John

If porn can still make money, there’s hope

In magazines, News on February 16, 2011 at 10:03 am

Pornography, if you believe the media theorists, have been leading the charge in innovation in media. It was the deciding factor between the VHS vs Beta war, the pioneer in creating anonymity on the Web and was one of the first successful business models on the Web. It comes to little wonder, then, that media watchers are looking to the porn industry in monetizing content that’s so easily shared. Or pirated, depending on your point of view.

To set a background at what the porn industry (damn, I’m going to get so much bot-spam for this post) is facing: A study by Envisional, on behalf of NBC Universal, revealed that pornography was the most shared content on BitTorrent at 35.8%, followed closely by movies at 35.2%.

It’s not surprising, given how pornography, the Web, and anonymity have evolved, as Annalee Newitz pointed out in her brilliant talk “How Sex Laws Incite Technological Change”. Still, you gotta admit — that’s a lot of free porn being distributed through the Web, and the traditional publishers like Playboy and Vivid are facing obsolescence in finding how they can still be profitable in this age where everything is shared.

It sounds a lot like what the print industry is facing. “How should it make its content be more profitable?”, the publishers are asking, to which the overwhelming answer from the public is “who the heck pays for porn (or news) anymore?”. But yet, there are quite a number of innovative ways in which such a dying trade is still finding ways to make money, as New York Magazine pointed out in a series of articles on the porn trade titled ‘Drowning in Porn’.

The main article ‘The Geek Kings of Smut’ explained how on xTube — a video-sharing site for x-rated content similar to YouTube — an amateur producer known as Rob puts up free previews meant to lure viewers to his pay-per-view content, which he sells for 50 cents a minute.

“Rob says the average viewer watches ten minutes; of that $5, he gets to keep 50 percent, minus a small processing charge. A video he uploaded the week before we speak has been viewed 2,470 times, but a lot of the viewers watched only the free preview, so he has made just $125 from it,” according to the story.

So how much does this amount to?

“It’s a huge misconception that the industry is doing badly,” Feras Antoon, the CEO of Manwin, one of the leading distributors, told the reporter, adding that the “tubes” — referring to the free-to-view video sharing sites– haven’t cannibalized paid content. “People who consume only free porn, he argues, are people who, in the past, would not have consumed any. The people who paid for porn then will still pay for it now,” the article said.

Manwin’s tube sites get 42 million daily uniques, and between December 2009 and December 2010, Manwin said its pretax earnings increased more than 40 percent.

It’s a familiar argument.

The lesson here is simple: the times have moved on, and the old industry players who depend on their controlling their content to survive are on a losing end. Some though, are learning new tricks fast: Playboy, for instance, which last month went back into the hands of its founder Hugh Hefner after he made a successful bid for a controlling stake, noted that television is currently the company’s biggest earner, accounting for around 40% of revenues.

“Lately there has been much optimistic talk about seducing the 18- to 35-year-old men who have increasingly been ignoring it by getting into online gaming,” reported The Economist. “This week (Chief Executive) Mr (Scott) Flanders talked about his desire to develop Playboy Enterprises as a “brand management” company, licensing the Playboy name as well as the use of its legendary logo. There may still be money in the bunny.”

And there is still hope for some media companies to learn and roll with the times.

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  1. Sex do sell….remember prostitution and the likes are the oldest profession in the world and for time immemorial the industry never falters

  2. It’s strange that people still pay for porn, when you have websites like xhamster, http://theporndude.com and pornhub, where’s there’s tons of free porn available :s

  3. Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as longnas I provide credit and sources back to your site? My blognsite is in the exact same ni Click https://twitter.com/moooker1

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