INTERNEXT 2003 PROVED THE SHOWEST WITH THE MOSTEST
As the Adult Internet Industry Settles in, Trends Look to Be Acquisitions, Alternate Billing Methods, and the International Market
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It's not the sexy show, Internext. It's not sexy like the CES and it's not sexy like the AEE, although it is the most likely product of the two - this obvious offspring almost dismissed as a red-headed stepchild. Which is sort of ridiculous, considering that the machine which is going to drive "the recession-proof industry" into the next millennium and beyond is, entirely, the province of Internext: cyberspace. It's not that Internext isn't fun; it's not that it doesn't inspire and facilitate the trade... but there's a steadfastness about the affair that dissipates any hope of the rock-n-roll shenanigans pockmarking the Adult Entertainment Exposition and, yes, even that Geeks Gone Wild! venue, the Consumer Electronics Show. Internext is just so gosh-darned staid.
AVN's Internext Expo, the largest adult Internet industry trade show, hit big-time stride in its January 2003 incarnation. The buzz in Hollywood, Fla. at the preceding Internext "lite," the summer show, predicated big Big BIG for the January number: bigger booths, bigger presence, bigger stakes. Shenanigans aside, Internext delivered.
Michael Sperber of WebsiteBilling.com observed, "I get the impression that the whole thing's maturing now, after four years. People are shifting their businesses around: they're spreading out more, they're looking to make a change to see what will be the best port in the storm."
The notable trend coming down the Web-pike was well identified by SharedGlobal.com's Mike Bartlett: "I'm seeing fewer and fewer big players, and a migration of business to different folks. I think [acquisition] is going to be huge, and I think we're going to wind up with fewer and fewer players; but the players we do have will be more legitimate ones who will be more amenable to Visa/MasterCard rules."
In fact, these were the themes underscored throughout: consolidation and alternate billing methods.
For those wondering how Internext measures up to other trade expositions, one-time mainstreamer Novette D'Amico of PublicNudityContent.com (Dream Girls Media) offered the insight that the show provided "... the perfect opportunity - this gentleman and I have been talking for about a month, and here we are face-to-face. I've been to other trade shows; not in this industry. This is much more lively, interactive... people are much more friendly and helpful. They're willing to 'be there' for you. That's what I'm enjoying most."
Of course, the simple strategies of meeting new people and recruiting clientele - not to mention touching base with old friends and customers and "putting a face to a name" - dominated most exhibitors' time.
"We came to both meet people and do business [with old contacts]... this is the place for everything," said Henry of ISPrime.
Internext featured three days of panel discussions and question-and-answer series, a dozen in all. Legal seminars led the pack, with three topics covered.
Klixxx Publishing LLC's Kath Blackwell found this portion of the show to be the most informative: "I went to almost all the workshops - there were great speakers, I took tons of notes." She also made mention of the new focus being applied to the international market.
From a lawyer exhibitor's point of view, the industry sounds almost apathetic with regard to legal counsel. We can only hope that's not the case. Eric Bernstein of Eric Bernstein & Assoc. LLC quipped, "We came here to seek potential business; introduce people to the necessity of lawyers - something they don't want to deal with at all. This is our second show, and the biggest one we've been to - clearly there's a lot more potential; people are a lot more serious."
Suggestions for improvement included Erotic Shots' Susan Genova noting, "I never get to go to any of the seminars, and I would love that. Any kind of online streaming, or offline - tapes. That would be great."
Mike Strouse of StiffyCash/PornCity.net went even further. "I think you could use golf carts between here and the restaurants - that would be nice. We'll sponsor them."
Catherine Kouzmanoff with inter7.com suggested, "It wasn't clear in the information [provided] who to contact [to register a complaint]. You do get a sense of, 'Oh, customer service can help you,' but I don't want to go to customer service when I want it [to be resolved] right then. I wanted a phone number to call."
For some, like Bill Parodi of InterNET e-commerce/Web Transaction Services, attendance and participation was a surprise. "There's been a lot of people here I haven't seen exhibit before - new programs. It was better than I thought it would be, because things have been flattening off"; while AEBN.net's Bryan Ziel said with easy approval, "Seems like everyone's more established, everyone's filling up the niches."
Internext proved itself to be capable of handling varied needs. Kevin Sample of ZeroWait.com knows, for instance, his product is specialized. "We're hardware vendors, so if we got two or three people coming in to talk to us, that's what we were looking for."
It was also interesting to note the different takes on booth placement for more specialized content - specifically gay. While Cybersocket.com's Morgan Sommer books a bunch of booths in the SE corner - a one-stop shopping place for everything gay on the Web - those who were not included on Sommers' roster of row regulars were happy with their location.
"We have gay content, and we're out here with mostly straight booths, so we kind of stick out - in a good way," said Brendon Marley of Straightmale. MenOnTheNet.com/WomenOnTheWeb.com's Greg Wynn concurs. "It's nice being in among the rest of the ['straight' content] booths, because it gives folks who are looking to break into the gay market the opportunity to do so without jumping into the 'gay village.' My line for this show is, 'peanuts, pencils or porn - it's all the same.'"
Eric of Adult.com might have summed it up best. "The show's fantastic. It seems like there are more exhibitors, and it's nice, because you see people stepping up to the plate. It's good to see the industry keep growing."
Now that's sexy.
Internext: Day by Day
Day One: Preemies found themselves warming up for January Internext 2003 at a couple of early-bird events: the annual GFY Warm-Up Party Sunday night at a Venetian resort suite, sponsored by Adult.com and FukingMachines.com, and/or the Internext Pre-party hosted by OneVerify, PlatinumBucks, AdultCash and MegaPornBucks. Day one itself started bright and bushy-tailed at the 10:30 a.m. "Newbie" 101 panel, "Getting Started." Newbie Legal Basics were covered next in the Venetian's well-tended conference room; followed by the "Peer-to-Peer" Where's the Money? panel; a child abuse protection update with Joan Irvine of Adult Sites Against Child Pornography; and the alternate billing solution-starter, "Billing in the year 2003." Highlights of the convention day included Jenna Jameson, Briana Banks, Jill Kelly and Brittany Andrews signing at the VideoSecrets booth. Monday night shmoozers found themselves juggling the American TelNet Cocktail party, the OneVerify dinner party, the House of Blues "Rock the House" joint thrown by Jettis and Hustler, an "All-Night Party" (who could confirm? Surely no-one on staff... ) courtesy of PlatinumBucks and PornoJunkies, the 3rd Annual Cybersocket Web awards at off-site gay party central The Gipsy Nightclub, Hot and Sticky II taking over the ultra Sapphire Gentleman's Club and brought to revelers by TrafficCashGold, Python, TopBucks and CC Bill, and the TopBucks Webmaster Bash & Hot Babe Photo Shoot.
Day Two: Insider tip: This is the day to schedule a big, fat, long nap. There's too much going on to miss much of this "sandwich" day, but extra sleep is certainly required if one wishes to persevere through Thursday a.m. Special events took place at the Klixxx booth, where AdultChamber.com's "Webmaster of the Year" award was announced; an Amateur Roundtable was held in a Venetian Ballroom sponsored by HomegrownCams and SexCamCentral, among others; and the LightspeedCash arial stunt plane "Ride of Your Life" thrilled and chilled those who made it to the airfield. But before the PornCity.net cocktail party; the Martini Reception brought to invitees only by UltraChat, Peer 1 Network and MaskTV; the PornoJunkies "Cumming" (bwa!) Out party, the �ber-popular Gameworks Party (Trippy: "It's GREAT because there's no PORN to deal with!"); the swanky and semi-exclusive Gay Webmasters House Party (thank you Cybersocket); XBiz's GigaMix at club C2K in the Venetian; and another TopBucks Webmaster Bash & Hot Babe Photo Shoot; attendees got a full day of professional expertise at seminars uncovering the secrets of traffic (the Zen of Traffic), Digital Rights management, an adult Internet industry Legal Update, and the Gay and Lesbian Webmaster Q&A. Thanks to Caryn Goldberg of Specialty Publications for the "day off" tip ("I walk the floor, I have lunch with people, I have dinner with people, I have breakfast with people, I go to the parties, then I go to the after-parties, then I go to the after-after parties - one day in the week, I sleep - ").
Day Three: YNOTMaster LAJ's (Jay Kopita) Internext coverage paid homage to days "starting out too early" for those who are "severely sleep-deprived, followed by a full day of a combination of networking, meetings, tons of walking, booth duties, grabbing a meal wherever and whenever [a moment's found], more walking, attending seminars, taking a nap, getting some work done" with evenings vying "more for everyone - given this show is larger than the rest and Las Vegas is a sprawling mess of a tourist trap with too many diversions.... " Stockpiling your vitamins already, are you? Well, Internext's last day is only a half, and leading up to the great Boobie-throwing free-for-all capping the action on the floor at the Sands Convention Center in 2003, the loyal could drag themselves to seminars on marketing traffic to Amateur sites, converting International surfers, and tips on making sites "stickier" using personals. The truly dedicated then found themselves dividing time between the Gay Webmasters' closing party at the Gypsy, Netpond racing ("better than sex!") at an area racetrack, and, last but not least, the notorious Player's Ball, a pimp-n-ho costume event with "Big Woody" awards presented to the industry's finest and musical guests like Digital Playground and Xzibit. D-Money throws the bash formal, the major sponsor is CECash, this year with MrSkin.com. All this, of course, after you've won a Ferrari 360 Spider F1 from Carpe Diem/Eurodialer/FastmanBucks, and your share of over 50,000 "points" given away at the CECash booth, acquiring the biggest point-holders prizes. Now the count-down begins: we'll see you next year!