Phoenix Forum Continues with Networking, Seminars

PHOENIX - Friday morning of The Phoenix Forum kicked off with attendees hitting the morning seminar session, "How to Develop a Profitable Members Area."

Moderator Miranda Leaver, co-founder of Solstice Group Inc., got things rolling with pointed questions about how to monetize sites in the current economic climate, what models are working, and how to retain members.

Panelists agreed that while the paysite model is still viable, the surfer has changed - more fickle, with a nasty case of ADD. As panelist Paolo, CEO of TeenRevenue, put it, "It's a playground of pleasure out there," so it's hard to keep a customer. Exclusivity, live one-on-one interaction with personalities, and members-only bonus content are all are all ways panelists suggested to retain memberships. In short, more bang for the buck is what will keep the consumer loyal to your brand and bookmarked to your URL.

After a Phoenix Forum-sponsored buffet lunch in the Palms courtyard, the afternoon seminar session kicked off with "Defining the 'Clip.'" Tube politics took center stage, as panelists discussed ways of giving a little away for free in an era where the consumer is sensitized to the idea that if it's online, it's free. B-roll clips, such as bloopers, goofs, and behind-the-scenes footage, are ways to tease without giving it all way, panelists suggested.

"Make it about the sizzle; don't give them the porterhouse," said Liz Wright, director of business development, AEBN. In terms of new strategies, panelists concurred that cross-pollination between mainstream and adult may be the way to pull ahead, considering mainstream's success in the Web 2.0 era.

As late afternoon arrived, the must-attend seminar of the Forum got under way: "Adapting Your Business to the Current Economy." Moderator Tony Morgan of NationalNet led a panel of industry heavy-hitters from the top tier of adult. After an introduction, during which panelists took attendees through their impressive resumes, the star-studded cast took to the topic at hand: how the shifting economy is affecting the industry.

Paul Fishbein, president of AVN Media Network, took the mic first: "We're not a recession-proof business anymore," he announced. Still, he noted, people will always need to be entertained, so companies more than ever need to "put out something that matters," he added.

Steven Scarborough of Hot House suggested that in order to remain competitive, try "making the sites feature-rich to complete with lower-res sites, by using Flash" and other higher-end technology.

"Grasp the concept of reinvention," said Tim Valenti of NakedSword/AEBN.

Fishbein put the topic in perspective: "You don't see the problems until times get tough. Cut out all the wasted expenses. Stop draining your business. You can't live the same lifestyle you've always lived."

Evolution, he and others noted, is key.

Morgan later asked whether marketing is a smart tool to use in the New Economy or should it be streamlined to save costs. Alec Helmey, president of XBIZ, and Fishbein agreed that from a B2B standpoint, "It remains imperative to maintain some level of branding." The B2C panelists mostly concurred with that assessment, with Ron Cadwell of CCBill adding that since the industry is a "relationship business," show attendance is key.

When asked for crystal-ball predictions, there was surprising unanimity: the easy-money, mom-and-pop operations that got in when the barrier to entry was at its low point will evaporate, thinning the herd and allowing the cream to rise to the top. As Fishbein noted earlier in the seminar, "This downturn is an opportunity." It's time to seize it.

The Phoenix Forum continues through today. For more information, visit