Porn expo boss says performers, not companies, driving industry in age of social media

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Mikayla Whitmore

Layla Sin Blond joins a fan at the Penthouse Magazine booth at the AVN/Adult Entertainment Expo on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, at the Hard Rock Hotel.

Wed, Jan 24, 2018 (2 a.m.)

As the porn industry continues its move from DVDs to social media and free websites, entertainers have more say in driving viewer traffic and dictating trends, said the boss of an annual porn convention set to hit Las Vegas this week.

“They’re now monetizing their content, because more tools are available for companies that are producing that content,” AVN CEO Tony Rios said. “They’re essentially using it as an avenue for driving traffic to their sites.”

With almost 35,000 attendees from 35 countries and over 800 industry stars set to participate, the annual AVN Adult Entertainment Expo arrives this week at the Hard Rock Hotel for the seventh consecutive year.

The expo runs from Wednesday through Saturday’s awards show and admission ranges from $80 for a one-day pass to $1,500 for a four-day VIP ticket. One of five major conventions in the city this week, AVN is a beneficiary of the Hard Rock’s additional 18,000 square feet of convention space built in 2016.

Rios spoke to the Sun about porn’s changing platform, the industry’s newest trends and stars to anticipate at this week’s show:

You spoke last year about the industry’s shift toward tube sites, where content is given away for free. What’s new with that sector of the industry?

Really we’re just seeing a lot of cooperation with performers and the tube sites.

So it’s the performers themselves through driving traffic via social media and their own popularity?

Yes, exactly. You have some of these girls and guys with over 200,000 to 300,000, we have some performers with over 1 million followers. So they can make an impact.

Performers’ use of social media has also really shaped the way traffic gets driven around. We saw that with Prop 60 (failed California ballot proposal that would have mandated condom use) in 2016. The performers went to social media and they were able to affect legislation.

How has the industry found a way to monetize that?

It’s putting your promotional material up there. And also branding with your watermarks and things like that. Especially if you’re going to market on places like Instagram, you have to be very careful about what you put there. But everything there is done with some sort of embedded advertisement within the video. Same with Snapchat. Snapchat has become massive and performers are using it like crazy. And they’re even doing premium Snapchats now, and finding a way to charge for Snapchat.

You said last year the industry is on an upswing. Since then has it continued forward, plateaued or gone down?

It feels like it’s still growing. We always look at our pre-sales numbers coming into the show to give us a gauge, and we’re up 20 percent on pre-sales over last year. This is slated to be the biggest show in 10 years, so I’m pretty excited and pretty confident we’re going to have over 35,000 people coming through the door between Wednesday and Saturday.

What big names are among the 800 actresses and actors scheduled for this year’s show?

Angela White, Riley Reid, Romi Rein and Xander Corvus, I could go on forever. We also have over 1,000 separate webcam performers coming in addition to the traditional porn performers.

Have you noticed any policy changes from the Trump Administration that has impacted the porn industry?

Surprisingly, no (laughs). We know that Trump is a fan of our industry, there has been some recent news that even further attests to that. But we know not everyone in his cabinet is a fan, at least publically. So we’re continuing to hope for the best. I don’t think he will have time for porn in the near future, he has other priorities. But no telling at what point porn will become part of the agenda.

What other trends attendees might want to look out for?

We have a strong representation of age-verification companies because of the new age restriction laws in the United Kingdom. And then we also have the bit-coin thing. So we’ve got crypto currencies coming, three crypto companies that are hoping to put their best foot forward to be the next adult industry standard.

So these crypto currencies represent a way for people to pay for porn?

Yes because of the way crypto works and how anonymous it is, they’re finding it’s good for the industry. The industry has a long history of issues with banking and getting good banking relationships. With crypto currency, it’s anonymous and you can get your currency through various exchanges and it’s not so direct. It works in theory but we haven’t seen it embraced yet. It’s still very new.

What do you mean by age-restriction in the UK?

UK passed regulations which basically say you can be prosecuted if you don’t have an actual way to verify the age of someone coming to your website. So that way they can make sure minors can’t get in. It’s created a whole new business segment of companies who want to be used to verify.

Has that presented a setback for the industry?

Well it’s just the U.K., and it’s just another hurdle. But there are a lot of companies that have all come forward. In addition to the ones we have exhibiting, there are other companies that are working on their own solutions as well to put forth as well. So I believe it’s probably going to come and it’s here to stay.

What previous trends won’t be so popular at this year’s show?

Virtual reality. We actually don’t have a very big showing of virtual reality this year. In the last couple of years we’ve had a ton of VR exhibitors. But this year we really don’t have much.

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