Competitive & Innovative: The Porn & Publishing Industry

The introduction of technology has brought forth a change in business model for the porn and publishing industry. A business model that is unpredictable, never stagnant and always uncertain. Since technology is continuously developing, so too is pornography and publishing. What results is steep competition and incredible innovation as porn producers and traditional publishers find different avenues to entice their consumers while still making a profit.

From centuries ago to present day, technology has helped pornography flourish. With the rise of the printing press in Europe, erotic books such as The Sixteen Pleasures in 1527 gained popularity, increasing the general demand for printing. During World War I and II, soldiers’ desires for erotic photography and pulp novels drove both formats, helping lead to the widespread adoption of the paperback book. Telecommunication technologies in the late 1900s were abundant with pornography uses, from telephone to cable television to early computers (Pappas, 2010). When home videos developed, Video Home System (VHS) reigned (beating Betamax in the videotape format war) and was adopted by the porn industry. This eventually led to DVDs and their formats: HD DVD and Blu-ray. Currently, businesses in the porn industry “were among the first firms to use streaming video, e-commerce models, online security and digital rights management as they are employed today by mainstream companies” (Arellano, 2011). What ever new media technology there is, the porn industry is the testing ground for its success or failure. I truly believe that the porn industry is the entrepreneur of the internet because of the various services and applications that have come out of ‘testing’ and into mainstream business models to great success. Digital video streaming is currently the primary medium of porn distribution however, webcam pornography and virtual reality may be the ‘next big thing’ as businesses in the industry, large and small are experimenting. “The future is definitely bright for the industry…I believe adult entertainment can lead things as it has in the past” says Alec Helmy, president and publisher of XBIZ.com (Abram, 2015).

Helmy also says that the number of porn studios in the United States have decreased from over 200 to 20. Actors who used to make $1,500 an hour now get $500. Before the “tube” sites took off, worldwide industry revenues estimated at $40 billion to $50 billion (Abram, 2015). Moreover, data from FilmL.A.Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city of Los Angeles, shows that the number of permits in 2014 issued for X-rated productions decreased to 20 in comparison to 480 in 2012 (Verrier, 2014). This dramatic decrease goes hand in hand with the dramatic increase in views of free internet porn on the “tube” sites and subscription sites. When the internet makes pornography extremely easy to copy and share without official authorisation, why would you want to pay for something that is essentially, the same thing? In contrast, traditional books are still the primary medium for distribution, with the online world only taking a small percentage of sales. This small percentage however, is steadily increasing while traditional book sales are steadily decreasing.

The ultimate result of technology on the publishing industry is publishers must create a new business model specifically for the online world. Publishers currently still utilise their traditional business model for printed material, just less so because of the rise of ebooks and self-publishing. The prevalence of online “do-it-yourself” tools and applications such as CreateSpace and BookSurge allows users to create a brand around themselves and successfully publish online and printed books without the help of a traditional publisher who often administered this task (Bingham, 2015). One such author is Scott Nicholson, who has published over 70 books and sells them online through Amazon for the Kindle and other ereaders. “He handles the entire process himself” (Graham, 2012) and the lucrative 70% royalties on ebook sales attracts Nicholson and other authors more than the traditional publisher’s offer of 25% (Bingham, 2015). With that said, Amy-Mae Elliott says that “with the advent of e-books, social reading sites and simple digital self-publishing software and platforms, all that has changed. An increasing proportion of authors now actively choose to self-publish their work, giving them better control over their books’ rights, marketing, distribution and pricing” (Elliot, 2014). Moreover, editors and designers, are creating start-up businesses such as Gimp, Lightning Source and Wattpad catered towards content strategies for publishers and authors. These self-publishing tools, applications and businesses directed specifically for users to publish their own book diminishes the value of the traditional publisher as gatekeeper, annihilating them completely.

While technology has created new opportunities for the porn industry, it has simultaneously shaken its previous business model and stiffened competition. David Rosen from Salon Media Group identifies five factors contributing to the porn industry’s change in business model due to technology: (i) content piracy in the form of peer-to-peer file-sharing and user-generated content platforms; (ii) do-it-yourself (DIY) amateur porn videos; (iii) free porn sites known as “tube” sites, allowing any registered user to upload a video. The user is not held liable for copyright infringement so long as he or she complies with takedown notices from copyright owners; (iv) the resulting change in business economics; and (v) the ongoing recession with cuts discretionary spending (Rosen, 2013). These five factors have made the porn industry undergo a significant restructure of their business model, leading to the closure of many porn companies or downsizing and reduced pay for industry workers. Just like the publishing industry, the porn industry is trying to find its path to success and balance – embracing technology to ultimately satisfy its consumers while still keeping the industry profitable.

This is where porn producers must be innovative and grab their consumers’ attention long enough to peak their interest. Since “tube” sites are free, consumers are now less inclined to pay to watch pornography so competition in the marketplace understandably increases. High competition means more content, ultimately giving consumers a large and eclectic range to choose from. Numerous web hosting companies will not host porn-related content so those in pornography must work harder to get their projects in motion. Reputable institutions such as banks refuse to fund pornographic projects, no matter how promising and profitable said project may be. Moreover, crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe.com also refuse to publish porn-related campaigns – and if they do, they must meet a long list of guidelines. Because of this censorship, websites like CumFundMe.com have been created but do not receive as much attention (Rosen, 2013). I admire porn marketers because they have managed to make porn a phenomenon despite so many teams rioting against the work.

Traditional publishers, who already face competition from retail giants such as Amazon, must now also consider their competitive edge against the consumer. Not only can we see this through self-publishing platforms but also social computing applications such as the google chrome extension, Hypothesis. In this form of reading, the reader assumes the role of annotator, and thereby contributes to the work of the original author. In this sense, authorship is not overtly important, but the overall collaboration of the project is instead. Users of Hypothesis can add a tag to their annotations so they are easily searchable by other Hypothesis users. What emerges is a shared network and the development of a community from which both authors and users are able to grow an audience base and communicate upon.

Technology has also halted in-house marketing teams in porn production companies. The marketing teams responsible for promoting their stars have vanished for the most part in the porn industry. This means that marketing is now in the star’s hands, who must effectively self-promote. Whether it is via their website, blog, or social media accounts, these stars must self advertise to stay relevant and keep their fans and the wider community updated with their work projects (Verrier, 2014). Increasingly, we also see authors promoting their book(s) via social media. Actress and singer Lea Michele for example, released a book titled, You First last month. Prior to the release, she had been consistently posting images on her Instagram account of the themes of each chapter in and encouraging her fans to put #youfirst. Michele started her promotional campaign in June 2015 for a September 22, 2015 release. This gave her fans enough time to stay interested in You First while not getting bored. Although the fact that Michele is a celebrity is probably why she has such a big platform and influence, having the opportunity to do book signings and special appearances to promote her book. However, marketing for books are still heavily done the traditional way – via newspaper reviews and press releases.

What is clear is that the digital market is becoming the choice for consumers. Both porn producers and traditional publishers must compete in the same marketplace alongside people with little to no experience in their field of expertise and are able to attract and maintain an audience with free tools and platforms on the web. How traditional publishers or porn producers will fare in the future is uncertain but what they can do to offset the loss in offline sales is to find ways to take advantage of the online environment. One of the benefits of online stores is that there is no inventory cost so publishers and porn producers can make more of a profit selling backlist titles without worrying about stores returning their books or videos. Though they still have to keep their stock in warehouses or storage rooms, the amount published and stored is likely to decrease because online orders can give a better sense of how many copies are desired by customers. Traditional publishers and porn producers need to embrace non-traditional marketing methods and engage with their customers online in order to take full advantage of the digital market. Though they will have to contend with Amazon’s reign over book sales and the experimentation of up and coming technologies like virtual reality, workers can at least ensure that there is a place for their products in the digital world.

I believe that bookstores or video porn shops will not completely disappear. As long as readers and viewers continue to exist, so too will the demand for books and videos, in either print or digital. The traditional bookselling and pornography venues however, will diminish in capacity and the transition to a primarily digital market will change how books and pornography are produced and marketed. If publishers and porn producers can develop effective strategies to make use of the online world, the publishing and porn industry will continue. However, it will evolve into something that is no longer associated with what we now consider publishing and pornography.

Technology has innovated the way we read and watch videos. Watching and downloading videos online has never been so easy as the user is in control of what he or she watches instead of the user planning around a television schedule. Technology has publicised its users in likes, comments and shares, made documents and videos searchable and shareable, and brought forth debates on the changing state of reading and our relationship with text and videos. Two industries that have been greatly affected by technology is the porn and publishing industry. From how pornography or a book is created, manufactured, what forms they take, and the means by which they are distributed, discovered, and read or watched, technology has disrupted their previous business models as both industries face significant restructuring. The porn and publishing industry must now adapt to the changing technological times and rework their business models to stay relevant and up to date.

Reference List

Abram, S. (2015, January, 12). Porn industry still at home in San Fernando Valley despite condom laws, Web, piracy. Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20150112/porn-industry-still-at-home-in-san-fernando-valley-despite-condom-laws-web-piracy

Arellano, N. (2011, May 30). Adult content sites battle piracy, innovate porn. itbusiness.ca. Retrieved from http://www.itbusiness.ca/news/adult-content-sites-battle-piracy-innovate-porn/16330

Bingham, H. (2015, February 05). Why Authors Walk Away From Good, Big 5 Publishers. Jane Friedman. Retrieved from https://janefriedman.com/walk-away-good-big-5-publishers/

Elliot, A.M. (2014, February 09). People-Powered Publishing Is Changing All the Rules. Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2014/02/09/self-publishing-digital/#92UyoAfW1sqY

Graham, J. (2012, February 15). New tools make self-publishing e-books easier. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/talkingtech/story/2012-02-14/ebook-self-publishing/53097762/1

Pappas, S. (2010, October 11). The History of Pornography No More Prudish Than the Present. Live Science. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/8748-history-pornography-prudish-present.html

Rosen. D. (2013, May 30). Is the Internet killing the porn industry?. Salon. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2013/05/30/is_success_killing_the_porn_industry_partner/

Verrier, R. (2014, August 06). On Location Porn production plummets in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-onlocation-la-porn-industry-20140806-story.html

5 Comments

  1. I felt like you had a pretty good paper overall however I felt there were a few things that could have been discussed or presented in further detail. I felt as if the main comparison between the two industries were how the content is now moving primarily to the digital realm and how this endangers physical sales as well as the amount of money going towards those involved with the creation of the content. You mentioned that the emergence of ‘tube sites’ have made consumers less inclined to purchase material which I agreed with, but I believe you could have maybe mentioned the subscription services that big producers in the porn industries have been implementing. It would have been beneficial to show us if online subscriptions were a rising or falling practice among consumers and why. You could have then also compared the subscription plans Amazon and other companies have created for e-books. As far as I am concerned, subscription services for e-books have not been doing very well and even though books are able to be pirated, people still purchase books online and in store. You talked a little about how the retail stores are at a disadvantaged compared to the digital market, which I agree with. We all know that the traditional book store is in trouble, however being a read who does not know what the inside of a ‘porn shop’ looks like other than from what I see in movies, I believe it would have helped to confirm that the sale of pornographic videos were the main product that these stores relied on for sales. I would imagine porn shops have been in the last decade ever since streaming and downloading became available that they would rely on other products to be their bread and butter like sex toys, condoms, costumes, etc. I could definitely be wrong in my assumption, but a little confirmation would have helped.

    Also I think it would have been a little helpful if you could have somehow distinguished in more detail why you are speaking about the porn industry and not the movie industry for example. I felt like many points and arguments (which are all very solid) I could have replaced “porn” with “movies”. Furthermore while discussing technology and how it advances the industries, I felt like there could have been a neat opportunity to discuss how one pornographic company (I forget which one) as a marketing stunt, wanted to film the world’s first porno in space. You mentioned in y our conclusion that the porn and publishing industry now has to adapt and restructure themselves to survive with the ever advancing technology we are creating; You definitely could have used that to speak about different ideas the two industries have been coming up with to stay in the game, like the porn in space idea.

    Overall I did think it was a good paper!

    • This review offers some good points of critique, but does so in a fairly disorganized fashion. It focuses on individual elements, but does not take a view of the essay as a whole. Doing so might have helped the reviewer organize their thoughts.

  2. A very interesting and intriguing choice of topic! In your essay, you make some very interesting observations about the publishing industry and the porn industry. Your writing style is clear and straightforward. There are only very few grammatical errors (some commas and some singular/plural mix-ups).

    I think you chose a good range of sources and the fact that you linked your in-text citations back to the original sources was very useful. You could also have included hyperlinks in your reference list.

    You could have defined the publishing industry and the porn industry more clearly. The publishing industry is made up of so many sub-industries and it seems you are talking about traditional book publishing for the most part. However, your discussion of Hypothes.is seems out of context then, as this is a tool I’d associate more with academic publishing and the blogosphere. Additionally, most of your readers most likely have a background in publishing and don’t necessarily know much about the porn industry, so it might have been useful to provide a little bit more of an introduction (what defines a porn producer, a distributor, a studio? What is a tube site?).

    You open with saying that technological change has rendered porn and publishing business models “unpredictable, never stagnant and always uncertain” and that technological change has led to “steep competition and incredible innovation” which has led porn producers and traditional publishers to “find different avenues to entice their consumers”. Your introduction suggests that you will be discussing the unpredictability of the industries, which you do not do (in fact, you state the opposite when you talk about online sales being especially predictable). You make some very valid points about competition. As for innovation, you could have gone beyond stating that innovation will be required of publishers and pornography producers in order to adapt to technological changes, by suggesting how they have done this or might do this in the future. You also discuss some valuable points, such as differences in marketing, that you could have included in the introduction.

    You dedicated a much larger portion of your essay to discussing the porn industry, and I think a more balanced treatment could have improved your essay, especially in the context of this course.

    Some of your claims should have been backed up by statistics, for example when you state that online sales only account for a small but increasing percentage of sales and that traditional book sales are decreasing. Where you provided statistical information, it was very effective and I especially enjoyed your use of a personal example when you discussed self-publishing. You made clear how this example of one self-published author is generalizable to self-publishing at large.

    Overall, your argument could have been a little more structured. You could have made the reading experience a bit easier by providing stronger topic sentences, helping the reader navigate through your argument. I think you have many valid points, I especially liked what you had to say about competition, but your communication of these points would have been much stronger with a clearer organization of your thoughts.

    Your conclusion could have been your opportunity to really tie your argument together and summarize any points of convergence and divergence between the industries that you have discussed in your essay. It seems that instead you almost reworked the essay prompt into a conclusion. You also introduce some new points here, which you did not cover in your essay, which was not necessary – I really liked your focus on a few consequences of technological change. What I really like about your conclusion is that you provide an outlook regarding the future of the industries.

    • This review offers some very solid and constructive critique, as well as a range of suggestions for improvements. It also offers comments on its structure, form, and content, again, all with useful suggestions for improvement. I tend to prefer essays not follow a paragraph-by-paragraph approach to comments, as this often misses the chance to comment on the structural flaws, but this was fortunately not the case here.

  3. This essay offers a very titillating (!) thesis near the beginning: that the porn industry is a predictor of what will happen in the publishing industry. However, this thesis is unfortunately not explored further. Instead, the author goes in several different directions without a very clear driving thread to pull them together. The less ambitious thesis, that the business models will change, is explored, but without a driving argument to explain it. While good examples are offered throughout, these could be better tied together and explained.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2019 nsewhoy. Unless otherwise noted, all material on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Theme by Anders Noren

Up ↑