GETTING OFFLINE

The porn industry is putting skin back in the game

In the early days, porn companies were among the few profitable ventures online. However, in recent years it’s been reported free online content is killing the porn industry. A Huffington Post story estimated 80% of porn companies have gone defunct or have struggled since the industry’s $13 billion to $15 billion peak in the mid-2000s.

But before assuming industry revenue will continue declining, remember that porn has always been a leader at adapting to changing business climates. In fact, it’s because of porn’s early adoption prowess that technologies like the VCR, e-commerce, and library archiving materials even caught on.

Porn companies adapting to new conditions mirror what’s happened in other industries who’ve struggled in the digital world. To stem losses from decline in advertising, media companies began hosting conferences and other live events. When file sharing brought declines in recorded music sales, the industry put more resources into concerts, which saw revenue triple from $1.5 billion in 1999 to $4.6 billion in 2009.

To become more profitable, Playboy reduced the company’s size and focused more on licensing rather than merely producing more content. As video sales drop, porn companies that rely on original content must find ways to create other revenue streams. These examples show how some porn companies are shifting away from recorded content, which is easily pirated or distributed freely, to selling goods or interactive experiences, which are not easily duplicated.

Getting into education

For a while companies like sex toy, contraceptive and pornography distributor Adam & Eve have sold instructional videos. And sex shops and community groups have offered in-person educational classes. The fetish-themed BDSM website Kink.com plans to combine these two aspects with its launch of Kink University, which is expected to open June 30.

Kink U will host a combination of in-person and online workshops focusing on sex techniques (eg: rope bondage and spanking) and philosophical topics (e.g. the spiritual aspects of fetishes). “It will be a good blend of ‘how-to’ and ‘woo-woo,’” said the Dean of Kink U, a man who goes by Danarama. There’s also plans to develop a course curriculum with proctored tests where customers could earn “Kink U verification.”

Sell novelty goods

Since the recession, adult entertainment companies have expanded sales of sex toys. While Playboy has long had a marketplace, companies less known outside the adult world such as Evil Angel have also expanded into selling clothing and sex toys. Adam & Eve and Hustler even have brick and mortar stores.

Open drinking establishments

Vivid has gentlemen’s and cabaret clubs. As does Penthouse. Kink has a cocktail bar called The Armory Club, which serves fetish-themed drinks.

Live camming

Streaming live webcam feeds have become quite profitable for porn companies—a A rep for Adult Webmaster Empire estimates industry revenue between $1.5-$2 billion annually. According to Ogi Ogas, co-author of Billion Wicked Thoughts, webcam site LiveJasmin “is the most popular adult site on the web by a huge margin.”

Radio stations

Both Vivid and Playboy have started radio stations to expand their brand. Listeners can get sex advice from relationship therapists, hear about research from sexologists, and tune in to shows hosted by rock and porn stars.

Create custom porn

Another way the porn industry is trying to save itself is by getting more personal. Customs4you.com allows customers to pay for their own individual movies where porn stars shout their names and do what they desire. Customers negotiate on price and ownership.

Host events

Kink got attention for hosting a political fundraiser last month at its Armory Club bar in San Francisco for California Assembly candidate David Campos. The company is now working on putting together more high-end events, such a $1,000 a head “foot party” where customers can get trampled, eat whipped cream off toes, sniff, massage and lather up actresses’ feet in a black-tie catered ballroom setting.

Follow Ross on Twitter @RossBenes. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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