Trend Watch: Tactics for 2011

Stephen Yagielowicz

As the new year gets well underway, many adult marketers, operators, webmasters — and even performers — are searching for renewed relevance as the industry hits a new tipping point; where a small handful of companies are increasingly dominating the scene and the once easy money enjoyed by a virtual army of affiliates has effectively dried up.

This situation has profoundly altered the website traffic and content production arenas — and indeed, consumer expectations as to what a premium adult website should look like, offer and cost.

For some, evolution may not be a case of having to reinvent the wheel, but of merely changing the direction in which it rolls…

This is not just an issue of “free and tubes” being the expectation, but the result of increasingly large program acquisitions, where the aforementioned small handful of adult enterprises own a greater and greater percentage of premium websites. As an operational efficiency, infrastructure items such as terms and conditions, privacy policy statements, contact forms and even site features such as navigational metaphors may be resculpted into a common format with a consistent appearance. In other words, as these huge site portfolios become more and more alike in terms of look, feel and function, consumer’s expectations are molded to perceive this as “the right way” for websites to offer porn.

While this may make it harder for “outsiders” to fit in, it makes it easier to stand out, for both good and bad — whether it is with a unique selling proposition that you hope will gain some traction with your audience, or as an attractive target for acquisition.

Without trying to sound trite, this is the essence of the “adapt or die” philosophy — of which many of the naysayers are no longer with us. Our history shows the effect that evolution has had over the years; just ask the dinosaurs.

For some, evolution may not be a case of having to reinvent the wheel, but of merely changing the direction in which it rolls…

For example, bringing adult videochat services to mobile devices has been touted as a profitable endeavor, but this typically has involved a stripped-down version of web chat, formatted to fit the smaller screen size of mobile devices. It took Apple’s iPhone 4 and its offering of a front-facing camera to bring effective two-way visual and duplex audio chat to mobile users in the mass market — renewing hopes for a new wave of game-changing consumer technologies based on the ability to actually see who you are talking to.

Apple’s FaceTime product immediately made a splash in adult, which garnered wide and immediate mainstream press coverage, but few real world examples.

XBIZ recently spoke to Travis Falstad of regarding the demand for adult FaceTime services.

“We started getting orders the moment we launched but there were only a few million people out there with Face-Time compatible devices (just the iPhone 4),” Falstad said. “Our customers were tech savvy people who saw our announcement on Cult of Mac but wouldn’t typically use adult chat services.”

“Our order volume has grown tremendously as the universe of FaceTime users has expanded to the tens of millions and our initial customers have become repeats,” Falstad added, offering that the company was confident that the customer demand would develop but its initial goal was to be first to market.

Being on the bleeding edge and serving a market of early adopters often means that special backend and customer service requirements will be involved with the rollout and initial operating phase — even when working with “big company” technologies.

“Probably our biggest challenge was finding a way to work with FaceTime itself,” Falstad intimated, offering that “there is no API and it can’t be easily incorporated into existing cam software.”

While the technological issues have been largely overcome, the economics remain uncertain for some operators, especially over the shortterm. The long-term prognosis is much more optimistic however, as next-generation consumers will come to expect this type of two-way video communication as “normal.”

Of course, advanced mobile videochat services are only one facet of adult in 2011.

By far the most newsworthy item in adult today is the legal environment, as a very controversial series of enduser lawsuits have been filed against individual file-sharers accused of willful copyright infringement and other crimes.

Taking a move from the music industry playbook, pirates are being pursued by adult content producers and rights-holders, but with mixed results, as some legal maneuvers have backfired — both in the actual courtroom, as well as in the court of public opinion; making “sue the bastards” not always as easy or profitable as some litigants would hope.

There’s another angle on the adult lawsuits story, however — at least potentially.

Over the past few years, I’ve discussed the growing use of litigation as a business model within the adult industry and it seems that some folks are taking it to heart, but in a way that could cause problems for the unwary — including some of you readers.

Now, for obvious reasons, I’m sure not going to point any fingers, but it’s clear that in at least some jurisdictions, being able to show that your business was directly harmed by someone’s online statements, such as a blog, tweet or message board post, can result in the awarding of cash money to the injured party — and rightfully so.

While adult webmasters are known for “erratic behavior,” there may be something more sinister than the stress of maintaining an excessive lifestyle in the face of dwindling profits that is driving some of the more dramatic public outbursts seen of late.

The good, the bad and the ugly — it’s not just the title of an old movie, it’s the adult entertainment industry today, where the “wild west” days of widespread opportunity are giving way to an era when once again a few corporate monoliths will drive the industry — and the exit plans of those being discarded may carry a poison pill.