Six panels featuring expert speakers covered a range of topics at the webmaster gathering, which took place May 28-30
Posted Jun 06th, 2014 05:12 PM
LOS ANGELES—What follows is a report on the seminars at the recent Internext New Orleans gathering, held last week. For more about the parties and links to all the photo galleries, click here. Pictured at left, the first seminar of the show, a billing panel featuring Chris Rodger from Payze, Gary Jackson from CCBill, Sean Holland from OrbitalPay, Wendy Nelson from Netbilling, Mia Hyun from Mobius, and Mark Heninger from GoCoin. For more photos of seminars at Internext New Orleans, click here and here.
The educational portion of Internext New Orleans—sponsored by Sex Goes Mobile—kicked off on May 29, the first full day of the gathering, with a billing seminar moderated by AVN’s Tom Hymes. Panelists Chris Rodger from Payze, Gary Jackson from CCBill, Sean Holland from OrbitalPay, Wendy Nelson from Netbilling, Mia Hyun from Mobius, and Mark Heninger from GoCoin were there to address the topic “Making the Right Transactions: Billing Made Easy.”
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Internext, originally known as ia2000. And this show marked the first time since 2000 that Internext was held in New Orleans. So a billing seminar that mixed established and new companies was a fitting way to kick things off. On one extreme was CCBill, a company that was already established back in 2000. On the other end was GoCoin, representing the newest arrivals in the alternative billing space: Bitcoin and its digital knockoffs.
The panelists touched on many of the new tech developments that have affected billing. CCBill’s Jackson mentioned “the Rokus of the world” and the need to address over-the-top and IPTV in billing services.
GoCoin’s Heninger emphasized an old-fashioned attribute: “It comes down to trust. Let’s integrate [Bitcoin] with payment processors. 60 percent of the world doesn’t have a credit card.”
Overall, the discussion soared to a highly technical level, with considerations of hacking threats, cascades and scrubbing. OrbitalPay’s Holland said, “If you’re not using cascades, you’re losing money.” Payze’s Chris Rodger opined that when payment processors use different master merchant accounts, that can create a scrubbing effect. And Jackson interjected, “Cascading becomes extremely valuable if you’re looking at your metrics.”
All the panelists touched on the importance of using metrics, especially in volatile international markets, which “vary like the weather,” said Hyun of Mobius. By paying attention to trends, payment processors can watch out for traffic in higher-risk countries to prevent chargebacks.
Other seminars also brought together speakers from diverse backgrounds to explore common ground for all businesses. For “Improving Business Practices: HR and Customer Service Made Easy,” Jo Merlone of KiwiSourcing handled the moderating duties.
Brad Estes of Flirt4Free represented a mature adult company: Flirt4Free, aka Video Secrets, which has been around since 1997. Brad Mitchell, president and owner of MojoHost—which provides hosting services for some 900 companies—also brought a veteran’s perspective, earned over 15 years in the business.
Two panelists had strong backgrounds in employment issues. Eddie Kreider, founder and president of X Industry Jobs, offers services to adult companies in Canada, Europe and U.S. and has been in the industry since 2007. Michael Fattorosi handles legal matters for adult companies and is a specialist in employment law.
Ines Petersen represented both the billing and live cams sectors, consistent with her background with both Webbilling.com—a specialist in European payments—and Amateur Community, a live cam network that recently entered the U.S. market.
“Communication” was a touchstone for this group of business people. Mitchell talked about how he built his career, first trying out phone sex and billing before getting into hosting. To get the word out on his new endeavor, Mitchell said, “I could see some opportunity and I started writing about it. … Teaching people, I found, was the best way to make a connection. If you have an expertise, sharing that with another person is a really powerful thing.”
He added, “There are lots of ways to get your stuff published,” and noted that GFY.com was a forum—“there is a silent group of people on GFY who are just looking for good information.”
Communication came up again in the subject of inter-staff communications. Mitchell talked about how using ticket systems “can be very clunky—sometimes it’s best to pick up a phone.” Petersen concurred, saying that she has recently made a point of printing out phone lists to encourage people to get their answers quickly by phone. Verbal communication, the panelists agreed, can be more clear and less open to misinterpretation. And of course there’s the danger of emails being forwarded and read by others. As Fattorosi reminded the audience: “Never put into writing something you don’t want someone else to read.”
Telephones also came up in regard to customer service. Mitchell said MojoHost operates a 24/7 phone support but also finds that filing support tickets is important to verify the identity of callers and also to keep track of problems. He also noted that some people prefer to be on instant message or on a ticket support system, especially if they’re not native speakers. But the bottom line, he said, is that “they should be able to escalate their problem and call me directly.”
Estes said Flirt4Free differentiates itself with live support, devoting staff time into responding to phone, email and instant messages because different clients prefer different modes of communication (“Crazy doesn’t like email,” he said wryly.) “It doesn’t win us every contract,” Estes added, “but for some people it matters—especially larger companies.”
Estes provided words of advice on another topic: how to set goals effectively. He recommended setting attainable goals and using “other metrics” to measure progress—“kind of like days without an accident at other companies.” He explained, “It’s very difficult to reach any big goal unless you break it into smaller goals.”
Immediately following the customer service discussion came a panel on everyone’s favorite topic: making money. Titled “The 5 Percent Solution: Increased Revenue Made Easy,” it was moderated by Justin Ross of Adam4Adam.com, a gay adult dating site. There to throw down some collective wisdom were Mitch Farber of Netbilling, Michael Klein of Hustler, Ilan Bunimovitz of Ackrell Capital and Sean Christian of Together Networks.
Among the points they touched upon were encouraging innovation in employees. Klein said, “I don’t ever want to hear, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’” Anyone who hears that at a company they have acquired can fire this back at employees, Klein suggested: “If how you were doing it was so great, how could we have bought you?”
Farber cautioned, “You have to recognize what type of employee you have: careful ones, or ones who like to come up with ideas. Some people like to follow directions; some like to come up with ideas.”
Christian was an advocate for making salaries performance based. “I don’t care if my salespeople make more than I do,” he said. Christian also touted the benefits of the officeless business, but other panelists weren’t so sure. Farber believes working at home “works when you can monitor performance” but he added it may not serve wel for all employees, particularly those who have families. For Klein, he likes to have programmers and designers in house, so that work doesn’t get stalled out with time zones and delays. “For some things I like to have them right there,” Klein said.
In a good final question, moderator Ross asked, “Where are the areas you look to shake a little change out of the sofa cushions?”
Klein talked about keeping up with new methods of delivery. Regarding mobile technology, he said, “I got hit up by three [companies] already this morning.” To the rhetorical question “Do you get involved in IPTV?” he answered, “You want to put your toe in the water” on any new technology.
Farber also beat the drum on the need to be nimble. Unsuccessful companies “haven’t adapted to mobile, they haven’t tried different tours. They also need to look at how to keep the customers that they have. Offer deals to customers you have lost.”
Christian brought up spending money to make money. “The easiest way to pick up revenue is to spend money on marketing. … Marketing anything to Google is dead. Move beyond it. Social media is the new SEO.” He summed up, “You need a smarter marketing spend.”
Three more seminars took place on the second day, kicking off with a panel on “Trending Mobile: Mobile Innovation Made Easy” seminar, with Brian Elkan of Affil4You moderating. Speaking to the issues were Brad Mitchell of MojoHost, Andy Wullmer of SexGoesMobile and Stefan Paul Muehlbauer of Brokerbabe.
Modrator Hymes posed the first question: “What is mobile?” Two answers emerged that were not quite the same thing. On the one hand, as Elkan said, mobile is “every kind of personal device—tablet, phone.” On the other, said Wullmer, it’s “everything that can be billed from a mobile carrier.”
Wullmer had plenty to say about billing through a mobile carrier, which is key to doing business internationally. As he provocatively stated, “When I started I said fuck off U.S.—I want the rest of the world.” And in the rest of the world—unlike North America—credit cards are not the primary method of payment. Wullmer said, “Remember those words: Click-click-cash. Direct telephone company billing. Just use your fingerprint. You don’t need to put in your name or your credit card.”
And where there are no credit cards, it’s all about micropayments. “I want to have 10 cents from every Indian,” Wullmer said. “You know how much money I would make?”
Aside from how to handle international traffic, much discussion also focused on the vital importance of filtering: first by mobile vs. web, then by country, then by device, then by mobile carrier, and finally even by time zone.
Following mobile, the topic up for discussion was the live cam sector in a seminar titled "Live and Let Live: Making Interactive Easy." Moderated by Tom Hymes, it featured panelists Jay Davis of DatingGold, Bob Raley of M Group, Jeff Wilson of Flirt4Free, Ines Petersen of AmateurCommunity.com and Sean Christian of Together Networks (doing his second panel during the show, Christian got a laugh when he introduced himself by saying “I work for AVN. I’m Tom’s person assistant”).
A seasoned speaker, Christian eschewed the microphone—and the room could easily hear his comments. Stating that cams are the “best-growing vertical in the industry,” he estimated the market is close to $1.5 billion a year, maybe closer to $2 billion, and the largest growth is going to be in mobile. “Cams used to kill it in the cold months,” Christian said, as well as at night. But with mobile, that’s now changing. “People are watching it on their phones—at work, on their phones, jerking off,” Christian said, and he warned that a cam company is “doing something wrong if 50 percent of their revenue is not coming from mobile.”
Hymes asked the panelists how much revenue is driven by white labels. Christian estimated more than half, and Flirt4Free’s Wilson (who said, “I think ours are the best-looking white labels”) set the percentage at 40.
Acknowledging that Google’s constant tweaks to its search algorithms are hurting adult sites in general and white labels in particular, the panelists offered counsel on how to drive traffic. Wilson said, “Some traffic comes from tube sites, but a lot of traffic comes from affiliate networks, traffic networks. If search engines are more than 10 percent of your traffic, you’re not buying enough traffic.”
Christian pointed out that for a membership site with a live cam white label, “the very best traffic is going to be from your own members.”
Hymes asked whether it was expensive to build one’s own cam network, as opposed to using a white label, and these seasoned speakers were able to offer some good advice. Wilson noted that billing is the biggest challenge (“Mitigating chargebacks is so difficult”) while the second is reaching critical mass with both the number of models and the amount of traffic needed to sustain them.
Raley of M Group succinctly outlined the three biggest reasons for failure: “Impatience, lack of funding, and not having any idea what they’re doing.”
Models themselves, however, are a big driver of success: They spread the word on good sites and drive traffic via social networks. Surprisingly, the panelists didn’t put much stock in using porn stars to boost business. For them, it’s all about the full-time cam models who know how to build emotional ties to clients—for instance, a 45-year-old housewife from Kansas whom Christian referenced.
In terms of where growth is taking place, cams for gay men “have quadrupled in the last four years,” Raley claimed, with “lots of whales.” Wilson concurred, noting the Flirt4Free lays claim to being the top company in gay cams. He said all testing on innovations at Flirt4Free is done on both the gay and straight sides evenly.
Much more was covered in the session, which ran over a few minutes—and once the doors were open, a crowd streamed in to listen to a discussion on “Media Buyer v. Affiliate Manager: Traffic Acquisition Made Easy,” moderated by Affil4You’s Joey Gabra. Speaking on the panel were Geoffrey Bonnechere, former COO and CBDO of ExoClick.com, Jimmy "Wizzo" Foreman of Juicy Ads, Alex Lecomte of Star Advertising, Jeff Dillon of GameLink and Andy Wullmer of Sex Goes Mobile—the latter just as feisty on this panel as he had been during the mobile discussion.
The speakers soon agreed that the question was not media buyer versus affiliate manager, but rather working with both in tandem. Wizzo noted, “Many affiliates are now media buyers. The model has shifted toward purchasing the traffic rather that building it themselves. The affiliate model has changed” in how traffic is acquired.
Gabra pursued the question further: “If I’m getting traffic from my affiliates, why buy traffic?”
Dillon proposed, “Some people don’t want the hassle of managing affiliates.” Lecomte suggested, “Visualize where your traffic is coming from,” and pointed out that affiliates and ad networks generate different sorts of traffic.
And on the subject of traffic, AVN’s Hymes asked from the audience, “Should ad networks get into social media?”
Wizzo said there was too much censorship, and Lecomte noted the labor-intensive nature of social media as a drawback. And Wullmer stated bluntly, “It’s not real traffic; it’s fake traffic.” To which Dillon riffed, “Here’s how I look at real traffic vs. fake traffic. Real boobs vs. fake boobs—at the end of the day, they’re boobs.”
Also speaking up from the audience one attendee summed up the question neatly by applying the three-legged stool metaphor to traffic acquisition. As befits an adult conference, his seat was a barstool and the legs were social media, affiliates and ad networks.
As for what method of driving traffic is most effective in which circumstance, former ExoClick COO Bonnechere brought up the importance of testing ad buys.
Much more was discussed at this panel, including the lack of APIs to connect to adult networks and references to Hummingbird. But there was still some important business to follow this final seminar: an Affil4You Cocktail Party in the lobby followed by an Affiliate Cocktail Party on the third floor. So without too much delay, audience members headed off to pose more questions—but these would be asked one-on-one, with a drink in one hand and an ecig in the other.
Image: Internext New Orleans 2014 seminar, courtesy of Fubar Webmasters.
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