opinion

Searching for a New Business Model

Q. Boyer

For several years now, people have been wondering what the “next big thing” in porn will be.

Understandably, much of this conversation has focused on making money the old-fashioned way, by selling porn, or the slightly-less-old-fashioned way of giving porn away using the ad-supported revenue model.

Finding equivalence between porn and heroin requires us to ignore the fundamental difference between that which we merely observe and that which we literally consume.

Personally, I think the full potential of those approaches has been reached, and now it’s time to think way outside the box. Now is the time for a whole new business model — the “porn rehabilitation” business model.

How can the porn industry make money off porn rehab, you ask? It’s going to be much, much easier than you might think.

Whether it’s the recovering alcoholic mentoring a younger drinker trying to go sober, or the former heroin junkie turned high-end rehab center entrepreneur, the arena of substance abuse treatment is filled with those who speak from experience. Reasoning that nobody else can understand their struggle quite like someone who has already lived it, many addicts are comforted by the presence of those who have made the long, hard slog through the recovery process and lived to tell the tale.

While the notion of “porn addiction” remains controversial within the medical community, an increasing number of studies are being published that draw comparisons and parallels between compulsive porn consumption and substance abuse, including a recent University of Cambridge study. Flawed or not, the mere presence of these studies is adding credence to the idea of porn addiction, and planting potentially useful seeds in the minds of consumers in the process.

Thus far, there hasn’t been the sort commercialization of pornography rehabilitation that we see in the area of drug and alcohol rehab. Individual counselors and treatment centers have begun to include porn addiction as something they treat under the general umbrella of their sex addiction therapy, but so far as I’m aware, there are no dedicated porn rehab centers. Movements like Fight the New Drug are out there, but their services are free, and they seem to function more as support and discussion groups than as true treatment centers.

In the old days, when I read about porn addiction, the most prominent effect it had was to annoy me. Porn addiction struck me as a fundamentally ludicrous proposition, one that trivialized true physical and chemical addictions. If compulsive porn viewers are “addicted” to anything, after all, it’s the endorphins produced by their own bodies; porn simply isn’t a substance that your body processes, breaks down, or absorbs in the same way it does a drug. Finding equivalence between porn and heroin requires us to ignore the fundamental difference between that which we merely observe and that which we literally consume.

These days, I read articles about porn addiction differently; these days when I read them, I see dollar signs.

I see Ron Jeremy sitting at a large polished wood desk, hands folded, wearing a suit and tie, speaking earnestly to the camera about the vicious cycle of porn addiction, and how he finally broke it through a revolutionary new treatment regimen — a regimen that you too will benefit from when you check in to the Jeremy Center for Sexual Wellness. In the background as Ron speaks, somber string music will gradually morph into an upbeat rhythm, exploding with an uplifting, gospel-style chorale right as Ron gets to the part about how beating your addiction will yield a New You, one that is ready to take on the world and live the good life; the Porn-Free Life.

I also picture a series of people, identified by first name and last initial, talking in full minute, prime-time ad slots about how depraved and miserable they were before checking into the Alvin Goldstein Memorial Porn-Rehabilitation Institute.

“I was spending 11 hours a day sitting at my laptop downloading double-penetration videos while my children played with matches in our gas-soaked garage,” Austin F. will say, his voice quivering with each syllable.

“With the help of the Alvin Goldstein Institute, I’ve committed my life to following the teachings of Jesus Christ, being a great father…. and using only child-safe lighters.”

Just like the former addicts and recovering alcoholics who serve as the critical engine of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation industry locomotive, the porn industry is uniquely well-positioned to understand the debilitating nature of porn addiction. At the moment, we are to the public’s “prurient interest” what Walter White was to the meth-heads of fictional Albuquerque, but transforming ourselves into the Pax Prentiss of Porn won’t be difficult; it will just require a few traits that the adult industry is already famous for, like greed, cynicism, opportunism and utterly mind-blowing shamelessness.

The transition to monetizing the porn rehab model would start with a few prominent members of the industry having a revelation that porn is bad, and a corresponding Moment of Inspiration when they publicly proclaim that from that day forward, they will commit themselves to helping porn addicts recover from their debilitating disorder — all in the name of redeeming themselves, helping other addicts and “giving back to the community,” naturally.

Then comes the really good part: for once, we get to use the words of the industry’s harshest critics for our own gain!

Drawing on statements made by organizations like Morality in Media and Porn Harms, we will fashion attention-grabbing marketing text proclaiming the many and harrowing capital-T Truths about what watching porn does to people, from eliminating the ability to control their sexual urges and filling them with spite for their mothers, to shrinking their brains and causing hair to grow on their knuckles. It matters not one whit whether any of these claims are true; the important thing is that we say them loudly, with conviction, and with at least a hint of a tear in our eye.

Sure, there will be competitors trying to fashion the same sort of approach-to-market who hail from outside the porn industry, but we have something they don’t: traffic!

Using our already popular platforms, from tube sites to webcam networks, I’m confident we can get the word out about the Dangers of Porn much faster and more effectively than a bunch of tech-challenged Christian crusaders like the luddites over at Morality in Media. To make sure our message is heard, we will insert advertisements for our porn rehab centers directly into porn videos — perhaps displaying them right before the money shot, when the viewer’s attention is most tightly focused.

The best part about the porn rehab center business model is the per-unit spend on the part of the targeted consumer. Forget about trying to get one out of every 500 visitors to plunk down a lousy $25 or $30 for a subscription adult site membership; these rehab courses are going to run at least a cool $25,000, so even if you only convert one in ten thousand visitors, you’re coming out way ahead!

Operationally, running porn rehab centers will be a piece of cake compared to a drug or alcohol rehab center. Kicking porn addiction doesn’t result in delirium tremens like you see in drunks, or the sort of kicking, screaming, flesh-rending or puking associated with quitting heroin cold turkey. You also don’t have to worry about the cost of supplying something like methadone — although it might be prudent to keep a few copies of the Victoria’s Secret catalog around as a form of optional “stepdown” therapy.

Mark my words: the pornography rehabilitation business model is coming. The only real question here is whether the adult entertainment industry is satisfied with being the wellspring of that model’s revenue, or whether we want to get in on some of that action for ourselves.

It has often been said that if you aren’t part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem, but the porn rehab concept gives us the unique opportunity to be part of the solution and part of the problem — a position means we’ll be making money, cumming and going, as it were.

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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