Peter Acworth knows his niche and sticks with it. So far, BDSM and bondage have done him well; the Kink.com CEO is one of the most explicit and cutting-edge adult producers to emerge in the last 20 years.
XBIZ asked the British expatriate his take on a number of hot topics in this Q&A.
The only way a condom mandatory law would work is if it applied internationally, otherwise producers will just move their productions.
XBIZ: You’re from England. Why did you venture off to the U.S.?
ACWORTH: I worked for Barings Bank as a Quantitative Analyst on a trading desk, and left that job to go to the U.S. to study a PhD in finance at Columbia University in New York city. While on summer vacation in 1996, I came across a newspaper article in The Sun newspaper entitled “Sicknote Fireman makes $250,000 pushing Internet Filth”.
I realized instantly that this article would change my life. I had always thought of the Internet as somewhat of a gimmick up until that point, but this guy was charging $50 for a few hundred images which didn’t even have thumbnails. While I didn’t care for the ‘filth’ he was selling, I was sure there was a market for the type of BDSM material I do like. So I left the PhD program and moved to San Francisco which I perceived as a very open minded city which embraces alternative thinking, especially when it comes to sexuality.
XBIZ: With the surge in BDSM (“Fifty Shades”) are you seeing a spike in couples/womens membership?
ACWORTH: I am delighted that “Fifty Shades of Grey” has been so successful, as it serves to demystify BDSM to the mainstream which I think is a very good thing, and part of kink.com’s mission. We periodically do a survey which identifies the gender breakdown of our customers, and we have a small, but growing and dedicated female fan base. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s been an increase, but we haven’t done this survey since the book’s release.
XBIZ: Are you from the belief that high-quality niche sites are the most profitable?
ACWORTH: I have found that the most important aspect of making a good site is for the people making the content to have a real passion for the type of material they will be producing. Bondage and BDSM sites have worked very well for us and we consider this our niche. We did venture into smaller niches but this was unsuccessful, for instance we tried a site called Pissing.com but realized that the number of people actually into this fetish is too small. So my advice is to find something that you are really into and focus on that, as there will inevitably be others who are also into that niche.
XBIZ: All Kink sites are optimized for mobile devices. How are mobile sales going?
ACWORTH: A quarter of our traffic is mobile and this number is growing — all of our sites are optimized for the mobile user. One big upcoming challenge is going to be streaming live content to mobile as Flash is no longer supported.
XBIZ: Is Kink planning on pursuing any more feature films (last one was the Private Real Swingers co-production)?
ACWORTH: We have no immediate plans to produce another DVD feature. Our expertise is in production for web and web distribution. Having said that, our directors have been increasing the quality of their work and have started to periodically make special feature shoots which are highlighted on the site. Such shoots often have narrative and are shot on the Canon 5d for added cinematic effect.
We are also interested in getting involved with mainstream film projects. For instance, About Cherry (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1945062/) was recently shot at our Studio, the San Francisco Armory, in collaboration with the producers. I would love to get involved with more projects which could go mainstream, especially horror movies, or screenplays of erotic novels that could be made in both R and X versions.
XBIZ: What’s your take on governments mandating condoms in porn productions?
ACWORTH: The last transmission of HIV from one performer to another was in 2004. The more recent cases reported were incidents of a performer catching HIV outside the industry and being identified prior to transmitting it to any other performers. To me, this is strong evidence that performer testing is effective and that mandating condoms is unnecessary. Essentially, I feel governments should spend taxpayers money on fighting HIV in communities where there is a genuine problem.
The only way a condom-mandatory law would work is if it applied internationally, otherwise producers will just move their productions. The possible effect of this is that production will move to an area which does not have strict testing protocols in place, thereby endangering the models.
XBIZ: How about peer-to-peer piracy and sites that poach other’s content?
ACWORTH: Certainly the amount of free content washing around the Internet has been a game changer. We are currently in a number of lawsuits against tube site operators who were not complying with the DMCA takedown process. Our strategy has been to add live programming and social features to our portfolio as these aspects cannot be pirated, i.e. you cannot completely reproduce the experience on a pirate site.
XBIZ: How are the sexuality workshops going?
ACWORTH: They’ve just started, but they’re going very well. We’re hoping to expand our community involvement even more. Ever since we bought the Armory, there has been a stream of people coming to the front door asking to look around, so we now host public tours. It is as a result of the success of the public tours that we decided to start the sexuality workshops program.
There is a large number of people who are curious about BDSM but unsure how to start. We want to act as a bridge for those people to the larger community. And we want to be a place where the more established BDSM community can learn, discuss and engage with one another.
XBIZ: Did the webcam model dispute go away?
ACWORTH: This is a process that has reminded us that we need to continually involve our models as we develop new business, and keep the lines of communication open. Our live product is going well, but it’s a been a learning curve. In fact, we are currently transitioning to a new cams product that we hope will give the models much more freedom and opportunity to be successful with us.
XBIZ: What other projects have you got going?
ACWORTH: I am delighted to say we are about to open a bar directly opposite the Armory! Additionally we have rehabilitated the Armory Drill Court with a view to hosting events there, one of which will be Bond Con 2013, a convention for the BDSM niche of adult entertainment and open to models, producers, vendors, and fans interested in workshops, social events, and an award ceremony.