Can porn survive as a commodity?

The adult industry needs to embrace interactive porn to strive and survive.

The adult industry needs to embrace interactive porn to strive and survive. Webcam sex might well save what's left of the business.

Porn has become a commodity. Like any other product, porn has a lifecycle, and it’s quickly approaching a point where it’s availability is so pervasive that people will stop paying for access to it. And once that happens, the industry will once again have to re-invent itself in order to survive.

The modern era of porn started with magazines; Playboy ushered in Penthouse, which then led to more graphic publications such as Hustler. Times were good, but as we all know, nothing last forever. As new technologies are unveiled, they often disrupt existing business models. Nowhere is that more evident than in the adult industry.

The advent of the VCR was the first major disruptive force to affect the adult industry. The migration from static pictures to full motion video had already taken place in movie houses, but it’s the VCR that allowed consumers to enjoy porn in the privacy or their own home. The adult  industry adapted and made considerable profits from the sale of VHS videos.

The internet, and more specifically – digital distribution, was the next disruptive force to affect the industry. The internet replaced the need to travel to a store to rent or buy a video. It provided the consumer with a much larger variety of adult content with the benefit of an on demand delivery  platform. Once again, the industry adapted and profits soared.

That’s when adult industry profits quickly went down the tubes (no pun intended). As a content delivery mechanism, the internet had become a little too successful. Digital distribution was implemented in large part without any concern for digital rights management, which in turn led to massive content piracy and the emergence of tube sites. These developments represent a significant disruption to existing revenue streams, the effects of which will no doubt trickle down to adult content producers.

The adult industry now faces two challenges. The first is to stem the decline in online revenue by adopting effective digital rights management and actively pursuing tubes sites who pirate copyrighted material. I’m of the opinion that the current state of lax DRM, rampant piracy and the absence of effective legislation to prosecute bootleggers is a temporary phenomenon. Technology and laws will evolve over time to address these issues. It won’t happen overnight, but the issue will be resolved.

The second challenge for the adult industry will be to embrace all forms of interactive adult entertainment. Porn is evolving from a passive consumption model to an interactive one where consumers engage in real time sex encounters as active participants. They will still watch per-recorded porn if they can get it for free, but by the same measure, will be willing to pay for a real time encounter with other live participants. This will be the next source of significant revenues for the adult industry. It will also be a boon for the webcam sex industry, and independent cam girls who are savvy enough to offer their own payment processing.

All of which leads us to the big question?  What will be the next disruptive technology to shake up the adult industry. My guess is a combination of robotics and tactile stimulation. We’ve tapped out porn as both a visual and auditory experience. But sex isn’t just about sights and sounds. It’s mostly about our sense of touch, and that will be the next big frontier in adult entertainment. It will also prove to be one of the most technically challenging, yet lucrative niches to be exploited. The idea of allowing a stranger to touch and stimulate our bodies in a safe and consensual manner will allow participants to experience cyber sex on a whole new level. Remote controlled massage anyone? It might seem far fetched, but I think it might be closer than we think. We’re already seeing cam girls with remote controlled symbians and dildo machines; it’s just a matter of time until similar technologies are used to stimulate the client instead of the performer.

So there you have it. The adult industry isn’t dying, but it is evolving and being transformed by the fast pace of technological developments. Hang on to your hats, the next 10 years will be very interesting for consumers of adult entertainment.

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