ANALYSIS: Client Profile - The business is the story, not thetitillating products

Reporters were more likely to look at New Frontier's products than

its quarterly reports. But the adult-entertainment company has embraced

PR to show the media and investors that it means business. Eleanor

Trickett reports.

There's an old joke told in smoke-filled bars everywhere: The subject,

our hero, is bemoaning the fact that despite a lifetime of good deeds in

the community - mending fences and plowing fields for his neighbors -

he's never been known as "Bill the fence-mender" or "Bill the

field-plower." However, he commits one indiscretion with a sheep, and

what is he instantly nicknamed?

Consider the fate of another Bill. Bill Mossa is VP of affiliate sales

and marketing at a seven-year-old media company with 180 employees and

2001 revenues of $61 million. Mossa's company is just one baby

step behind the number-one company in the field - which has itself been

a household name for decades. His company's web properties attract more

than 60 million visitors each month, and its TV networks are available

to more than 31 million addressable subscribers through cable and DBS


But is New Frontier Media well known for any of these impressive


Well, maybe. But that's a long time after everyone has finished

expressing outrage over the fact that it's the country's second-largest

distributor of adult entertainment - "Porn!" scream the headlines -

behind Playboy Enterprises.

To be fair, Mossa will be the first to admit that a story is only as

good as its teller. New Frontier's early days were hectic, that's for

sure. Launching in 1995 with just one channel, it scrambled to get the

right products out in the right timeframe. And through all this hasty

empire-building, perhaps ironically for an adult entertainment company,

New Frontier took its eye off the ball. "We kind of forgot about PR,"

Mossa confesses. "We were in such an active mode, trying to bring

dollars in as quickly as possible, and we forgot."

Unfortunately, the PR New Frontier had - "we dabbled; we had consultants

in from time to time, and even had an agency" - was useless because "we

didn't really know what we wanted to accomplish."

Worst still, the hapless Noofs (from New Frontier's Nasdaq symbol) were

in fact propelled in almost exactly the wrong direction. These

consultants, Mossa continues, "took the approach that 'you're in the

adult-entertainment business, and you need to run in those circles.' But

we're publicly traded, and should have thought and conducted ourselves

like a publicly traded company. We needed to become more buttoned-down

and corporate."

With corporate comes coverage

But, as the old cliche has it: be careful what you wish for. It turned

out that New Frontier didn't have to try too hard to get coverage in the

business press, even in the early days. Far from it. A rich supply of

distribution and business issues - and messy investor brouhahas - soon

saw to that.

The big story broke in January 1999, when JP Lipson, a former investor

and famous Colorado hog farmer, sued the company for $11 million

over a claim that it reneged on a deal that would give him control of

the channel.

Only just resolved, the case garnered headlines galore.

However, Mossa says that the lawsuit really wasn't all that

extraordinary: "With any Fortune 500 company, show me one that isn't

tied up in any kind of litigation. This was just a business dispute.

Unfortunately, because this is an adult business, it took on a life of

its own."

Mossa admits that New Frontier could have done with a PR strategy - any

PR strategy - for not only the Lipson case, but also when the fuss

erupted over President Bush's choice of Harvey Pitt for SEC head; Pitt

had previously done some legal work for New Frontier. "It's very easy

for a company such as New Frontier to obtain bad press," says Mossa, who

was burned on a story on Canadian network CBC "because we took some bad

PR advice."

Eventually, the Noofs got their act together enough to sit down and work

out exactly what they wanted from their PR. Having finally agreed, they

hired The Geek Factory, now a one-man operation headed up by founder

Peter Shankman.

Enter the Geek

Immediately, says Mossa, the whole tone of the coverage changed. "There

were always positive signs through this long, drawn-out case. For

instance, a good year and a half ago, we had favorable signs that we

weren't going to be exposed financially, but we didn't focus on the

facts of the case to get our side across."

So the first job The Geek Factory had to do was reassure the

stockholders and affiliates that there was more to the Noofs than a

hog-wild hog farmer.

"If they were selling computers or tables, there would never be any

issues," Shankman says. "The only reason they weren't being taken quite

so seriously was the nature of the business. So we worked out that we

could actually use that to our advantage to get more coverage than if

they were simply a furniture manufacturer. The reporters who raised

their eyebrows were the ones I wanted to talk to." A small handful of

key, business-focused message points has been instrumental in gaining

stories in such publications as Forbes and Barron's in recent


Consumer outreach is another part of the job, and New Frontier works

with the local cable operators, gaining permission to market itself

through tie-ins with local media, among other things. In the Eastern

Pennsylvania region, for example, it teamed up with a local radio

station that had a regular feature called "Stripper Tuesday," in which a

local "dancer" came into the studio. "It was a perfect tie-in," says

Mossa. We had a competition with a local gentlemen's club. One lucky

listener won the opportunity to be a judge." More tie-ins are planned,

including higher-profile national vehicles such as The Howard Stern


The variety of audiences at which New Frontier's PR is aimed means that

it's not only Mossa who handles the outreach. EVP Michael Weiner and CEO

Mark Kreloff get involved when they need to, as does Ken Boenish (who

oversees the networks and the internet business), with CFO Karyn Miller

focusing on the numbers.

The work environment, says Mossa, is carefree. But it's not


As a matter of policy, there are no stray nipples or anything remotely

adult anywhere in New Frontier's building in Boulder, CO. "I'm happily

married with two children, and I coach Little League," says Mossa. "You

wouldn't know we worked in adult entertainment unless you walked into an

editing suite and saw the screens."

This approach runs right through. "If you look at our standard sales

presentation," says Mossa, "you're not going to see pics in it." As

Shankman says, "The business publications are not watching Hot

Pleasures, they're looking at the financials. When Forbes looks at the

numbers, it's as if we were selling chairs."

It took a while, but that perception seems to have finally stuck. New

Frontier has clearly been mending its fences. Which, in the long run, is

a far better business story than bothering sheep.


Headquarters: Boulder, CO

Chairman and CEO: Mark Kreloff

EVP: Michael Weiner

President, The Erotic Networks: Ken Boenish

VP, affiliate sales and marketing: Bill Mossa

CFO: Karyn Miller

Outside PR support: The Geek Factory

PR budget: undisclosed

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