Even Small Potatoes Improve the Stew - Cybernet Expo Challenges

AdultDex (www.adultdex.com) was started in 1995 in response to monstrous Las Vegas sneak peek IT marketplace COMDEX pulling the plug on adult materials exhibitors the year prior. The idea was to provide a venue where adult multimedia producers might still catch the interest of COMDEX exhibitors and attendees, and sell directly to the public, offsetting the cost of their booths.

Cybernet Webmaster Events sprang up as an informal adjunct to the show in 1999, when AdultDex organizers Trade Show Productions (Fay Sharp, Alex Henderson a.k.a. RawAlex, and Lee Yarbrough a.k.a. Vegas Lee) decided to put together networking areas to ease the crush of the massive number of Webmasters in attendance. They also coordinated a few conferences and events.

Celebrating its eighth anniversary, this year's AdultDex/Cybernet Expo was held at the stalwart Tropicana in Las Vegas. AdultDex ran Nov. 19-22, and Cybernet went Nov. 21-23. By all accounts, it was a small show; and another in a trend of gatherings that eschew the flashy shenanigans (bloated baptismal booths and live tigers!) for the doing of business (sigh of relief).

Trade Show Productions' Fay Sharp expounded upon some of the differences between AdultDex 2002 and past events. "Well, we had a more diversified and interesting showroom. We had hoped that it would be larger, but in this economy - I'm thankful for what we had. The attendance was about the same as last year.

"We had hoped that COMDEX would bounce back [from its poor 2001 post-9/11 slump], and bring the overseas attendees that always come to AdultDex. However, they had 300 fewer exhibitors [than their average], and the overseas contingent was missing."

Sharp puts the decrease in Cybernet (panel and discussion) attendees at "25 fewer people than last year." She acknowledged that the drop might be more indicative of Websites shutting down than of Webmasters not attending.

Moderator for all seminars was that "cruise director" nonpareil, Python's (www.python.com) Aly Drummond. And sure, she noted that "Cybernet was a small show, attendance-wise," but overall she thought it proved fruitful for Webmasters and adult Internet folks. "There were some top-notch people there," Drummond affirmed. "I also found that, relative to the low show attendance, seminar attendance was rather high; an unusually large percentage of attendees came to the seminars, which was fabulous, because personally, I really am incapable of functioning effectively on any level without an audience!"

YNOTNews (www.ynotnews.com) Executive Editor Jay "LAJ" Kopita put that ratio of attendees at 48 percent when we ran into him on the AdultDex floor - a number he found "unusually high." In his event coverage at YNOTmasters.com, he expressed that "The majority of the products and personnel who exhibited on the show floor... had very little to offer most adult Webmasters looking to build their businesses.... With only a couple [of] dozen booths present, thoroughly navigating the floor" - okay, he gave it an hour, but we got ?round that MF in about 15 minutes.

In fact, the most prominent booths were for local Vegas escort services, DVD and tape distributors, and performers or those with (other) gewgaws for sale. Not tech-heavy nor studded with high-profile adult Internet companies, AdultDex probably served as a diversion for the curious more than anything else.

Still, for the intrepid Webmaster, there was plenty more than diversion going on at Cybernet. Bill Margold started off the workshops in the 1 p.m. slot on the first day of the Expo with his "Free Speech is not Free" rally. Later that night, we were treated to some of the highlights of his call-to-arms at the Welcoming Reception sponsored by AdultPlex (www.adultplex.com) and Spanky's Content (www.spankyscontent.com). Sandwiched between the self-proclaimed Papa Bear and Southeast Cities Review's Hiram Ash, a reporter/photographer of the rabble-rousing variety (think very rabble, and very rousting), all we remember is using the free drink coupons allocated to us and others and nodding enthusiastically (thank you, Spanky's).

The third-slot seminar on child porn issues featured the executive director of ASACP (Adult Sites Against Child Pornography; www.asacp.com), Joan Irvine. About this, Drummond levied her only criticism. "I must note that I was very disappointed in the low level of interest [exhibited by attendees] toward the discussion. It illustrated an overall level of complacency that had better change fast."

Almost redeeming this low point was the presentation to ASACP of a check for $10,000 in advertising dollars from Adult Revenue Service (www.adultrevenueservice.com).

Second-day workshops included Yishai Habari's "Marketing and Converting Global Traffic," well-attended in part due to everyone's interest in finding alternatives to credit card transactions. The American site mainstay has robbed statesiders of more revenue from international sales than perhaps even the new regulations will. The 3 p.m. Marketing panel included the inveterate Ms. Drummond, Steve Jones (www.lightspeedcash.com) and Platinum Albert (www.platinumbucks.com). The insider's tips are: participate in and "work" the boards (that doesn't mean spamming); make use of and generously grant referrals; build relationships; take the time and trouble to brand; and have patience for the return.

On the last day, the third-ever Newbie Bootcamp ("The first one started out as a joke," said Vegas Lee) went marathon style for hours, and among the recruits were biz vets but Internet newcomers Christi Lake (www.christilake.com) and Porsche Lynn (www.comwww.plynn.com). Speakers and panelists included Jones, Vegas Lee, "Big Bear" of Tom's Newbie Booster (www.comwww.tomsnewbiebooster.com), Albert, and Mike Folds.

Sharp gave props to Drummond, saying she "did a good job of both entertaining and enlightening those who took the time for the conferences." She also praised the Hospitality Suite sponsored by Lightspeed Cash/Profit Plantation. "It was a busy spot during the noon-to-6 p.m. hours. Many attendees made use of the wireless Internet provided by Big Cock Content." Sharp thanked corporate sponsors Platinum Bucks and Pro Hosters "for giving Webmasters another chance to get together, and do some business."

Whatever the turnout, Sharp's something of a perfectionist. "I'm never totally happy with any event - there are always things to improve on. But it is the AdultDex exhibitors and the attendees for both events that I have to please. For some exhibitors sales were up, for some the sales were down, but overall they were pleased with the exposure, and had a good time. The cost of exhibiting at this year's AdultDex was less than half the cost of previous shows.

"I'm always looking for ways to make the shows better. A lot of it depends on the timely cooperation you get from exhibitors and sponsors.

The advantages of small shows are Sharp's hard line. "Larger shows offer the exhibitors more exposure, but are expensive and exhausting. The expenditures of trying to ?keep up with the Joneses' has forced some exhibitors out of business. Smaller shows offer exposure at a much lower cost and a less hectic schedule.... They allow [attendees] premium [face] time. Smaller crowds allow sponsors to entertain more graciously."

The place where Cybernet Expo thrives, she said, is "The middle ground. It's usually held in interesting cities. It's large enough to draw the top guns, old timers, and a good mix of newbie and intermediate Webmasters. And it's small and intimate enough for everyone to get premium time with premium people."