LOS ANGELES — The man behind the upcoming sci-fi epic “Saving Humanity” got into the adult industry “by accident.”
“While studying for a Ph.D. in Marketing we looked at the Internet as a medium for conducting research and one of my classmates asked me if had looked at porn on the Internet,” AMKingdom owner Kim Nielsen told XBIZ.
“I hadn’t, but he gave me some URL’s to check out. I was not only amazed at the amount of traffic the adult sites got but also saw much room for improvement in terms of the way in which the market was segmented.”
Now almost 20 years after launching his flagship brand ATKingdom, Nielsen runs one of the most diverse networks of niche websites in adult. It’s that foundation that led to the creation of his feature-film division that is poised to release its second big-budget movie in the past three years on Sept. 30. Nielsen wrote and directed the film, which has received an Editor’s Choice from XBIZ.
In this exclusive interview, the versatile executive discusses his academic roots, his entrepreneurial track record and the message at the heart of “Saving Humanity.”
XBIZ: Where were you born and raised?
KN: I was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, the son of a Danish businessman and Chinese teacher of English as a foreign language. I grew up in Denmark, Africa, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore and went to high school in Oxford, England, before coming to the U.S. to study at university.
XBIZ: What is your professional background?
KN: After getting my MBA at the University of Michigan, I worked for General Motors for almost seven years. I started out as an analyst developing new techniques for conducting market research and then as the compact pickup truck and sport utility planner for GMC truck. And later I worked as Manager of Market Research for GMC Truck and Program Manager on the GMC Syclone and Typhoon trucks.
After I left GM out of frustration with the slow rate of implementation of ideas in a large corporation, I founded a company in Michigan that built engines for drag racing and other high-performance use as well as sold a full range of high-performance accessories.
After that I sold the business and went back to school to do a doctorate in Marketing and taught business courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and conducted research in the area of consumer information processing. I also had a business that marketed original Danish design in the U.S. for both consumer and commercial applications with showrooms in N.Y., Florida and West Hollywood.
XBIZ: When did you launch ATKingdom?
KN: In October of 1996.
XBIZ: What was your original vision for the company?
KN: ATKingdom was originally a reseller for other companies. I built free sites and worked on generating traffic that I sold to other companies/websites. I originally intended that this activity would supplement my stipend as a doctoral student.
However, I also felt I could do a better job than others of developing member’s areas. So I took the profits I made and began to buy licensed and custom content. My plan was to open my own member’s area in the long run and use mini sites sold through AVS (Adult Verification Systems) as a starting point, then combine them into a member’s area that I would market directly once I had enough content.
The two most popular niches at the time were ‘amateurs’ and ‘teens’ and so those two segments were to be the foundation of my website. I also decided that a slightly more high-glamour niche that is called ‘babes’ would form a third segment. My original segmentation therefore comprised ‘Amazing Amateurs,’ ‘Titillating Teens’ and ‘Beautiful Babes.’ Early on I decided that ATKingdom would only display women with natural breasts and a more ‘girl-next-door’ appearance.
XBIZ: How has ATKingdom evolved over the years?
KN: What started out as ATKingdom represents our network of free sites but expanded to develop AMKingdom, which oversees our network of pay sites. Our free sites generate the traffic that we upsell to our own pay sites as well as complementary pay sites that we don't own.
The target audience has stayed constant over the years. We promote content that appeals to people who prefer the girl-next-door appearance over the mainstream porn star appearance and we try to promote content that doesn't demean women and does not appeal to an audience that gets off on seeing women being degraded and demeaned.
We have also gone from one original pay site — the ATK Galleria, which was a megasite at the time, to several websites that now target different segments consistent with our overall mission. Several years ago we also moved into the DVD market and then more recently into the feature-movie market.
XBIZ: How many sites now make up the ATK Network?
KN: For pay sites we have, in order of creation:
ATK Natural and Hairy
We also manage the pay site “Aunt Judy's” for Offworld Media and more recently acquired management responsibility for the Kick Ass sites Foot Fetish Daily and Cum Eating Cuckolds.
We also run dozens of free sites within the ATKingdom network.
XBIZ: When did you begin expanding the network and adding sites?
KN: Our first pay site was the ATK Galleria, which was launched in 1997. This site was segmented by setting or theme so it contained a full range of models, from hairy to shaved to exotic, but was broken out by themes such as Up-skirts and Panties, Lingerie, Uniforms, Masturbation, Toys, etc.
However, about a year after its launch a rift developed between viewers who preferred shaved models and those who preferred unshaven models. So I split the site on that criteria and started ATK Natural and Hairy in 1998 which would feature models who at least had a full bush but might also include fully unshaven models with hairy armpits and legs.
The next split-off occurred when there appeared to be a conflict between viewers who wanted more models with ethnic backgrounds other than Caucasian models. So models of other ethnicities were allocated to ATK Exotics. ATK Premium followed with its emphasis on a more high-glamour presentation. By then our sites were so large and storage costs became a factor so we decided that older content would reside in a site called ATK Archives.
Then ATK Petites was started to feature models that were under 5 feet, 4 inches tall and under 110 pounds. Finally, less than two years ago I started ATK Girlfriends as a POV video-only site aimed at providing insights as to what it would be like to actually date or go on vacation with some of our most popular models. This site is unique in that I shoot all the content personally and perform as the male talent in all the POV scenes.
XBIZ: How do the sites complement each other?
KN: All our sites function to address consumer needs within our overall mission of promoting natural women to an audience who truly loves women and portray women in a positive manner. However, they also address different tastes based on physical attributes of the models or the mode of presentation.
KN: Quite simply, AMKingdom oversees our pay sites and ATKingdom focuses on our free sites.
XBIZ: How did the success of your first feature movie “Revenge of the Petites” in 2012 impact the studio/brand?
KN: As our first feature movie ROTP gave us credibility in the feature-movie market and also provided a positive halo for the rest of our DVD line and our websites. Producing a quality feature movie allowed us to strengthen our overall brand image in the marketplace by reinforcing our mission as a company and demonstrating our capabilities as a company to produce other products/services for our target audience.
XBIZ: What was the inspiration for “Saving Humanity?”
KN: I wanted to build on the success of ROTP and showcase adult industry talent in positive way with a meaningful message. Instead of the coming-of-age backdrop that was utilized in ROTP, I chose science fiction as the backdrop for ‘Saving Humanity.’
As with ROTP I drew inspiration from mainstream movies for the new film and wanted to improve on the level of screenplay, production and acting that we established with ROTP.
In ROTP we had a message that beauty comes in many different shapes and sizes and is more than skin deep. With ‘Saving Humanity’ the message is that if we don't change our ways we could ruin the planet we live in from both a physical and emotional standpoint. In both movies, women are the protagonists and heroines and the movies are clearly developed to appeal to both sexes in terms of audience.
XBIZ: What were the biggest challenges in making a movie as elaborate as “Saving Humanity?”
KN: Clearly, working on a limited budget provides a huge constraint. The paying adult market is shrinking and when you have to shoot over 10 script pages a day (as opposed to Hollywood’s 1 to 1.5 pages a day) and manage dozens of people on set and execute things in one or two takes you are forced to be extremely efficient and have to have adequate planning and prioritization to make things work.
XBIZ: How does it feel now that the finished product is almost ready to hit the street?
KN: It is both an inspiration and a relief. I am so excited about the movie because it's better than we expected after the conclusion of filming. It has been a wonderful team effort with taking the great footage shot by our DP Jinish Shah with all the coordination from Producer Manon Parisot, the special effects executed by Digital Dave and then have Mark Nicholas use all his experience as an editor and music composer bring the movie to life at a very high level.
There was a lot of stress involved along the way and I am thankful to have Melissa Campos and our staff at ATKingdom to help with coordinating our release strategy and Scott from Kick Ass Pictures to handle our distribution.
I am so excited to see how the movie is received because I truly believe it showcases some fantastic acting by our cast. It has been a long journey for us but I think the end result is commensurate with the effort put in by everyone on our team.
XBIZ: How would you characterize the current state of the porn biz?
KN: The overall environment is very difficult and fraught with challenges. I would say the industry has passed the maturity stage of the product/service life-cycle model and is in decline. Marginal revenues versus marginal costs are equalizing and it is difficult to make a profit for most players.
The number of players is down due to consolidation and exit from the industry. It is difficult to predict what factors may result in an upswing for the industry. It is likely to be impacted by technology change, but where the adult industry may have been more of an innovator in the past, I think this will come from firms outside of the adult arena.
XBIZ: How do you see the future of ATKingdom/AMKingdom? Will you continue to produce feature movies?
KN: I would like to see how ‘Saving Humanity’ does in the marketplace before making a decision. I think we will continue to operate in the feature-film space. I had planned for our next major feature movie to use an original horror-themed backdrop. But the level of execution would depend on how ‘Saving Humanity’ is received by the marketplace.
I am always trying to push the boundaries between adult and mainstream because I believe that feature movies that appeal to multiple emotions, including eroticism, should be a part of our landscape and obviously I believe in freedom of speech.
But whether the marketplace is willing to pay for such movies and will respect the copyright of the firms and artists that produce these works will have a major impact on how we proceed from here on out. There are also a multitude of social and government forces that can impact this sort of outcome and determine trends for the future.
XBIZ: What's the best part of your job?
KN: I am a conceptual person so I enjoy creating new approaches and concepts. This has been a characteristic of my work since my college days in whatever arena I was in. So I gain a lot of intrinsic satisfaction from working in these areas.
However I am also very focused on the customer and love to see positive feedback from the audience I am trying to satisfy. So creating the products and services we provide in accordance with our mission gives me a lot of pleasure from the processes involved in doing that, as well as the end result as measured by happy customers and business partners.
XBIZ: What are your hobbies?
KN: As a child I collected postage stamps and coins and enjoyed writing and watching movies. Today I really enjoy traveling, exploring the world and interacting with people.
Photo of Kim Nielsen by Marco Pallotti on the set of “Saving Humanity.”