Webmaster Vault president Bill Moynihan, also known as pornJester, said that while many adult webmasters prospered during the early 2000s, no one in adult entertainment has the luxury of being complacent or taking his or her success for granted.
"While I believe that the adult industry rides the waves of recession better than others, we are also subject to certain elements that can cause a decline in overall business at times," Moynihan said. "Billing companies going under is a good example; also, revised Visa regulations or new obscenity laws affect the way we do business and can hit some companies pretty hard."
Moynihan said one of the reasons the adult industry remained generally healthy during the recession is because it paid close attention to foreign markets. The savvy adult webmaster, he said, has a customer base that consists of residents in both the United States and in porn-friendly countries that may not be experiencing a recession.
Foreign Soil Link
"Foreign markets are always important to the adult industry," Moynihan said. "Whether it's in times of recession or business is booming, there's a whole world out there that loves porn just as much as we do."
In September, CBS' "60 Minutes" reported that adult entertainment giant Vivid Entertainment had experienced "double-digit growth every year for the past five years." According to the CBS program, "consumers spent a billion dollars on Vivid products" in recession-plagued 2003. And if one believes in the theory of trickle-down economics - meaning that when the wealthy and affluent prosper, their profits ultimately benefit smaller businesses and "the little guy" - one could argue that the success of major companies like Vivid, Wicked and LFP Inc. is trickling down to America's smaller, "mom-and-pop" adult businesses.
One of those mom-and-pop outfits is Philadelphia-based Scorpio Adult Boutique & Video, a retailer that has been in business since 1973.
"I don't think the adult industry is so much recession-proof as recession-resistant," said Scorpio owner Tom Gorman, noting that while Scorpio and other independently owned adult stores have fared relatively well in tough economic times, adapting to changes in the marketplace, such as a general decline in magazine sales and a greater demand for DVDs, is always a challenge for small businesses.
"We have some individual magazines that still move," Gorman explained, "but if you compare the circulation of print magazines to what they were in the past, the numbers are way off. On the other hand, mag-packs are still a booming business - they're still one of our best sellers. The multipacks that usually contain one decent magazine and a couple of not-so-decent magazines packaged together for a single price still do very well for us."
Gorman added that because the Internet has become such a major part of the adult market, he sees Scorpio and similar stores doing more and more online business in the future. "I'm definitely planning to go full-throttle as far as making our website more of a retail site instead of just an information site," he said.
Gorman's colleague Kenny V. has been working at Scorpio since 1975, and whether the U.S. economy is experiencing a bull or bear market, he finds that consumers somehow manage to fit adult entertainment into their budgets. Kenny contends that when post-9/11 America was plagued by one troubling, disturbing headline after another, many of Scorpio's customers felt they needed adult-oriented material more than ever.
"Right now, there is a lot of pressure on everybody," Kenny said. "You have companies laying people off, you have terrorism, you have the war going on in Iraq; people are worrying more about everything, and porn is one way for them to relax. I've been working here for 30 years, and I've found that even when people have less money to spend, they'll always find a way to buy porn."
Philip Brandes, dean of the Adult Webmaster School in Southern California, shares Kenny V.'s view that adult entertainment enthusiasts generally maintain their enthusiasm during bear markets.
"A person's income is made up of disposable income and non-disposable income, disposable being a new TV or stereo, non-disposable being essential things like food, shelter and clothing," Brandes said. "Disposable income is spent on wants, non-disposable income is spent on needs, and even during a recession, people tend to think of sex as both a want and a need. So even if a person's disposable income goes down during a recession, they will tap into their non-disposable income to buy porn. People who put off buying a new stereo or TV during a recession will still find a way to obtain adult material."