Benchmarking adult award shows, conferences

A few years ago, the adult video industry’s connection with upstart XBiz was tenuous; Hustler and Vivid did not play ball with AVN’s rival, and only Digital Playground seemed to see the value in advertising with the magazine. But that has changed, and now both AVN and XBiz draw from the same pool of advertisers and story sources.

Since both AVN’s Expo and Awards and XBiz’ Seminar and Awards are over, it seems that the perception of AVN’s downfall is stronger than the reality and that XBiz is primping, but not quite ready, to be dominant in the adult trade field.

[UPDATE: In the original version of this article published February 17, I got some facts wrong pertaining to the number of staff AVN has deployed on its publications, as well as what trophies are or are not in its empire. Several AVN employees wrote to point out the inaccuracies, and the next paragraph reflects those changes. I’m sorry for the mistakes and, as always, appreciate your years of dedicated readership]

Persistent rumors that AVN no longer owns its award show have been denied by AVN founder Paul Fishbein, who also points out (in the comments section) that its Expo, or AEE, has always been licensed, not owned. In the past month, AVN has shed several staff members, including senior editor Jared Rutter, leaving ten editors to write for its three magazines (AVN, AVNOnline, and AVN Novelty Business) as well as its website.


Not only that, but five former tentpole sponsors of AVN’s annual Novelty Expo (Topco, Doc Johnson, CalExotics, Pipedream, and NassToys) have announced that they will instead be hosting their own “Founders” show three days before ANE this July.

It makes long-time adult industry watchers think that AVN has lost its grip. Indeed, AVN is no longer the primary force in the adult publication and convention world, but I think its recent setbacks have leveled the playing field rather than sunk the company. AVN should not be counted out; instead, it now has an opportunity for advertisers to make an informed decision rather than be stuck with no other option.

I was dismayed by the low turnout to both this year’s AVN and Consumer Electronics shows, as compared to previous years.

“People were saying ‘This won’t be around next year’ in 1997,” said former AVN editor Rebecca Gray.

Fleshbot editor Lux Alptraum, who attended the AVN show for the first time this January, said she was overwhelmed by the number of fans and adult companies.

“If this was a low turnout,” she said, “I don’t see how anyone could function with a high turnout.”

So it’s relative.

XBiz, on the other hand, has had the good fortune to define itself for many years in opposition to AVN, and who could go wrong on a model of not taking customers for granted? But XBiz’ early attempts at originality failed, such as its Erotic Film Festival in 2007.

Each year XBiz streamlined its operation, developing strategic partnerships and becoming the dominant player in the adult Internet community, where AVN had traditionally been weak. And last week proved that XBiz could get the same things right that AVN could, and also that no trade publication is the savior of the adult industry.

Having had intimate, fecund, dysfunctional relationships with both AVN and XBiz, I am rooting for both of them to carve a niche and keep each other honest. Because I don’t see how either would stay honest without competition.

I admit I’ve been feeling bad for AVN. The last few months have not been good. I walked into last Thursday’s XBiz Awards in Hollywood thinking that the success of its conference might be a nail in the coffin. After all, there was Angelina Armani. Digital Playground had sent her and Stoya to pick up awards for them.

But my fear that the porn industry might soon lose its harmonious balance was soon eliminated.

“HOW ARE YOU DOING, HOLLYWOOD? PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER,” said the host about ten times.

“This is going to be awful,” someone said.


By the time Evan Seinfeld came out to present the Best LGBT site award, the audience was drifting away – just like at AVN!

“Why is Evan Seinfeld presenting the LGBT award?” someone said.

“I’m sure he has no idea, either,” I said.

Seinfeld walked offstage, saying “Spyderz!”

Around this time trophy presenter Nikki Jayne had an altercation backstage with a show producer who didn’t treat her with the respect due a Vivid girl and Manchester United boffin (I’ve heard three stories as of press time) and left, to be replaced by an always-game Sunny Lane.

I went to go talk with Bobbi Starr in another room. So did many other people. An hour later I poked my head back in to be surprised that the show was still going on – just like AVN!


I thought, aside from the women in the audience, no one in this room looks young and hip enough to be granted admission to any club within two miles of here (including me). At this point I became emotionally upset and gave my camera to Kimberly Kane, who took a picture of Mandy Morbid’s vagina. God Bless them Both for setting me straight.

Starr was telling me about getting her head dunked in a toilet by Rocco Siffredi, but there was an award I wanted to see presented.

XBiz publisher Alec Helmy had an honor for Phil Harvey, founder of Adam & Eve. Harvey’s name was called several times before word arrived that he had left the building an hour ago.

I shouldn’t create a metaphor out of a single event, but come on. The last award show in which a lifetime achievement trophy was given to someone who didn’t stick around to receive it was for Jenna Jameson at the Temptation Awards. That award show never returned. At the first and final Adultcon Awards, Larry Flynt didn’t show up for his Lifetime Achievement plaque.

So until XBiz can mount an awards show in which the recipient of a lifetime achievement trophy – who knew weeks in advance he would be getting it – will stay in the room to pick it up, AVN need only worry about attending to its customers’ needs the way XBiz has been doing.

By the way, the XRCO awards will be held in April.

See the XBiz Conference/Awards 09 gallery here.

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Posts marked XBiz

About Gram the Man 4399 Articles
Gram Ponante is America's Beloved Porn Journalist

1 Comment

  1. Marty-

    A few facts. AVN has always owned its own award show and still does. catch the broadcast on Shwotime in March. Also, we have never owned AEE, but in fact, it has been a licensing deal since we started the event in 1998 (Questex Media onws it).Finally,layoffs are due to a bad economy, and you also missed the names of several staffers. And we are doing just fine…..but thank you for your thoughts.


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