As a driver of technology, the adult entertainment industry (porn) generally gets little to no attention in the classrooms of the MCDM–and of the hundreds of sessions at SXSW Interactive, only two broached the subject. I don’t think we should be spending the majority of our time in courses and conferences focused on porn, but it’s a pretty big beast to ignore. With that in mind, I decided to start my third day at SXSW Interactive at “Porn’s Democratization: Opportunity & Risk Collide.”
The session was to be hosted by Quentin Boyer, Director of PR for Pink Visual. Considering his 15 years in the business and the laughs I got reading his piece for Huffington Post and the news about his company’s porn bunker for the upcoming apocalypse, I was looking forward to getting his perspective on the growth and changes of his industry.
I was the first to arrive for the 9:30 am talk at the Driskill Hotel. The session wasn’t listed on the daily run-down in the lobby, but my handy-dandy printed guide assured me it was happening in the Maximillian Room. And sure enough, the room was set-up and ready to go, and my badge was scanned for the porn talk.
Shortly after I sat down, another attendee entered and I played the good SXSW attendee role by walking over to say hi. I ended up introducing myself to Mr. Sid Grief, the President of AAA News and a board member of the Free Speech Coalition–the trade organization for the adult entertainment industry. We chatted for a bit and he assured me that Quentin was an excellent speaker and that he, too, was very much looking forward to the session. A few more attendees trickled in and the clock crept past 9:30. The SXSW volunteers and staff (who seriously rock) started getting antsy and checked in with their point person. After a few back and forths, reports slowly came in that this session had been cancelled earlier in the week after printing the schedules that had referred us all to the room.
Not letting the morning session go to waste, Mr. Grief invited the rest of the attendees to engage in a conversation with him instead. With nearly 40 years in the industry, he offered us all a treasure trove of insights into the business of porn. He walked us through his perspective on the last 40 years of history and turned the conversation towards a discussion of piracy and online distribution.
Instead of going after individual users of sites that host pirated content, the FSC has developed an approach that recognizes these users as their potential customers. Rather than alienate them with lawsuits, they opt to monetize those users. As a part of their Anti-Piracy Action Program, the FSC works with tube sites and has their spiders comb the sites for any pirated adult films. All content is digitally fingerprinted and can identify a clip in as little as 30 seconds. With the cooperation of tube sites, they then offer a short preview to whomever views the video with an offer to buy presented at the end.
Since the economic downturn and the impacts of piracy have hampered the industry’s budgets, they have not been as close to the cutting edge as in the past. But this sort of thinking, in regards to piracy, still strikes me as innovative. And even with the lack of funding for research and development, they still maintain a more open-minded approach than other copyrighted digital producers. The FSC, while not fully against it, publicly criticized SOPA and it’s potential harm to online businesses.
As the end of the hour drew near, Mr. Grief turned to the table and asked us what our thoughts were on the future for porn’s distribution online. With our discussion of piracy fresh, we considered the fact that people do not in fact like stealing nor want to be criminalized, but pirated material is so easy and accessible. I presented MP3s and iTunes as a potential example to learn from. Music is still being pirated and people can still find it, but when iTunes first offered downloadable high-quality music files for relatively cheap and made it easy to get, many people stopped stealing music and started buying it again. If Grief’s industry wants to stay afloat online and ahead of the pirates, the FSC should look for cheaper and more accessible ways to distribute adult videos online. A way that would guarantee quality content at an affordable price could potentially attract many users who are currently viewing pirated content.
If there was one thing I never thought I’d be doing at SXSW, I think that conversation might have been it.read more