opinion

Witnessing a New Dawn in Adult?

A.J. Hall

Last month I was asked by XBIZ to provide a short blurb for a magazine feature that asked the question: “What will the paysite market look like five years from now?”

What I said was, “I’m not expecting the adult site market to look drastically different in five years on a whole but anticipate seeing a much more clear divide between the vast majority of paysites and those that make up the vast majority of high-revenue earners.

Producers are beginning to branch out and spinoff new sites and new brands. Through experimentation the consumer audience is gaining new choices.

We’ll see less of the blur we see now and far more clarity of tiers, much like the gap between high school and college level and professional athletes. The level of play will be much higher at the A-tier level. Expect to see the phrase “adapt or die” being thrown around again as producers sink or swim in the sea of the next generation’s more experienced and more demanding customers.

It’s an interesting question and from where I sit as the co-founder of a CMS software company whose software manages a large number of paysites, I expect that the paysite market will be far more competitive five years from now, and also much, much larger.

Paysites are changing as we speak. The changes have been gradual so far but if you look at what’s been showcased on review sites the last couple of years and what’s being pushed most heavily on tube sites, the similarity leads one to assume that a certain content style, production quality and aesthetic is what’s converting the most easily based on general traffic.

By general traffic I mean non-niche specific and broad niches like hardcore in contrast to more granular fetishes or micro-niches like stockings or tattoo models.

I believe the single most significant shift will be one toward a consumer-driven market. Historically and even currently, producers drive the market and supply dictates more than demand. Users are forced to either buy what’s available or settle for what’s available to them for free.

The paradigm here is slowly changing as producers are beginning to branch out and spinoff new sites and new brands. Through experimentation the consumer audience is gaining new choices.

As one of the most in demand and more successful niches of the past 15 years, interracial porn is a really good example of this in effect.

Until recently, choice was largely controlled by the power players of the niche. Availability was dictated by a small handful of producers with the same proven scene setup, format, shooting style and using most of the same male talent that saturated the market. A consumer’s choice was to accept this, seek out amateur produced content (not so easily found) and only available in limited quantity from untrusted sources, or, not buy at all. A small group of 3-5 producers controlling a subsect of the paysite market is common in every popular niche.

The result is an “all or nothing” scenario for the customer rather than a “something for everyone” scenario which is what I believe we are slowly working toward and what I believe we will see dominate the marketplace in 5-10 years. I anticipate that we will reach a point where unlike the present, you’ll be able to search for something you’re into or are curious about and that search will be fruitful.

If you were into interracial sex, for example, but weren’t attracted to Shane Diesel or Jack Napier or Sean Michael’s or Lexington Steele or the small handful of other guys in just about every movie, you had no other choice.

If you searched online for porn for women or a hot movie to put on as date-night foreplay you were stuck only with “women’s porn” that went too far in one direction.

If you wanted to see group sex or a gang-bang where all the people were highly attractive and fit, magazine material models, you’d have needed to shoot it yourself.

Then a few years ago some speculative interracial production from studios like New Sensations, Jules Jordan and others began to trickle out. This was followed by some very realistic female fantasy and couple’s alternative lifestyle scenarios and shorter scenes that got to the action faster, with less repetitive action, scenes where everyone appeared to be “models” and not “porn people” and entirely new ventures with fresh faces. These things are going to be game-changers over the next several years.

Finally, it seems we are about to arrive. A woman can now see the pro-athlete/GQ model black guy she’s been fantasizing about. We can see couple’s porn with a wide variety of models and scenarios. We can see gangbangs shot only with fit, attractive men and where the woman looks to be enjoying herself. And now we can choose to see all this action both with, and without the woman being slapped, forced to gape, choked or spat on. It almost seems too good to be true…for the first time, we have choices that never existed before.

Consumers are finally driving the demand, a push that began with their refusal to continue paying for what’s offered in favor of settling for what’s free until something they really want is available for purchase. The proof in this lies in the success of new sites and new video series’ that are beginning to saturate the market.

Dotcoms like Babes, Blacked, Tushy, Tiny4k, FakeTaxi and several others have given us proof of concept. The days of a site needing hundreds of scenes to launch are over. Today’s demographic of porn customers have been trained by decades of high production value shows. They will tolerate less content volume, as long as it’s markedly “better” in their eyes.

Shows like “The Real World,” “Sex and the City,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Game of Thrones” have all taught us one thing: We eat up what’s relatable. If we can relate to it, it has the power to turn us on. If we look at what’s being promoted on review sites, tube sites and anywhere ads are shown we can draw the conclusion that plastic models with giant circus tits are no longer as popular as cute petite cute girls having sex with very good looking, very well-hung men and true fantasy-based porn with real-looking, good looking people. Fantasy becoming reality is on fire in both the porn and mainstream worlds alike.

Oddly, it seems that like all else retro, porn too is seeing old throwbacks come back in style, minus the bad hairstyles, crazy sideburns and untrimmed out of control bush, for now anyway.

The biggest question to ask may not be what will change in five years but, rather, why did it take us two decades of online porn to get to the point of thinking outside the box and realizing that just because consumers tolerate it, doesn’t mean it’s what they really want? The internet is no longer new. The novelty that led to the easy money of the late 1990s and early 2000s is long gone. If there’s one thing the free tubes have taught us, it’s that people will only pay if there’s something they really want.

Studios still put out DVDs, but as the benefit of padding scenes to boast a five-hour DVD loses out to the capability for a single, well-produced 15-20 minute scene to make hundreds of online sales, porn is getting exciting again. The days of fast forwarding through 10 minutes of dialogue followed by another 10 minutes of a boring, repetitive blowjob in a 30- or 50-minute scene will soon be behind us. I recently cancelled a membership on a big site and on the cancellation form it gave a list of 5 options for reasons to cancel. I was shocked that among the options like “Too Expensive” and “Slow Playback” was a button labeled “Site/Content is Boring.”

In five years most paysites will not be catering to the guy hiding in his room masturbating in secret. Paysites will be the backdrop of our erotic lives, the content we use to find new interests, explore fantasies, learn new things, please ourselves when we’re alone and act as the background to add more depth and excitement when we please our partners. What we will see in five years will be a marketplace of consumer choice, with more options than ever before. In five years you will no longer need to fast forward, in fact, you won’t want to.

What we’re experiencing now is the waiting game as those in control of the supply shift gears. Our industry operates on a five- to 10-year trend cycle so in five years we should see a lot of new and exciting things and a new influx of sites and content driving the paysite market forward with growth we haven’t seen in more than a decade.

As more fantasies begin to be translated to on-screen reality and producers see the financial benefit of stepping out of their comfort zone with consumer and fantasy driven production, gambling on the “less is more” mentality with shorter, higher value scenes, the number of choices will expand to where there will truly be something for everyone and I truly believe we will witness a new dawn in adult entertainment.

AJ Hall is a 16-year adult industry veteran, winner of the 2016 XBIZ Tech Leadership Award and CEO of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult site CMS software. Hall has spoken at industry trade shows and written for several trade publications. Elevated X software powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for more than a dozen industry awards and won the 2012, 2014 and 2015 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.

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