They're Heeeere!

Tom Hymes
The adult Internet is about to get a lot more crowded. While it's been filling up for quite some time, a new influx of pornmongers is ramping up that may turn into a stampede. I'm not referring to consumer-made "pornographers" or traditional newbies, i.e. imports previously unassociated with the biz. I'm talking old school guys, authentic porn-studio honchos who actually know how to make shit, don't break out in hives in the presence of a flesh-and-blood porn star, and actually have some idea of what quality hardcore erotic entertainment is really all about.

The fact is, if you live within 50 miles of the San Fernando Valley, you regularly hear the studios' plaintive wail on the wispiest of breezes: "We're scared as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore!" The "it" of course is faltering DVD sales, which can no longer be brushed off as temporary, seasonal or the result of anything other than a profoundly and irrevocably changing marketplace.

For those who have been watching with vested interest the transition from a producer/distributor market to a consumer-driven market, the acceptance of this fact by experienced content producers both adult and mainstream has seemed as slow as molasses. Predictably, these producers have demonstrated all the characteristics of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief:

Denial (this isn't happening to me!)
Anger (why is this happening to me?)
Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
Depression (I don't care anymore)
Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)

Now, they are about to add another more proactive response to the list: Revenge. Complete, total, fucking retribution. They have finally embraced their inner Beales and are now mad as hell. Rather than fold up shop and slink back into whatever tar pit they originally crawled out from, many have begun to embrace the Internet with a single-minded focus that could prove very effective.

But there is another very big difference about what is happening now. This new what-might-be-called-a-trend is not about finding another revenue source on the Internet or handing lines off to a VOD provider who takes a cool 70 percent off the top. This is a sea change. This is about old school guys ceasing brick-and-mortar DVD distribution altogether and moving their content onto the web as their main business model. It's happening now, and when you speak with these guys you sense a lifting of tension and a commensurate optimism that only comes when someone has made a difficult decision.

So, how will these "newcomers" do in the tough world of affiliate marketing? It ain't brain surgery, after all. True, there are few elements to online commerce that one does not encounter in brick-and-mortar, but make no mistake; the reverse is also true, as many Internet-based content producers are finding out.

Some will fail, but many will not. They will partner up with solid affiliate programs, hire third-party companies to run their programs, or bring experienced affiliate managers in-house. All three pose potential problems, which is why I think many will opt for the last option. They may go through one or two people, but in the end those who are determined to create a lasting impression on the web will succeed no longer how long it takes.

The stakes are raising once again, my friends. A new round of branding wars is about to begin, and though I'm not smart enough to know who will come out on top, I don't think we can assume any company's dominance at this early juncture.

May the best brander win!