Porn Expectations, Part 3

In one of those serendipitous moments, Tony’s comment reminded me of an article that was in the Advocate recently (sorry- link broken) about the effects of porn tube sites and pirated porn on the industry.

One of the long-standing advertising maxims is, of course, “Sex Sells.” And it’s true that sex is used to get people’s attention and/or convince them to buy stuff. It’s also true that when the only way for most people to get porn was to go to a theater or buy a videotape, there was a lot of money to be made. But as the Advocate article points out, the digital revolution has started to change that.

There are a few reasons for that. First, there’s a lot of free porn online. If you don’t mind low resolution, having scenes chopped up into smaller segments or badly filmed stuff, you could spend all day doing nothing but looking at free porn. Some of it is professionally made movies that someone has ripped. Some of it is amateurs doing putting their escapades online. And of course, some of it is people putting their scenes online out of revenge, usually against an ex. But whatever the reason or the source of the porn, if you want free videos of nekkid people, there’s lots of it.

For a while, this didn’t have as big an impact on the porn producers in LA because most people didn’t want to watch on their computer- they wanted to watch on their TVs. But as the technology has gotten simpler and as the bandwidth limits have gone up, the barriers to watching free porn have started to come down.

This is creating an interesting challenge for the porn industry. After all, even a mediocre movie costs money to produce and if your product ends up getting ripped as soon as you release it, how are you going to deal with that? Of course, this is an issue that the music and mainstream movie industries have been trying to deal with for a while. And even with digital rights management and other technologies, all you need is one person to figure out a way around them and suddenly, your product is getting downloaded for free.

So what effect will this have on porn? For one, I think that some of the smaller companies are going to have serious trouble staying afloat. I also think that the industry is going to have to rethink how it operates. Last year, over 12,000 porn DVDs were released, plus a whole lot of internet porn. Maybe it’s time to think about quality over quantity. The appeal of gonzo or wall to wall DVDs starts to evaporate when you can find a never-ending supply in the internet.

I don’t know where the industry is headed and I don’t think anyone else does, either. A lot of people are confidently making announcements and we’ll see how their guesses play out. One thing that I have observed is that some of the strategies of the non-porn movie world don’t translate over. For example, although Netflix continues to be quite popular, the porn versions of it never really took off because viewing patterns differ. So that probably means that whatever shape the industry takes, it’ll have to be something different from what we’ve seen before.

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One Response so far.

  1. Most economic analysis of pornography proceeds from fault assumptions about how big the business actually is. Granted, hard numbers about revenues are difficult to come by, but there is some hard data that allows for comparison with industries (I don’t think this is an apt term for the adult video business, but that’s a subject for another day) that have reliable revenue numbers.

    One of source of comparison is simply to look at the cost of a vender’s booth at the handful of adult trade shows that take place though out the world, and then compare the booth cost and number of events on other industries. A cursory examination suggests that there is lower demand for booths at adult trade shows, despite the fact that the supply of these booths is relatively small.

    Similarly, we can look at the ad-rate in AVN, a trade publication with virtually no rivals in it’s niche, and compare that rate with ad-rates in trade publications that serve other industries, often competing against other publications that serve the same industry. Again, a cursory examination of page rates for the multitude of publications that serve the film and television suggests that the industry that AVN serves is fractionally small by comparison.

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