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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
NEW FRONTIER MEDIA
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