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    Here's a blog that gets me where I live...Much food for thought on a regular basis!

    -Susie Bright

  • In the debauched world of INDIEROTICA, the thin bra-strap of a line between the seductive and the obscene is torn, stripped, and ripped off so often that one can have difficulty differentiating between the exploitative and truly erotic. Here to help us connect the dots is the brilliant and sexy REBECCA, author of the clever blog, PORN PERSPECTIVES. "Examining the interplay between pornography, feminism, economics, and technology", it's possibly the smartest sex on the internet.

    -Jess, INDIEROTICA.com

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Back to Quality

Great article in the NY Times over the weekend about the dynamic market forces in the porn industry. The article correctly details the democratizing effects of the Internet--now any idiot with a camera and a bottle of wine can make a porno for the world to see.

Now that it's been a few years and a lot of idiots with cameras have made a lot of really bad porn, many within the industry are seeking out quality porn. While it may do the trick, poor quality porn eventually gets old (though not for all--there will always sadly be a market for crappy porn). The article predicts a moderate surge in high production values and attractive actors.

Great news. Really. I'd take things one step further, though, and look at the material from a consumer viewpoint. It's great that certain producers are recognizing that the market is flooded with bad porn and so are taking the time and effort to make a product that stands out. But they're going to have to do more than this--they need to help the consumer find their product, floating somewhere in the sea of bad dye jobs, long fingernails, and strangely brightly lit VHS shoots (seriously, what's the deal with all the outdoor pornos shot in direct sunlight?).

This is where branding is key. Vivid, as I've mentioned many times, has done it well. A consumer knows what they're getting when they purchase a Vivid movie. Even the imprints like Vivid-Alt maintain a certain quality that does not usually betray the viewer. Women also can become brands unto themselves, giving them a unique path to power in the industry...if only more of them would step up (sigh).

In any event, this is good news--I'm looking forward to seeing some higher quality movies roll out of the Valley.

Finally Using the Internet for Something Useful?

Porn is finally starting to lose its stronghold on the Internet as the most popular destination, according to the Economist. (At the same time, the Economist's headlines suggesting that people are losing their interest in porn are extremely misleading.)

If one accepts the argument porn often drives technological innovation, then what does it mean when porn no longer dominates that technology's market? According to the Economist, a sign of a medium's maturation is when people start using it largely for non-sex-related pursuits. Wit MySpace and Facebook, social networking sites which are increasingly top destinations online.


Note that the above graph charts percentages, not absolute hits. So what we're looking at is not necessarily an absolute decline in the popularity of Internet porn, but rather a decrease in the ratio of porn site visits to non-porn site visits.   

Even while the Internet per se may not be the gurgling cauldron of sex it once was considered, this does not necessarily mean that people are losing their interest in porn:

Once a new medium becomes popular, its usage is no longer dominated by porn. Although this may soon be true for the web, however, it is not true for the internet as a whole. Much pornographic content may simply have shifted from the web to peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, for example.

I would also posit that oversaturation of low-quality pornography may be driving people to technologies which enable faster and easier access to the content they want to see. OnDemand and peer-to-peer technology has gained market share in recent months, as I previously reported.

I've never been a fan of Internet porn as a product--the medium is thrilling, but the lower barriers have resulted in a market flooded with low-quality product. Only time will tell, but I see this shift in market share as a sign of both a maturing technology and a more discerning market.

Am I going to be a Real Man today?

Good news! You can now get manliness at your local Walgreens. (Though I wonder whether Real Men are allowed to have sensitive skin?)


Is streaming the answer?

DVD sales are down, and Hollywood is freaking out. Apparently the porn side of the entertainment industry is feeling the hurt as well. According to the Financial Times (3/9/2007), spending on DVDs in 2006 fell more than 15% after a decade of double-digit growth (AVN statistic).

Meanwhile, online piracy has proved a persistent headache for entertainment companies, mainstream and adult alike (see CNet article).

The solution to both problems may be in new streaming and On Demand technologies. The customization allowed by both technologies is key. In a live feed model in the online adult sector, subscribers can instant message requests to models, who then perform as instructed There is a bit of a lag between the request and the performance, but as technology improves this latency continues to shrink.

On Demand has been a centerpiece of innovation within the industry for a few years now--it allows users instant access to customized content available at the click of a remote (or mouse, as the case may be). Some brick and mortar video stores are experimenting with burning On Demand content for customers as they browse in the store. It's unclear as yet whether this will catch on.

Both models are highly adaptable for the mainstream industry, particularly the On Demand model. Maybe Hollywood will finally pipe down about YouTube and Limewire's supposed destruction of all creativity and profit-making in the universe. As porn is once again demonstrating, times are changing and an innovative shift in business models is going to be necessary to stay alive.

Mainstream Music Playing Catch-Up to Porn

Does the porn industry always have to show the mainstream world how to cater to consumers?

According to an article in last week’s Wall Street Journal, the music industry is finally starting to ally with peer-to-peer (P2P) sites. The rapper Jay-Z, “at the request of Coca-Cola Co., agreed to allow distribution of [an 8-minute concert clip] on P2P sites, using technology usually used to thwart music pirates.”

The article continues,

"now there’s a growing recognition among some record executives and performers that the people who are downloading illegally are frequently huge music fans and that marketing to them may be more desirable in the long run than suing or otherwise harassing them."

No shit.

As I reported earlier this year, the porn industry started taking rapid measures years ago to respond to online piracy in a relatively fluid way, turning piracy around to work to the industry’s advantage.

As the president of Playboy.com Randy Nicolau remarked in 2004, P2P networks provide “direct marketing at its finest.” Playboy started giving pictures away to other sites that in turn directed visitors back to Playboy.com. In order to reinforce this pattern, Playboy has started paying Webmasters $25 for every subscription they funnel to Playboy.com; as support, Playboy offers tools to help make the free Web sites more effective.

Ever since the advent of P2P networks, the media, musicians, the music industry, and the business world have decried the end of entertainment as we know it. With the only means of making money for studios/artists effectively undermined, there could be no other future for entertainment than anarchy and ruin.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. Porn provides the proverbial canary in the coal mine proof that P2P doesn’t have to destroy an industry—it does, however, require vast change.

In a statement nearly parallel to Nicolau's, Jay Z's attorney Michael Guido explains the revelation:

"The concept here is making the P2P network work for us. While P2P users are stealing the intellectual property, they are also the active music audience, and this technology allows us to market back to them."

Perhaps the porn industry is more evolved in its response because it was hit early with the issue of piracy via P2P networks. But based on the industry’s history of leading the pack in terms of technology (wit VHS tapes, the Internet, Web cams, cell phone cameras, etc), I would attribute the porn industry’s adept response to market changes to an innate flexibility built into the industry that mainstream industries seem to lack. Any theories as to why this is?

Porn on the Go!

AVN reports that Playboy Enterprises has created a division dedicated to mobile and wireless efforts, and has named Ed Lang senior vice president and general manager. According to Ed, “The Mobile business is one of the company’s fastest growing revenue streams and an important aspect of Playboy’s strategy as we aim to provide Playboy content to our customers across all entertainment platforms.”

Ed had previously been VP of mobile initiatives with Sony, COO of a mobile marketing and production company in NYC (helping launch America’s Next Top Model, among other things), and also executive director for mobile content at AOL.

Is there any doubt that the porn industry is serious about expanding into mobile content?

Fred Lane foresaw this trend back in 2005, and I used his and other research in my thesis to describe the forces shaping and challenging this evolution towards “m-commerce” (for the complete discussion, see chapter 3, pp 66-7):

“…a prominent trend on the horizon is a shift towards mobile content, which consumers can download onto PDAs, cellular phones, and iPods. The mobile content sector has grown substantially, with $700 million in sales worldwide. By 2009, Juniper Research estimates this will triple to $2.1 billion (AVN, January 2006).

“Given that the adult industry was on the forefront of technological development that enabled e-commerce, it makes sense that the industry would also guide the shift towards m-commerce (Lane 2005).

“The strongest barriers to m-commerce include payment methods and perhaps most importantly, age verification. Phone companies are likely to resist involvement with adult companies, whose customers are notorious for their denials and complaints, so new kinds of payment systems will have to develop. As for age verification, underage access is a politically sensitive issue; if minors start downloading content through their cellular phones, Congress could easily block m-commerce. As with payment methods, new technology is under development to enable secure, legal transactions (Lane 2005).

“While some within the industry express skepticism that consumers will clamor to watch adult content on tiny mobile phones or iPods, many businesses are confidently marketing “iPorn” and other content intended for viewing on Apple’s ubiquitous iPod. A spoof site, KryptoniteStudios,com, marketing “iPod Erotica” employs the tagline “Masturbate on the go,” and helpfully informs customers that with the iPod’s 15-hour battery life, they can fly from New York to Paris “and still have hours of masturbation time left as you stroll the Champs Elysees.” The Playstation game device PSP is another target for mobile porn. A Web site called SexOnThePSP.com offers specially formatted PSP-ready adult movies.

“The increasing resolution of mobile screens and faster connections offer hope that this product segment will become popular with American consumers (Lane 2003). Already, mobile content is making headway in other countries. Despite the current technological hurdle of slow download speeds, companies like Britain’s Virgin Mobile and the Australian mobile phone company Huchinson’s 3 are exploring the possibility of offering adult content through mobile phones. Wireless operators in Europe and Asia who offer adult video clips or live sex chats via mobile phones are finding positive reception among customers (Bryan-Low 2005).

“Analysts predicted worldwide spending on such content for cellular phones to top $1 billion in 2005; with companies such as U.S.-based Verizon Wireless exploring the possibility of using its extensive network for adult content, it seems the United States will not be far behind in adapting to this new format (Bryan-Low 2005). Jay Grdina, president of Jenna Jameson’s site ClubJenna.com, reports that the wireless division of the company has seen “incredible results” in the European market (Grdina 2005). The domestic market is slowly developing, contingent on the incorporation of age-verification procedures. Grdina predicts that as the wireless technology sector grows, the fastest gains in software and applications will be in this area.

“A second noteworthy technology trend, in addition to the predicted shift toward mobile content, is convergence….The mobile technology … is another realm in which convergence is occurring, with consumers soon able to make calls, check e-mail, and watch video all on the same device.”

Porn Drives Innovation

One of the first (and most intriguing) things I’ve learned about the porn industry in the course of my research is its relationship with technology.

People in the adult and technology industries have long understood the symbiotic relationship between porn and new technology. Indeed, the biggest porn industry convention began as an outgrowth of the Consumer Electronics Show, and the two conventions still overlap in Las Vegas every January.

The most illustrative example of the relationship between porn and technology is the VHS vs. Betamax saga of the early 1980s. While it is generally understood that Beta was the superior format, VHS ended up dominating the market. Why was that? Porn.

As Steve Hirsch (head of Vivid, one of the largest adult film companies) explains, in the early ‘80s VHS tapes were selling for $50 each, while Betamax cost $55.

“Therefore we pushed VHS harder, and in that sense we did have something to do with VHS winning out…It was the adult industry who jumped right in and were putting movies on both VHS and Beta. We pushed the actual technology more than anyone else.”

Nowadays, the big question is whether Blu-Ray or HD-DVD will win the most recent format war. Once again, the porn industry is on the cutting edge and likely holds the power to decide which technology will dominate the consumer market. Here is more information about that.

Something that all this brings up for me is the question of why the adult industry is such a driving force behind technology. If we can take as a given that the industry is relatively fluid in its adoption of new technology, the more interesting issue to me is what motivates that drive for innovation.

The impetus seems to be an intense desire for privacy on the part of the consumer. Consuming porn has always been such a shame-filled activity that consumers will flock to any new mode of consumption that enables them more privacy. Think about the technological progression of the history: from stag loops to peep booths to movie theaters to home video to the personal computer/Internet to mobile technology. It just keeps getting more personal and more private, and as this happens the industry grows rapidly.

I began to wonder about other effects of this privacy-enabling technology. One particularly interesting and (in my opinion) beneficial effect is the new comfort many women feel in becoming involved in the industry as firm owners. While the social scorn heaped on sexual women will probably never go away, technology like the Internet allows women to participate in the industry while maintaining a level of privacy never before possible. And seeing as how more online businesses than brick-and-mortar businesses are women-owned (I confess this is anecdotal…I have no hard numbers), I think the privacy hypothesis has credence. Women can raise kids, work from home, and the community never has to know how they’re making their money. Pretty sweet deal! There are other factors that contribute to the increased involvement, of course…the barriers to entry are lower online, the segment is newer, etc etc. But I think women on both the consumer and producer side are responding to the highly-desired privacy new technology allows.

Sorry this is not an especially cohesive entry…just some thoughts I’ve been exploring.