They Give Us Fever

Erik Jay
We’re always asking what's hot” and “what's not.” Magazine articles typically follow sales figures and focus on the most popular performers and sites as measured by dollars, cents and mouse clicks. But this special focus takes the pulse of adult and looks at the fresh attitudes, new ideas and emerging trends bubbling to the surface of this creative cauldron we call adult entertainment so you, the decision maker, can take your own temperature.

Phoenix, Arizona, is known as the Valley of the Sun, and along with Miami is also becoming known as a new hot spot for porn production and adult business. Boasting a lower cost of living than Southern California, year round sunny weather and a desert full of isolated areas for outdoor shoots, Phoenix is poised to become a first-tier porn location in the U.S. Another bonus is nearby Lake Havasu, a spring break magnet for hot, sexcrazed college co-eds who, as the “Girls Gone Wild” videos clearly proved, can be coaxed into boy-girl, girl-girl and girlwhatever scenarios without much prompting.

Taryn Thomas, among the most in-demand hardcore performers until she left the business in 2007, returned to porn with a new firm, Taryn It Up Entertainment, headquartered in Phoenix.

“The adult business isn't what it used to be, especially in the San Fernando Valley,” Thomas told the Phoenix New Times in late 2009. “Some of the most successful adult sites in cyberspace are grounded here,” she added, likening Phoenix to a ''Little Porn Valley.'' In addition to production companies like Taryn It Up, the Top 10 adult site makes its home in Phoenix, with owner Buzz Aziani becoming something of a booster for the area.

California-based companies find shooting in Phoenix quite cost-effective. The area has a good supply of vacation rentals, scores of hotels, easy camera and computer rentals and performers that cost far less than in L.A. and San Fernando Valley. One possible downside is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a figure that runs a highly politicized, drug-war-obsessed, anti-porn and anti-immigrant department. Polls indicate Arpaio could win any election in Arizona that he cares to contest, at least today.

Miami is arguably Porn City Number Three behind the San Fernando Valley. Miami has had established adult industry players in movies, clubs, toys, Internet, telemarketing and finance as far back as the early 1990’s, at least. A decade and more ago, Cyber Entertainment Network towered over the newfangled Internet business from Ft. Lauderdale. South Beach Miami was a hotbed of every act-tivity known or capable of being invented, and new porn production centers were being planted all over the country. In more than a few places now, there's been a bountiful harvest.

Couples-oriented porn has been around forever, but with the continuing influx of women into the industry's executive suites and directors' chairs the genre is definitely trending up. The sensitivity that a woman brings to the creative mix cannot be counterfeited. “As a woman myself,” veteran writer/director Erica McLean says, “I like things colorful and fun, with sex that is interesting from a woman's perspective.”

The print issues and websites of today's mainstream women's magazines – Elle, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Vogue – are full of articles on everything from achieving better orgasms to picking the best porn to help the cause. McLean believes this points to increased acceptance of what was once dismissed as girly porn. “I want things to be interesting for men and women both,” she added, “but male execs often think customers just want to get off fast and cheap, which is why the Internet is so big. But there are different kinds of people, and people have different little parts, too.”

Serving those different kinds of people (and their different parts) is a growing number of women executives, directors and entrepreneurs. Candida Royalle, founder of Femme, was a successful performer who now makes porn for couples. Belladonna and Joanna Angel are brands, running their own firms as they make porn for everyone. Joy King, vice president of special projects at Wicked Pictures, and Samantha Lewis, a partner in Digital Playground, have worked long hours for a long time. Christie Hefner had run Playboy for years, and Danni Ashe built one of the first digital empires at the dawn of the world wide web. No one handed these ladies success. They pushed against the glass ceiling until it started to crack. Now other women are joining them in the effort [Ed.’s note: see April 2010 XBIZ Premiere, page 52 for the new breed of women pornographers] The industry owes all of its women a big “thank you” as they break through the ceiling entirely. It's about time.

One little-noticed trend is the growing use of financial, marketing and technology experts from outside the adult industry. This is due to a slow economy, the need for true bang for every buck and, perhaps especially, a desire for new perspectives.

David Sutton, president of industry stalwart VCX Ltd., has seen it all in his four decades in the business. When it comes to hiring full-time professionals, he said, “major MBA and technical types still avoid us like the plague. But on a consulting basis, everyone from wealth management professionals to mergers-and-acquisitions firms have absolutely no problem now taking our 'dirty money.'” Sutton noted that many banks still won't consider “accepting Internet receipts from known porn businesses,” while at the same time, “Nevada State Bank, owned by the Mormons, has no problem.”

Alexandra Taylor is an “outside consultant” herself, a public relations pro working with Metro, among others. She noted that “the adult biz has become claustrophobic in many ways” and wonders how any firm can “break free from the standard modes of [doing business] if we are all doing the same thing in the same way.” On the other hand, Taylor said, “Working with outside consultants can often feel like a breath of fresh air,” and the practice is “not only good, but essential.”

Brian S. Gross, a top industry PR maven, concurs. He noted that companies in every industry are “looking for cost-cutting initiatives to increase their bottom line. Adult entertainment is finding the same ways and means to keep their companies solid, and using specialized consultants has become common for those seeking shelter in this storm.”

A true polymath who writes, directs, produces, composes, records music, runs companies and proudly wears the label of “third generation pornographer,” Oren Cohen has known the adult business his whole life. “Our entire industry has changed drastically,” he said, “...and now you’re only as profitable as your last new release.” In addition to the perspective they bring, Cohen sees the economic rationale of using outsiders, as well. “Couple the tighter margins with California's inhospitable regulations” on every facet of employment and business, he said, and it is clear how “less staff in-house equals more. Your staff and operating overhead can move with the ebb and flow of your company's demands. An outside person or organization that specializes usually proves to be more effective than a halfassed in-house hire.”

A last, wry word on the subject can come from no better source than industry veteran James Avalon, a director who has survived every previous paradigm shift in good condition. A literate man who eschews the trappings of both celebrity and notoriety, he feigns ignorance of management expertise while noting (correctly) that consultants are a “cost vs. benefits decision” that might further separate haves from have-nots. “Small companies probably can't afford outside help,” Avalon opined, “and large companies probably can't afford not to use outside experts.”

Hot trends from years past are now standard industry practices. Others fizzled, as is happening right now as everyone’s waiting for the demise of the spoof fad — so many jumped on the bandwagon that the tires blew out. Only time will tell if elder porn, feminized executive suites and old-fashioned business discipline will move the industry forward, or become fodder for next year's “what's not hot” list.

Even today's best touchy-feely products, like RealTouch from AEBN, are nothing compared to what will pour out of haptics R&D in the next few years. Increasingly immersive technology and futuristic holographic displays will combine in all new kinds of ways for virtual sex. Of course, our current technology falls far short of being able to transfer our consciousness to an avatar, but progressively better facsimiles promise a pretty convincing counterfeit girlfriend in the next 20 years or so — what with advances in fake skin and musculature, and ever greater miniaturization of swiftly evolving sensor technology.

And let’s not forget about RealDolls and the recent additions of Wicked Pictures’ stars Jessica Drake and Alektra Blue likenesses that allow the consumer of these pricey love dolls to experience the closest thing available to having sex with a porn star. Technological advances over the next few years will create life-like avatars that will give new meaning to “hot products.

Even without haptic help, live webcam shows — or, more precisely, two-way-video interactions — are hot and getting hotter as technological advances keep knocking prices down on the exponentially more powerful devices we get as the technologies mature. Two-way video with cell phones is old news in Japan (the country is roughly the size of California) and it's coming here, too, but think how great the video chats will be on 24 to 30 inch monitors. With monitor technology also a hot spot of technological innovation and rapid progress, 22 to 24-inch LCD monitors are selling for around $100. When you look at what the panel makers themselves are planning to build, you will understand the trends of the last year, and see what's ahead. Watch for lots of big screens, a growing number of touch and more 3D screens with lower prices.

The Information Superhighway (do they still call it that?) is slowly getting some new lanes, of a whole different kind. DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) is a way to get greater and greater amounts of data to be sent at different frequencies, but simultaneously over a single line of fiber optic cable. Experts estimate that the available spectrum (carrying capacity) per fiber might increase by up to ten-fold in the next decade. Increasing the number of fiber optic cables is a much less daunting task, because of small size and big efficiency, than laying more copper cable. The process is currently rather costly, but as technologies mature costs tend to tumble. A single Megabyte of RAM was about $400 in the late 1980s. You can get 1000 times as much today for about a tenth of that amount.


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