Internext Attendees Homeward Bound

As Summer Internext ‘04 wound down Sunday, exhibitors and attendees alike yearned to be homeward bound, and most in fact were. Exit comments either overheard or elicited leaned heavily toward the opinion that event participation was well worth the swollen ankles, sore knees, fatigue and various levels of anxiety about the mighty hurricane that spared the Eastern side of Florida but destroyed so much so few miles away.

Yes, there were some last-minute cancellations, but only a few, and you wouldn’t have know it from the crush of people at the parties, on the show floor, or at the seminars, especially the Legal Update, which drew a standing room-only crowd for the first time ever. We spoke with several people who claimed they came with weekend goals that were reached the first day. Some of those people traveled quite a long way.

“We’re quite pleased with [how the show went], actually,” said Anthony Rees, a telecom business development representative for Coulomb Ltd. He and chief executive Dave Kneel traveled from London to exhibit their company’s Internet and premium-rate mobile billing solutions. “[Summer Internext] is more of a European-format show than in January. It’s more about the business than the display of plumage.”

Rees noted that Coulomb did more business and attracted more potential new clients at this show than at either of the two previous shows at which it exhibited (Internext January 2004 and summer 2003). American trade show attendees are beginning to understand the value of providing mobile content in Europe, and they’re beginning to engage in serious planning for the near-at-hand day when Americans will be able to get porn on their cell phones. The European market is lucrative now, Rees said, and the American market will be soon.

Bill Black, CEO of London-based BabeCell, said the show went well for him, too. “We achieved all of our objectives,” Black said, noting that BabeCell had made “very promising” contact with more than 100 Webmasters and 20-30 content providers who were interested in the company’s cell-phone revenue generation mechanisms. This was BabeCell’s first Internext, and what struck him most about the experience, Black said, was “the spirit of camaraderie in this industry. They’re all competitors, but yet they work together and they support each other and share the wealth.”

Both companies vowed to return to the U.S. for the January 2005 show at Internext’s new venue, the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

Of course, proposed changes to the 18 USC 2257 regulations were discussed everywhere and by everyone. While not overly afraid of impending impact, the industry is curious and healthily nervous about how, when, and even if the new regulations will have an effect. There should be no doubt about if, attorney Gregory Piccionelli said without reservation. The U.S. Department of Justice is in a tight spot with Congress, he opined, because it has engaged in no wholesale records investigation to date, even though the records keeping law is more than a decade old. But he is equally sure that the law and associated regulations have enough holes and ill-defined or contradictory language to render them unenforceable when (and if) faced with the proper legal challenges. Still, in an election year, Piccionelli believes it is highly unlikely that a Republican administration will fail to take advantage of any perceived weapon with which it can simultaneously fight the evils of adult entertainment and “protect the children.”

“[Republican strategist and power behind the Bush political machine] Carl Rove has a big problem with the election,” Piccionelli said. If the DOJ initiates widespread prosecutions under 2257 in September, when the changes are expected to become effective, the Republicans run the risk of setting in motion a porn industry-driven anti-Bush voting drive “like nothing we’ve ever seen,” according to Piccionelli. If prosecutions begin closer to the election, they may have no discernible effect, positive or negative, on voter turnout. It’s extremely likely, Piccionelli opined, that a few well-publicized prosecutions of small operations will occur before the election – just enough to earn the Republican administration points with the Religious Right, but not enough to galvanize the adult industry into action that could prove fatal to a second Bush administration. After the election, all bets are off. If the Republicans retain the presidency, Attorney General John Ashcroft and the DOJ likely will believe they have received a mandate from the people to pursue pornographers with a vengeance. If Democratic nominee John Kerry is victorious, prosecutions are likely to be just a vigorous in order to make a political statement and to leave the incoming administration mired in a political swamp with no easy egress. “Kerry can’t simply dismiss the cases,” Piccionelli said.

Internext reconvenes a scant five months from now, January ’05 in Las Vegas at a new venue for the show, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and will feature an expanded show floor, new networking events, a reinvigorated show conference seminar program and many other business-building special features.