I just returned from the annual webmaster’s conference in Arizona that is The Phoenix Forum. I’d been told for the past 2 years that TPF was an amazing conference, one of the biggest in the country, and that not only were the parties amazing, but the information provided would be valuable. If you’re going to go to one conference a year, TPF was the one not to miss.
I have to say that I was sadly disappointed.
It might have been that my niche wasn’t adequately addressed. TPF 2010 was mostly a gay-xxx conference. I’m not sure if that’s the case every year, but the majority of the companies represented on a B2B format were targeted for the gay market. It was so gay-xxx oriented that the lovely Joanna Angel, who asked a question at one of the seminars, was met with non-recognition. “What sort of site do you have?”, she was asked. I’m not sure if she’s been asked that question in ages. (Of course, she answered that question gracefully and then followed it up with a stellar showing at Naked Dodgeball later.)
I was also disappointed in the calibre of information provided at most of the seminars. I’m not much of a party person, so I was one of those totally nerdy types that attended TPF for the seminars (gasp!). I have to say that while a couple panel discussions were filled with great information for me to walk away with a few pages of great notes (the legal one was rather informative and a nice departure from other legal panels I’d seen), most of the ones that I had been looking forward to hearing fell drastically short of my expectations, mainly on the importance of social media marketing and the use of tube sites.
In one panel discussion, there was open discussion of how to use tube sites to generate traffic. In a time when the rest of us are working hard to keep our product off of tube sites, and spending hours upon hours on cease and desist notices, it’s a hard thing to swallow when companies are extolling the virtues of marketing their sites via tube sites. “Make sure they’re watermarked!”, they cheerfully suggested. Watermark? As if that’s going to prevent consumers on paysites from taking content and putting it up on tube sites themselves. How is the public supposed to know what came from a company and what came from an illegal upload of a scene from a paysite? “Make sure what you give the tube sites are high-quality scenes, because it’ll look different from the illegal uploads.” Umm…I beg to differ – or are they providing low-quality scenes on the paysites and keeping the high-end stuff for the tubes? The logic behind it just wasn’t sound.
In that same panel discussion, as well as another one that I had been looking forward to hearing, was the discussion of social media marketing. Good, I thought – at least the word is getting out. Having spoken at most of last year’s various webmaster conferences, I was looking forward to hearing how different niches and markets were utilizing social media. Unfortunately, the conversation was mostly about how social media was either a dead end, or how it was something that wasn’t quite ready for adult, or how it wasn’t a viable means for marketing – and worst, how it was something that was “emerging”. I kept thinking, “Wow, they’re years behind everyone else…” They just seemed not to be interested in marketing in any other way than what was already working for them.
Most of the conversation on “how to reach new customers” centered around providing new technology such as 3D – which I felt was completely off mark. Affiliate marketing was also a hot topic, but no one seemed to be able to answer Joanna Angel’s little question about how to get new affiliates. Everyone seemed happy discussing and pushing their respective sites, but no one was neither savvy nor innovative enough to discuss any new directions in marketing.
I sometimes wonder if people don’t discuss anything new because they’re afraid of being copied, or if it’s because they honestly don’t know any new tactics or strategies. Is that because they’re of the mind that “if it ain’t broke…”?
I’ve heard from a lot of people that the gay market didn’t suffer during the recession as much as the other adult niches. When you have a DINK situation (that’s Double Income No Kids) like there is in most gay couples, cost of living is a different matter. There was a small decline (of course there was, just like every other business), but the impact apparently wasn’t as devastating. Perhaps that’s why there was such a large gay presence at TPF – other niches and companies elected to skip it this year. So, if you’re in a niche that didn’t suffer that badly during the recession, is there a huge need to innovate marketing methods? Is there some code of non-pirating ethics within the gay community that allows them to use tube sites differently than we do? Who knows – but maybe that’s why the seminars weren’t as satisfying to those of us outside of that market.
Don’t get me wrong – TPF wasn’t a complete wash. I made some great contacts, reconnected with some of my affiliates, and did walk away with a few pages’ worth of notes that I’ll be implementing in the next few months. I also did get to model for the amazing Lee Harrington the day before the conference. So my trip wasn’t a total loss. But my main reason for attending – the specific seminars I chose out of the schedule – ended in disappointment.
I just received an invitation to speak at the XBiz Summer Forum in Las Vegas. Rather than just continuing to complain, I hope I can provide something actionable for those that attend, so that they at least have a better understanding of the value of social media marketing for the adult industry so that they’re keeping up, if not trying to surpass, what every other business is doing to market themselves.