PVV – a little bit of adult in the ATX (by way of SXSW)!!

I have mixed feelings about South by Southwest (or SXSW, as it is commonly written).

Every March, right when the Central Texas weather is getting to its most delicious, throngs of music, film, and interactive “invaders” descend upon my happy hippie haven for ten-ish days of drunken tourism… err… business. It’s annoying.

The crowds are annoying. The “free party”-type commercialism is annoying. The amateurish, yet strangely arrogant, folk wandering aimlessly with no regard for traffic laws or pedestrian convention through seemingly irrelevant streets (what SXSW venue is near Pure, the gym… not the douchey “ultra lounge,” I ask you?!!) while still wearing their badges at all hours of the day and night are annoying.

And yet, I totally understand that this little festival of sorts is good for the local economy and is super fun for many people. I myself worked as a music volunteer when I first moved to Austin, and it was awesome… and there’s always free ice cream being given away… and I heard that Pee Wee Herman (dressed like Pee Wee!!) has already made an appearance this year.

Like I said, mixed feelings; but it’s a 60/40 mix at best, so I generally tend to avoid all things SXSW. But when I heard that organizers were featuring a panel entitled “Profiting in Adult: The Recession is Over”… well, I just had to brave the Hilton downtown and weasel my way in.

Accordingly: “The last few years the adult online industry saw a perfect storm of the recession, content piracy, and lack of innovation that caused some companies to lose as much as 90% of their profit margins and several others to close up shop entirely. While many are still reeling and struggling to make ends meet, now that much of the smoke has cleared, who is left standing and why? Once considered recession-proof, the adult industry is starting to see a bounce back, with an influx of motivated, mature and organized individuals with startups.”

In other words, the adult industry was once considered impervious to bad business “storms;” however, the destructive trifecta of recession, content piracy, and a refrain from identifying/developing the next big thing (ironic…) hit the business hard in recent years. The industry now appears to be in a recovery period, however not without some casualties. Who is left standing and why?

Panelists included:

Allison Vivas, President of Pink Visual

Connor Young, President of Delta House Marketing LLC and President/CTO of YNOT.com

LAJ, Director of Operations for the YNOT Summit

Michael Brandvold, Owner of Michael Brandvold Marketing

Now, not to get all gushy, but that Allison Vivas… Allison is one of the most powerful and well-respected persons in the industry today. With over ten years worth of experience in the online adult entertainment sector, Allison is often called upon to participate in educational panels at industry-sponsored events.  Moreover, the mainstream media has selected her as an industry representative many times. Allison speaks regularly, both as a business person and as a “woman working in adult” …cuz people still think it’s crazy that non-naked ladies work in porn and, occaaasionally, run shit. I just heard Allison speak at XBizLA, and I was really looking forward to learning more.

And learn more I did…

In addition to speaking from his own experiences, LAJ moderated the panel. He came prepared with questions that included:

What are the ways to make money in adult? What works now?

In addition to the potential to make money and be successful, what other benefits are there to working in the adult industry?

What can other industries learn from adult (ostensibly, the mistakes the industry made in the recent past)?

Tweeters/audience members could also pose questions to the panel via the #profitadult hashtag. Some questions that were addressed by the panel included:

Why should consumers choose legit adult services and content over the services provided by un-licensed, pirated tube sites?

Is there a demand for micropayments, and has the industry been hurt by lack of support from Apple?

What are the biggest changes that have made to adult business models to cope with today’s environment?

Woosh!! Lots of stuff, and this wasn’t even all of it!! Here are some of the insights offered by the panel…

What’s currently making money includes parodies and mobile. Parodies seemed pretty obvious to me (insert latest Charlie Sheen-based title here…), but I found the idea of mobile very interesting.  According to panelists, 1) phones should be regarded as mini-computers; and 2) the “home computer” has now become community property, with adults and children vying for and occupying the same space. While the PC then must be maintained with all relevant users in mind, one’s phone can provide a private, unrestricted, and convenient venue for viewing and ordering products.

One significant issue surrounding purchasing adult content via mobile devices is, as per usual, the stigma of adult… Phone service providers (in the US) and major players such as Apple won’t touch adult. Such values-based restrictions certainly pose big problems for the industry and consumers, however I would guess that entities who can find ways to negotiate around such restrictions stand to make a lot of money.

Another issue related to purchasing centers on what exactly one gets for their dollars. As our culture has evolved, many people are no longer happy with the “some lump sum for a monthly subscription” model.  Some consumers want scene-by-scene/minute-by-minute one-click purchasing options.  And some also want the ability to keep their purchases. And this only makes sense.  Consequently, one-click purchasing options are developing, as is the use of “cloud” storage (which is kinda like what MobileMe does… this also relates to privacy issues).

Panelists also discussed competition – namely the fact that the adult industry now has to compete with other popular time sucks (ie facebook) and other things that simply suck suck (ie porn tube sites populated with pirated content) for consumers’ time.  Ways to compete with “free” included interactivity and quality.

In other words, as the industry combats piracy in various ways, the quality of content on pirated tube sites has decreased dramatically. That, and it’s super fun to get to interact with your favorite anyone or anything. If you can pay a little something for personal attention in vivid beautiful real time and real touch without the ick of breaking the law… well, why wouldn’t you?

There is no way to really sum up all the information that was covered at this panel… It was casual and conversational, informative and fun. The panelists interacted well and bounced ideas off one another in a very organic way, and the audience (which was filled with all sorts of characters) got the opportunity to learn from 40+ years of collective industry experience.

It was awesome, and I left with some great advice from the panel – mainly, be forward thinking and hustle. They were speaking in regards to the adult industry, but I think this applies to everyone…

…because you can never rest on your laurels in this rapidly changing world, bebes. Entrepreneurial individuals must constantly adapt, but not just to get ahead. To keep up.

Questions? Comments? Email me!!

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You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage/PVVOnline, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”