opinion

16 Candles: Here’s to That Many Years of Employment

Q. Boyer

It was the summer of 1997, and I’d just returned from an exile of sorts, having completed a two-week suspension without pay, a sentence imposed on me by my then-employer, a small software company tucked into a particularly dusty and unforgiving corner of Arizona’s scorched desert terrain. The offense for which I was suspended was creating a (possibly too-effective) parody of the weekly report that my immediate superior published as part of his not-so-demanding, yet unwholesomely lucrative, position as the president of the company’s official brother-in-law.

This near-firing turned out to be a fateful episode, indeed — one that precipitated my transition into the online adult entertainment industry. It was, I assured myself, a short-term prospect, a bit of work experience that would keep me busy for a year or so, while I figured out what I was actually going to do when I grew up.

I remember telling a colleague (with confidence that bordered on smugness) that explicit, hardcore free porn on the Internet would soon be a thing of the past, at least within America’s borders.

My, how time flies.

In my newfound capacity as a marketer and promoter of online porn, one of my primary responsibilities was to serve as the voice of a character some of you industry old-timers might remember: Cap’n Smut, the curmudgeonly cartoon mascot of SmutLinks.com, an early link list and review site, and home of the coveted Smutseal, the official symbol of Cap’n Smut’s perverse approval.

What amazed me was the willingness on the part of many webmasters to make changes to their sites — sometimes significant and fundamental ones — just to get their hands on an “award” that was, quite frankly, merely an underhanded means of getting them to link back to SmutLinks from the home page of their site.

In my role as the Cap’n, I found myself fielding lots of questions, and being asked for lots of advice. In truth, my answers and counsel were uniformly terrible and laughably unfounded; I was a newbie myself, and at that point you could fit everything I knew about porn, the Internet and the adult industry into a shot glass — and still have room for the tequila.

Someone much wiser than me once said that we learn more from failure than success, more from losing than winning, and more from being wrong than being right. If that’s all true, then I must have learned a LOT in my years in this industry, because I have elevated being wrong, particularly in predictions about the future of the industry itself, to an erotic art form of its own.

Below is a (far from comprehensive) list of things I’ve been very, very wrong about over my years in the industry. In some cases, you can probably see why I projected the things that I did; in other cases, you’ll be tempted to conclude that I was actively smoking crack from a rusty Volkswagen tailpipe when I came up with these hairbrained notions. (You’d be wrong though; the tailpipe was from a Chrysler.)

Free Porn Online: This Can’t Last… Right?

I remember telling a colleague (with confidence that bordered on smugness) that explicit, hardcore free porn on the Internet would soon be a thing of the past, at least within America’s borders.

This was in 1998.

My reasoning, if you can call it that, was that since porn was not something you could just give away to anybody who strutted into an adult bookstore, 7/11, or airport magazine stand, it stood to reason that soon — very soon — the U.S. Congress would come up with a way to restrict American’s access to online porn, and require some measure of age verification be part of the process.

I never thought it would actually work, mind you (I’m dumb, but not that dumb), but I thought mandatory age verification would be foisted upon us, possibly even before the sun had set on the Clinton Administration, and it’s collection of fine, vagina-dipped cigars. Obviously, I was really, really, really wrong about that one. I suspect that a lot of people in the industry, at this point, wish I hadn’t been.

Nobody is Going to Watch Porn on a Cellphone!

Given that I basically won’t shut up these days about how important it is to have an effective mobile presence and strategy, you might be surprised to hear that I was once a huge mobile skeptic.

In my defense, this was back when the biggest mobile phone screen was about one square inch, and the so-called video delivered to it was more like a stuttering slide show that had been projected onto a postage stamp.

More than failing to anticipate what turned out to be a pretty rapid improvement in mobile technology, what I didn’t yet understand was the phenomenon of “good-enough technology.” What is good-enough technology? People much smarter and more accomplished than I discuss the phenomenon here: http://www.wired.com/gadgets/miscellaneous/magazine/17-09/ff_goodenough. The article is several years old now, but well worth reading, as the theory has held up to scrutiny, and the phenomenon continues to inform the market to this day.

The Big Shakeout

This one I wasn’t exactly wrong about; I was just wrong about when it would happen, and precisely why it would happen.

Back in 1999 or so, I looked around the market for adult entertainment and saw entirely too much success. Even companies run by people who were functionally illiterate drug addled uber-cretins were making money in the porn industry, by hook and/or crook. The low barrier to entry, the rapidly expanding user base, the total lack of regulation — it was all just a bit too easy, and I knew it couldn’t last.

What I anticipated was that as the space grew, new players would move in, entrepreneurs with a more solid business background, and a better sense of how to establish and execute a long term strategy, as opposed the Rip-and-Run-to-Thailand method that characterized some of the early online porn enterprises.

Fairly quickly, I thought, the New Professionals of Porn would elbow out the hobbyists, moonlighting software developers and wannabe cyber-mafiosos, replacing their shoddy enterprises with better run, higher profit, more legally sound businesses.

Uh ... yeah; not so much.

The Big Shakeout did indeed come, and dozens of adult enterprises have fallen by the wayside, but I don’t think I need to explain that this didn’t happen because mainstream fat cats descended upon us and established corporate powerhouses with which the rest of us could not compete. Instead, the industry appears to be collapsing under the weight of its own business myopia and favoring of expedience over ethos… but that’s a different rant, for a different day.

Marking my 16th anniversary in the adult industry with a cataloging of ways in which I’ve been dead wrong about it might seem like a strange way to go, but in watching and reading the industry news lately, I keep arriving at a new conclusion — and it’s one that I hope I’m just as wrong about as I was when I came to the conclusions described above: The American adult industry is on the verge of an ugly, messy and severe collapse, one filled with increasingly strict regulations, squandered mainstream acceptance, and even lower consumer trust than we have now.

On an unrelated note, who’s with me in thinking that the Steelers are an absolute lock to win their seventh Super Bowl this year?

A 16-year veteran of the online adult entertainment industry and long time XBIZ contributor, Q Boyer provides public relations, publicity, consulting and copywriting services to clients that range from adult website operators to mainstream brick and mortar businesses.

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