opinion

My Take on Mobile Porn

Stephen Yagielowicz
From cave drawings to primitive figurines, early woodcuts to slick, glossy magazines, seedy theatres to DVD-powered home theaters with big-screen, high-definition displays, adult entertainment has taken many forms and has been delivered via many form factors over the past several thousand years.

The latest technological innovations in this arena surround the delivery of porn to mobile devices such as cellphones, iPods and PSPs — but is the promise of "porn to go" for the U.S. consumer merely marketing hype and wishful thinking on the part of mobile service providers, or is it truly the wave of the future? The answer depends on whom you ask.

On a personal level, one of the first things I did after purchasing both my Windows Mobile-powered cellphone and Sony PSP was to load porn onto them. Not because of some maniacal, sex-crazed desire to always have some porn at my fingertips, but because I was curious as to the type of adult entertainment "experience" that these devices actually offered.

While my cellphone's relatively tiny screen (about the size of the Video iPod's) was quite adequate for the task, the PSP's gorgeous widescreen display is simply stunning, offering sharp images and crisp video. The built-in Wi-Fi capability and internal web browser also make this an excellent platform for mobile web browsing, with my only complaint being a lack of "video out" capability, which would allow it to use a television set as a display.

While I have not purchased adult content for either device, I would be willing to, if the right offer came around. I've purchased Hollywood mainstream videos for the PSP and would also have purchased a game for my cellphone had the appropriate version for my phone been available. If I spent a lot of time commuting via public transportation, I would very likely purchase many more, including some adult titles.

Therein is the basis for much of my opinion about the future of mobile material: It's not a question of "is there a market for it?" but "what needs is this market seeking to satisfy?" and "what portion of the market am I targeting?"

Although I have formed my own opinions as to the value of purchasing adult content for mobile devices, I wanted to know what others think about it. Not industry marketers trying to hype their wares or the business they're in, but consumers — those potential customers for these products and services. What I found was a not-at-all unexpected generational gap.

My 15-year-old stepson Michael — while not of age to purchase adult content, mobile or otherwise — already has purchased mobile content in the form of games and ringtones and has expressed a willingness to make additional purchases. His friends, he said, also have purchased downloads for their cellphones. Price point is a major concern, however, with anything priced over $10 being an unlikely purchase for this age group. Doubtless this age group will become mobile porn consumers once they are of legal age.

For opinions closer to my age group, I asked my lovely wife Dawn as well as TGP guru Vendzilla if they were inclined to purchase mobile adult content. Both said no, but for different reasons.

While Dawn opined that most women "are more responsible with their money than that," she said she wouldn't pay for any online adult content due to a lack of perceived value, but she offered that adult magazines and other tangible items were another story.

"If I can hold it in my hands, then it has value to me," she said. "Magazines allow for this, but pictures on my cellphone don't — at least not in the same way."

Vendzilla's objection wasn't to the concept of paying for online adult content but to the format it came in.

"I'm weird like that," he said. "All I want in a phone is the basics. If I want porn, I'll wait until I can get home and take my pants off. I think there is a limited market for it, but for most, they will wait until they get home."

I do believe that age groups play a role in the equation. At the outer limits of the adult market space are folks who resisted the move to cable television service because they could see no value in paying for programming that they could get for free over the more traditional broadcast airwaves. However, younger generations raised on the programming choices made possible through cable and satellite systems and who are aware that these choices will cost money are philosophically conditioned to the concept of paying for content.

The middle ground includes those who had broadcast TV as children but had cable as teens or young adults and understand the value of paying for premium content. This group also includes early adopters of PC and Internet technologies who were raised on shareware and free online content.

But kids today understand the term "members only" and the fact that there's a cost for admission to the "club."

It's really a matter of how to use mobile adult content offerings, not if. But only time will tell if the reality lives up to the hype of the promise, at least for the domestic U.S. market. In the meantime, potential operators need only watch the Asian and European markets for clues as to what will work — and what won't.

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