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Internet Porn: Sex No Longer Sells In World Of Webcams And Piracy

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INTERNET PORN INDUSTRY
The porn industry is now in the same boat as the music industry, demonetized by a proliferation of free porn sites and piracy | Shutterstock

If sex sells, there's one place it isn't selling: online.

Once the pioneers of the e-commerce movement and advancing online technology during the early stages of the Internet, the porn industry is now in the same boat as the music industry, demonetized by a proliferation of free porn sites and struggling to find a way to profit in a world where money's for nothing and the clicks are free.

"The average consumer thinks porn is free and that has really devalued our product," Allison Vivas, chief executive of Arizona-based adult entertainment company Pink Visual, said during a panel discussion at the Mesh technology conference in Toronto on Wednesday. "It's hard to sell a product most people think they shouldn’t have to buy anymore."

It's an uncomfortable position for the adult industry to be in since historically it's been in the forefront of embracing and shaping technology and the Web as we know it today.
Previously, premium cable and satellite channels were the only means for users to see adult content, with magazines like "Juggs" still nestled between the mattresses and box springs of pimpley faced teen boys.

But once the adult trade hustled its way online, it found a way to grow exponentially. As the Internet grew, so did the number of adult-oriented websites, which began using the same subscription model used by television, allowing users to pay a fixed fee and have access to instant content. As these sites multiplied, competition drove better content to attract and maintain users and that better content came in the form of online video and streaming technology pushed by the porn industry.

With this new technology grew a demand for more bandwidth, better interfaces and high-quality cameras, including the webcam, a porn-inspired tool that revolutionized amateur broadcasting and video conferencing.

"What we know about the Internet today is because of porn," panelist Patchen Barss and author of The Erotic Engine told The Huffington Post. "Without streaming video, Youtube wouldn't look like what it does today; CNN.com wouldn't look like what it does today. Without ecommerce, there'd be no Ebay, no Amazon.com.

"A tremendous amount of Google's economic platform derives from the porn industry. All of the facets, even social networking, at least intellectually, started with the early use of chatrooms that were dominated by the porn industry. Everything we know about the modern Internet is something that has strong roots in pornography."

But like all relationships, there's been a rocky period and the porn industry's love affair with the Internet hit that period with the web2.0 boom. User generated content meant, to some extent, that everyone and their moms were creating porn. Well, not quite everyone, but there appeared to be a proliferation of amateur videos and photos floating around cyberspace.

User submitted content could be uploaded and served for free on sites such as Youtube, which in turn inspired adult sites like Youporn, Pornotube and Redtube, forever changing the business model. Users could see all content, all the time. No subscriptions, no fees, just user-submitted content.

"The Youtubes and Redtubes are taking commerce away from entertainment industries. It's doubly problematic for the adult industry because (unlike the music industry) they don’t have a live performance (such as a concert) they can fall back on," said panelist Peter Nowak, author of the best-selling book Sex, Bombs and Burgers.

“The culture of free is not something you can turn back,” said Barss. "It's now so incredibly easy to get pirated stuff."

And that's been one of the porn industry's biggest online downfalls: piracy. The industry has struggled with copyrighting its content and has so often been on the other end of lawsuits that it hasn't been able to combat infringement like Napster has.

"Hollywood had years of experience with copyright and has all this strength regarding piracy. Most porn industry companies don’t have lawyers on staff so they weren’t copyrighting their videos," said Vivas. "In the music industry people feel like they would now pay for some things.

But the adult industry hasn’t put consequences on (foregoing) the buying experience and we’ve seen companies being put out of businesses (because of this)."

But like all good make-ups, the porn industry has learned to compromise, realizing that they likely can't force users to pay for something that's been free for too long. So they're again jumping on the tech wagon and creating new apps for mobile devices and learning how to capitalize off the Internet in other ways. Vivas said Pink Visual, for instance, has been developing porn apps for the iPhone.

"The day the iPhone came out, (our app went) live, and we had thousands of visitors in the first day," she said. "Whenever new technology comes out people will always think of how they can put porn on it."

The adult industry is also looking to new technologies such as 3D tablets and Microsoft Corp.’s Kinect interactive gaming system as possible platforms for new kinds of content. Companies like Pink Visual are reviewing how advertising on 'tube sites has enabled those sites to profit by offering free porn while drawing users to other pay-for-usage experiences. They are also looking at providing their users with live shows and creating customized, unique experience for a fee.

And the adult industry is coupling that type personalized concept with a heavy push on social networking sites such as Twitter, so users feel like they are having a truly intimate experience with the women or men they follow on porn sites to generate more traffic and brand loyalty.
Nowak said one of the reasons the adult industry always jumps on new technology early is because governments are often slow to regulate new technologies.

"So that’s why a lot of porn industries have gone there. And since we’ve have reached a peak where distribution of porn has become ubiquitous, we’re at this inflection point where the industry may lose its edge unless things change and (the porn industry is) again reinvented," he said.

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