meeting their needs. Meet them where they want to be, because it’s not just about one way to get content, it’s about offering up many relevant ways.”
He further noted that if Millennials want to stream or people want micro-transactions and pay-per-downloads, or a combination of the two, that “giving the most bang for your buck and meeting all those consumers where they’re comfortable spending, whether it’s one transaction or two transactions, is kind of where things are going.”
As for Clos, he believes, “Not everyone wants to pay a subscription, so we try to give them as many options as possible.”
Novak especially makes an effort to target his unique type of consumer. “Since VR users tend to have powerful computers, we are considering adding a mining tool, so they can leave their computer on overnight and mine some crypto coins, then in the morning, they can get their account credited and use that to purchase our content. It’s only possible because of crypto.”
Transitioning to the topics of virtual reality and augmented reality, Rowntree asked whether each tech trend was real or hype.
The two virtual reality producers, Clos and Novak, had a bullish take on the technology, predicting that while many of the headsets are in the early adoption stage, the tech will eventually find that sweet spot between affordable and immersive. They were particularly excited about Oculus Go, which costs $199 and provides an all-in-one VR headset. Rowntree also asked whether producers were exploring 360-degree VR, given the potential for exploring narratives, but Clos and Novak were skeptical about needing to go beyond 180-degree points of view.
That being said, one of the latest innovations Novak definitely pays close attention to, are light-field cameras, which not only record the intensity of light like most cameras, but can also capture other aspects like the direction light rays are traveling in space.
Rowntree then asked panelists their thoughts on 4K and 6K video, given the size of the files and the more common 1080p resolution that consumers have on their devices.
Teddy responded, “I personally just started shooting 4K in the last 30 days, and the only reason I do it, is 4K gives me the freedom to punch in on the scene and not lose quality. Because ultimately, I go 1080p. It also gives me HD quality for taking stills, even if I zoom in or pause mid-action. So the truth of the matter is, 720p video is perfectly fine on a mobile device. From my perspective as a content producer, I use it for the flexibility of filming, and not actually for putting anything out in 4K.”
When Rowntree asked how tubes were impacting the adult industry, the panelists explained they had all adapted, by either producing content that is more niche than traditional tube site fare, or more complex in terms of production value, especially in the VR space. Lastly, the panel examined the ramifications of platforms like OnlyFans, with most offering a shrug of the shoulders, given the fact that indie content helps performers create an alternate revenue stream without adversely impacting standard shoots.
Then, came the “State of the Industry” panel, moderated by Adult B2B Marketing's Bruce Friedman, with Helix Studios owner Keith Miller, TrafficPartner.com CEO Michael Reul, CCBill President Ron Cadwell and ImLive.com VP of Marketing and Business Development Shay Efron.
Friedman laid out the ground rules, wherein he would make a statement, and panelists could lift up signs with the word “HYPE” on one side and “REAL” on the other side, before giving their more in-depth view on the topic.
First up, was the statement: “Cams are the future of our industry and eventually adult will only consist of cam sites.” Most panelists either held up both signs at once, or labeled it hype, given the extremeness of assuming all adult entertainment could end up replaced by cams.
Miller said, “Cams are one piece of the puzzle, they’re not the entirety of it. There’s value for movies that are made and events, and I think future media companies are going to become conglomerates that include all aspects of that, be it movie distribution, DVD production, cams or traffic. The future of sites is becoming an all-inclusive company, just like modern media.”
As for Reul, he noted, “It’s both for me. I think cams are definitely one of the verticals with the most potential. We have dating paysites too, but from what I understand, cams make the most money and it’s very addictive to all users. I wouldn’t say it’s the only vertical of the future, though.”
Efron, with a smirk, held up a “HYPE” sign. “As a webcam company rep, I completely agree with Michael,” he stated. “It’s a strong vertical, the services are real and the potential for user value is almost without limit, but if we’re talking about paysites and DVDs, people predicted member sites would vanish after the tubes arrived, but that is not the case. They’ve said VR is the future, cams is the future, my mother is the future and so on. The vertical is here to stay, but there’s lots of changes in all the verticals happening all the time."
Cadwell said, “We see it from a different perspective as a biller. Yes, cams do very well, but there’s lots of individual sites that do very well. In the beginning there was NBC, CBS and a handful of others. Now there’s what, 500 channels? There’s very specific channels for everything. The same thing is happening here, so we’re seeing people specialize in all kinds of niches.”
For the second statement, Friedman posed, “AR and VR are the future of adult.”
Cadwell confidently held up a “HYPE” sign. “It’s probably too early to say that now. We’re years and years away. We’re just now getting to the point where mobile is everywhere, so AR and VR won’t happen overnight. The level of user interface isn’t there yet.”
Agreeing, Efron said, “From a webcam perspective, the tech isn’t there. Once the tech is there, we will integrate it as one feature among many. It will always be a small feature for people who like this kind of interaction. With cams, it’s all about a connection, because if I want to just get off I’ll go watch porn. For cams, I’m looking to connect on a social level, with 60 percent of our camming not ending with any hot activity. So, users are paying to have a friend. Thinking of this, I don’t need the fucking goggles. I’m just asking for someone to be nice to me and talk to me.”
Reul concurred, “Some of you might know that we have a lot of companies we’ve invested in, including two VR companies. One was a VR cam site, AliceX, and we had to shut it down because it was losing money, as opposed to the VR paysite VRBangers, where we generate money, it’s profitable and it’s movies. It’s a big difference, as Shay just said. You don’t want connection? You go to the porn site. You want it? Go to the cams. We run another site, where messaging costs money, a couple of cents, for users who want a girlfriend experience, and the messaging makes more money than the cams.”
Friedman also guided the panelists through several issues pertaining to content piracy, anti-porn legislation, tube sites and age verification, asking whether each of these trends are genuinely damaging business with unreasonable hurdles. Each panelist acknowledged the challenges of evolving with the times, but were very optimistic about the future of adult.
Then, Friedman asked attendees to weigh in on the statement, “Crypto will be a major payment method in adult.”
Cadwell held up his “HYPE” sign and shared, “We’ll adapt to whatever is required to take money, but I don’t think that Bitcoin or any coin for that matter is going to displace the Visa and Mastercard monsters. They’re too big of a payment system that’s been around for decades. They’re ingrained in every location you can think of. And while we are becoming more and more of a cashless society, crypto is not going to displace the others.”
Meanwhile, Efron is quite excited about the potential for crypto. “We are standing behind one of these cryptocurrencies, so I agree with Ron and I disagree,” he explained. “It probably won’t change the mass usage of credit card, but you do need to realize credit cards were invented in like, the 50s, and not in the internet era. In order to comply with the internet, there are so many intermediaries taking commissions, and this all cuts into our revenues and our pockets.
“So I think blockchains have a serious chance to become a significant part of our industry,” he continued. “I remember when Uber started, they said they will never have success against big syndicates of yellow cabs in New York. But now? In the end, I think traditional credit cards will make the adjustments to become more like crypto.”
Reul added, “I think it’s going to take time, but once there’s a crypto that can be really used as a transactional currency, I think it’s going to have its place in payment. But again, Visa and Mastercard have been around forever, so it will take a lot of time.”
The final topic the panel explored was whether or not sites like OnlyFans are the future of the industry, with most panelists revealing they either partner with performers to optimize revenues for all involved, or approach indie content with a hands-off approach, lest they needlessly get draconian with talent.
All in all, the “Real vs. Hype” panels underscored the importance of adapting with the modern era by paying close attention to rising trends, but not getting too derailed by the hype train.
Crypto was definitely this year’s hyped up topic, whereas VR was now being viewed more soberly as an early adoption technology. Whether crypto would continue ascending, or end up as a slow burn trend like VR, in retrospect, is up for debate. If any statement deserves a “REAL” sign held up high, however, it’s the following: Next year’s Phoenix Forum will definitely help discern which of this year’s trends were real, and which ones were hype.