LAS VEGAS—After getting off to a great start with two big parties on Friday and Saturday nights, the 2017 GayVN@Internext moved into the business realm yesterday for its first seminar, titled “Real-World Solutions: How to Build and Manage Your Brand in Gay Porn.” Four veterans got together to offer their perspectives. 

Jake Jaxson—CEO of Media Partners, a distribution and production company that owns CockyBoys—started off by confessing his “love-hate relationship with the concept of ‘brand.’” A director at his core, he focuses on whether he’s enjoying what he creates: “If I’m authentic and I’m real and the people I’m working with feel that way too,” his work will connect with audiences.

Toby Morris of Falcon Studios Group—which encompasses four of the industry’s oldest brands: Falcon, Raging Stallion, Hot House and Naked Sword—countered that viewpoint: “You have to hone in on exactly what your customers are wanting.”

Douglas Richter, a cam model discovered by Chi Chi LaRue who has been in the live cam sector for a dozen years, agreed: “You don’t own your brand. A brand is owned by the public.” To differentiate ImLive’s Supermen.com, he honed in on serving an unmet need: “I wanted to build an environment where men could go to find a certain kind of content…. and only see men who were interested in performing live sex with men.”

Danny Z of WebMediaProz and ZBuckz talked about building a brand by finding an underserved niche. He noticed there weren’t any gay Asian sites and went into that market for his first gay site, and it “exploded.” Now with multiple sites he does cross marketing between the niches because people who eat sushi regularly “might want to eat pizza one day.”

Each concurred that customer taste is an important factor in another area: choosing which models to work with. But their approaches differ. For Richter, offering a broad palette of types is important. He watches the models who join the site, and if he sees an uptick in certain types, he will create a new category to accommodate them. “I try to find a home for every guy who wants to do this,” he said, whether they be twinks, bears, tattooed guys or BDSM aficionados. “I have to help build individual stars’ brands.”

For Morris, he focuses on “delivering on the brand promise” with his contract stars. For Falcon he looks for beautiful, fit men. “Muscled but not too muscled, because that would get into Raging Stallion territory,” he said, adding, “Hot House is more clean cut.”

Jaxson, not surprisingly, focuses on personality first. “Because I has to work with them,” he said, noting that he only signs one or two contracts a year. Joking about the reputation of his tight-knit CockyBoys family, he asserted, “We’re not a cult.”

On the subject of performers, each man offered some solid advice on how to help performers with their own branding and marketing. Danny z suggested that stars become affiliates, offering mutual benefit for both company and performer.

The topic of social media was a major focal point. Douglas shared the guidelines he offers to his cam models: “Out of every five tweets, only one should be their URL. Others should be about day-to-day stuff.” He pointed out that with ImLive’s mobile broadcasting, even a trip to the market can be an opportunity to create live content.

Jaxson also offered cautionary notes on the overuse of social media: “Think about it in your head and if you sound like a jerk, don’t share it.” Twitter can become very negative, he said, adding, “Look at our fucking goddamn president [elect].”

From the audience, director Chi Chi LaRue asked the question that haunts a lot of content producers: How do you get millenials to pay for porn.

Jaxson was optimistic, noting that his DVD sales “are through the roof compared to two years ago.” He said finding a lower price point and “packing the DVDs with lots of value” was an important part of the sales puzzle.

Morris emphasized, “You need to cast your net over all the distribution channels.” For his veteran brands, that ranges from online sales to the venerable direct mail business, which is still strong.

Addressing the gloomy truth that direct mail will eventually decline as older consumers fade away, Richter added an optimistic spin: “Every day people are dying ... every day people are turning 18.” He said the challenge is to “create a new brand for young guys.” ImLive has launched Sex.sex, where the cost of live cams is treated like crowd funding. He’s sympathetic to the plight of millenials, who “don’t have a lot to spend” and are burdened with costs that earlier generations didn’t have, such as cell phone bills. But they also need to be educated: “By stealing they’re hurting us and also hurting themselves, because eventually there will not be high-quality content.”

The Internext Expo continues today at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas with a GayVN seminar titled “The Future of the Gay Industry: Insights From the Pros,” as well as discussions of social media, affiliate marketing, virtual reality content production, and more. See Internext-Expo.com for details.

The event took place in the GayVN Lounge (pictured above), where all the GayVN events are scheduled.