Show Me the Money

Tom Hymes
I wrote this column for XBIZ World's billing issue, in which the vagaries of processing and transacting for adult products and services are laid bare for the edification of the industry, providing a full picture of a side of the business where, unfortunately, most of the really bad stuff happens, like ripping off consumers and fellow merchants for millions of .

It is not the sort of corrupt activity that tends to land people in jail, although it should be. In adult, people go to jail for producing content that was legal up until the moment a jury of their peers (LOL) tells them it no longer is; a pustule of a legal practice, if you ask me, a boil on the ass of our system of jurisprudence and every person who aids and abets it. And yet, it pales — pales! — in comparison to the dark side of money.

Billing, of course, also is the lifeblood of the industry. If money is the mother’s milk of politics, it is the sweet lube of porn. Nothing goes in or out without it. As an industry that more or less exists on the margins of society and profit, however, success is often a result of volume; few make a killing selling a small number of high-priced products; most sell a lot of lower or medium-priced things. As physical products move online, to either be experienced or distributed from there, profit margins have become even smaller. This is not unique to adult, but it certainly holds true for adult. There are huge upsides to the virtual life, like lower overhead, increased efficiency and data tracking, but the bottom line for many is the fact that they simply have been making less money selling the same volume of product that used to support them in the offline environment of the past.

They also are swimming with sharks. Online, if you can control a lot of traffic and also have the ability to enable financial transactions for that traffic, you are in a very good position to become a king among men, a whale among fish. Being in such a position does not guarantee success, riches and power, but one is better positioned to scoop up flakes of gold from a torrent of traffic that could conceivably flow for eons. This is the dream, the plan and the goal for some, anyway. Why go to the trouble of actually producing something if you can prosper off the production of others?

In such a pure capitalist environment, where a complex food chain of service providers demands an increasing slice of the pie, the question remains how much these slices are worth and who really deserves to get a piece, and the answers to that, it seems to me, are in a current, perhaps constant, state of flux. The problem, as I see it, is with the almost total lack of transparency within the process.

I’m not saying that everyone doesn’t know what’s really going on and the swiftness with which certain opportunities are exploited, because we hear about it and experience it sometimes for years before someone in a position to do something about it actually does. But more often than not, it is not we who fix our own problems, but the card association, through new or upheld rules, or government entities like the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, or Congress, through new or enforced laws or regulations. In the meantime, cumulative damage is done to the industry. How does that make sense to anyone who isn’t profiting from it?