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1343 Words of Advice For The Porn Industry (Totally SFW, I Assure You)


If we’ve spent any time talking, at some point I have probably mentioned my fascination with the porn industry’s political problems. Some of my earliest awareness of local politics came from groups trying to stop local convenience stores from carrying Playboy and the like. Over the years, I have seen people blame the porn industry for the decline of Western Civilization and culture.

Yet in all those years, I also saw a porn industry that generated a HUGE amount of revenue. How huge? Some estimates put it close to $13 billion per year, others suggest it could be much lower, but still likely north of $4 billion.  A 2012 examination estimated their revenue at around $8 billion. That assessment was conducted by CovenantEyes, a company that provides web filtering services as well as a service that “tracks websites you visit on your computers, smart phones, and tablets, and sends them in an easy-to-read report to someone you trust [making] it easy to talk about the temptations you face online.” That latter bit, I assume, facilitates recovering pornaholics who want to work with their sponsors to get clean. Covenant Eyes looked at previous estimates from a number of both pro and anti porn sources and I’m prepared to accept their number.

That number is roughly equivalent to the bottled water industry, eBay sales, or iTunes revenue from 2012. In other words, it’s a metric crap-ton of porn. Oh, and it is in ADDITION to the staggering amount of free porn online – whether pirated, commercially available, or amateur.

Yet the porn industry is constantly under assault and receives no protection from the government. While Congress proposes legislation like SOPA/PIPA to protect primarily mainstream music, movies, books and physical goods from piracy and counterfeiting, courts routinely reject attempts by the industry to police infringement the same way the recording and movie industries do.

ISPs have been less forthcoming with the identity of illegal downloaders presumably because disclosure of individual’s porn downloads carries a societal burden that mainstream music and movie downloads do not. One illegal downloader went so far as to defend porn downloads as legal because “porn is obscenity, and obscenity is not covered by the Copyright Clause of the constitution.”

The industry has, for a few years now, conducted a campaign to push back against illegal porn. As just one example, the industry recently launched PayForYourPorn.org, a campaign to encourage pornoisseurs to only support legitimate porn.

The problem with their efforts is they are eerily reminiscent of a cartoon released in the height of anti-piracy Napster hysteria that mocked Metallica’s messaging.

The porn version of that message looks like this:

The industry’s efforts, well-intentioned as they are, simply regurgitate the same nonsense the music industry spouted for years, to wit:

  • If you don’t pay for porn, nobody will make porn – This is just as laughable as it was when the record labels trotted it out. The fact is both music and porn existed before the companies that exploit the artists. Just as there are PLENTY of musicians, actors, and writers willing to conduct their craft with little or no pay, there will be plenty of people setting up a camera in their bedroom and sharing that content.
  • If you visit these sites, you’re committing a crime, even if you don’t know it’s illegal – the implied threat here is that you will be held legally liable for illegal porn consumption, but as previously noted, that is actually far from likely. What is more likely is that the porn industry’s extortion racket will send a cease and desist letter along with a letter threatening to sue. As happened with the RIAA’s similarly misguided effort, that is likely to backfire horribly. They are, in no uncertain terms, assailing their target audience. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  The record labels spent a decade savaging their own brands/reputation by suing 12 year-old music lovers. The porn industry looks eager to make the same mistake by assaulting the very people that consume porn.
  • If you are watching our PSA, you probably already pay for porn – this is the one thing they got ABSOLUTELY right. The likelihood of seeing that ad is dependent upon visiting sites or viewing content where that ad would run. It is highly unlikely the distributors of pirated content or tube sites would run an ad that a) opposes their very existence and b) encourages their traffic to boycott them. So how, exactly, does the industry hope to reach the people that actually need to see that ad?

So what is the point of all of this? Well, as a communications and political messaging professional, it pains me to watch ANYONE screwing themselves with a misguided and poorly advised campaign. So I would like to offer some admittedly unsolicited advice.

First, it is ironic that the porn industry actually DROVE innovation in the early days of the Internet, yet today is dusting off the fifteen year-old, discredited, and unsuccessful campaign playbook of the recording industry that has eaten itself. Rather than dump money into half-assed microsites and PSAs that target allies and convert nobody, why not invest, as an industry, into a legal alternative to tube sites?

Where is the Hulu, Netflix or iTunes of porn? It would seem that a single, monthly, subscription that gets you access to a catalog of higher quality, first-run content would be a decent investment. Instead, the porn industry still operates on a model where every single actor/actress has their own subscription site and there is no apparent understanding of the consumption of the product. Tubes sites appeal to a huge audience because there is something on the sites to cater to a variety of kinks, fetishes and perversions, with actresses and actors to accommodate every taste variation from slim to large, blonde to brunette/redhead/or bald, any race and nationality.

Second, the porn industry is not Hollywood. The number of people watching porn for the storyline could probably be counted on one hand – if that hand wasn’t busy doing something else. Everything they produce is feature length and has flimsy plots that are frequently spoofs of mainstream films. Such production requires SIGNIFICANTLY higher costs and makes it more difficult to compete economically with a site that offers 10 minute, single scene clips that could be produced with minimal lighting and a cheap digital camera. If they have to try that hard to convince their target audience of the product’s value, then the product’s value isn’t what they think it is.

Finally, if they want to spend money on public affairs and public relations, they’re going about it all wrong. Rather than fighting tooth and nail for a sliver of a small pie, grow the market. Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends took their status as live-in girlfriends to an octogenarian and became authors, TV stars, and content producers. Jenna Jameson understood marketing on a level the porn industry had never seen. She took her notoriety as a porn start and expanded it out into a substantial media operation. She took her reputation as an adult film star and parlayed that into mainstream success.

The porn industry needs to think more like some of its stars and ask the question “How can we move beyond?”

Piracy forces producers to compete with their own product. If porn wants to compete with itself, it will need to reinvest in the innovation they displayed 15-20 years ago, reexamine the alignment of their product and the consumer, and start behaving like an $8 billion entertainment industry. When Amazon is selling sex toys, adult film stars are routinely making the transition to mainstream TV, and A-list actors are citing tube sites as one of the greatest accomplishments of the last 50 years, the industry has fundamentally changed from the days of magazine blackouts on convenience store shelves, curtains separating their content from the rest of the video store, and a product that nobody admitted to consuming.

It’s time they started acting like it and stopped running these pathetic “woe is us” campaigns and reprehensible legal efforts targeting the consumers they hope to attract.



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Written by Turk


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