The Content Conundrum

Stephen Yagielowicz
I've got content on my mind this month – or more properly, the perception of content, both from the perspective of the producer – as well as that of the consumer. Specifically, what's gotten me thinking are a recent New York Times story about how high-definition video could be "too real" for porn, as well as an XBIZ community thread asking whether or not porn is "boring." Both of these issues raise questions about the very nature of our wares and deserve a closer look.

Let's tackle boredom first: The bottom line, the raison d'être of pornography, is to elicit a profound emotional response – and preferably one that leaves the viewer reaching for a towel – so how can it be "boring?"

While the presentation could be executed in a lackluster way, compelling content, despite the means by which it is delivered or way in which it is presented, still isn't boring, since at least in the online realm, collectors will tend to separate the media from the medium; for example, saving video clips or photos from FHGs. Removed from their presentation, the content itself is all that matters. Looking at it this way, a website might be boring but still feature "hot" content. Still, the overall perception could be that the site is boring.

So back to the content itself: is the depicted subject matter boring? That famous old saying, "different strokes for different folks," was never so aptly applied as to describe the tastes (and actions) of adult entertainment consumers. With this in mind, it stands to reason that someone who isn't interested in a certain type of material could find it boring. For example, some people can't get enough "balloon play" – but I find this material silly – and yes, boring.

Of course, even compelling content that is poorly executed can be boring, simply due to the way in which it is presented. For example, while you might really enjoy watching other people fuck, a 10-minute-long, static shot, looking straight up some strange dude's bouncing bunghole, is a boring execution of what in a much smaller dose might have been "exciting" content.

A lack of originality; a lack of interactivity; subject matter that doesn't push the viewer's buttons; substandard production values; inefficient compression and delivery mechanisms — all of these factors can contribute to boring porn, but in the end, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder – something that can easily be proven by spending a few minutes on a handful of image-based TGPs.

Does this mean that no matter how hot you think something is, someone else will find it boring? Yes! The trick is to mitigate as many of the problem areas in your content, thereby maximizing the number of people who find it exciting and minimizing the ranks of those who see it as a waste of bandwidth.

So how can you up your content's excitement level? Exclusivity and originality are two places to start. Everyone wants to see exactly what they're interested in. The first time that they see their specific little niche depicted, something new, unique and targeted – and they don't see this depiction all over the Internet – then there is definitely an elevated level of excitement associated with that content; especially if it has been rendered with an exceptional level of quality. Thus the first two ingredients of great content are satisfied, and all it takes is a little imagination and not sharing your content with your competitors.

Quality Begins With Talent
Quality is another matter, however, with several factors influencing the equation, including the photographer's (or videographer's) level of talent, experience, equipment, lighting skill, etc., etc. Beyond the initial acquisition is the editing, formatting, saving and distribution of the content – all of which are steps that can either improve, or hurt, the overall quality and excitement level of content.

One way in which many producers are trying to improve the quality and excitement of their productions is by making the move to high-definition video with its increased image size and sharpness, along with improved color and sound fidelity. Still photographers are likewise going hi-def by increasing the size, resolution and quality of their images — all of which is enabled by widespread and increasing broadband penetration.

While in a perfect world this makes perfect sense and indeed, is a necessary evolutionary step in some industrial markets; when dealing with people – often depicted at their most raw and vulnerable times – adult entertainment may not be the best application of today's ultra-resolution imaging technologies. After all, nobody wants to see some gnarly razor burn or an oozing wart, larger than life size, splashed across their expensive plasma screen television set.

And that's the rub: if the higher, more realistic quality is too realistic, then the fantasy is diminished and the quality of the experience, sub-par. If that level of reality is a turnoff, then even porn of the highest technical quality can thus be boring. The same thing can also be said for the opposite level of quality, for example, some of the amateur "dogging" videos making the rounds: if that level of reality is a turn-off, then porn of low technical quality can also be boring.

So is it all just a matter of balance? Of portraying talent in an "attractive" matter, even if it means, for example, that hi-def producers use filtering or post-production techniques to soften skin tones while maintaining that hi-def "edge," or less talented producers working harder to master their craft? Yeah, maybe, but what is for certain is that this balance will help contribute a solid foundation for exciting porn.

The bottom line from my own observations after a decade of porn is that no matter what the content is, someone will find it exciting, while someone else will find it boring. Learn how to avoid boredom in your porn and add the many considerations brought up here to your equations when evaluating your content. When in doubt, ask your customers what they think – is your porn boring or not? Their's is the only opinion that matter.