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The Internet’s Creative Destruction… Of Porn?

It turns out that pornography and journalism have even more in common than media critics think: the Internet is wrecking business models in both industries in similar ways.

The woes of journalism get the most ink. Lines upon lines have been written about the inexorable decline of the journalistic profession—most of them scribbled by nervous, hand-wringing journalists. The perceptive among them have the outlines of the story about right:

The Internet has undermined the authority of legacy media’s voice by empowering a large community of amateur bloggers who have not only been able to fact-check mainstream media claims in near real-time, but have in some cases been able to outdo the old organizations’ coverage of various stories in depth and nuance. Savvy news consumers realized that they could increasingly rely on these new media outlets to supplement and in some cases completely supplant the coverage of newspapers like the New York Times and cable news outlets like CNN and Fox News.

The Internet also gutted the value of advertising (and continues to do so relentlessly), as Google and other ad networks revealed just how ineffective most of it actually is. It used to be that companies wouldn’t flinch to drop several million dollars on campaigns in glossy magazines, convinced that the “eyeballs” passing over their slick branding were being converted into customers. With the advent of online analytics, and with conversions becoming a hard statistic rather than something measured through market surveys, this illusion became harder and harder to sustain.

Against this familiar backdrop, two interesting stories were published last week. The first, from The Guardiansketched out the tawdry decline of the porn industry in the Internet era. Lurid details aside, the significance of the story is that porn has always been a sort of technological canary in the coal mine—and it continues to be just that:

In essence, as with every other media evolution of the last 30 years, from VHS to DVDs to the birth of the internet, porn was once again leading the way, only this time into obsolescence.

The parallels sound familiar. Faced with stiff competition from pirated content and from amateurs posting their sexcapades on the web, professional pornographers and pornstars have seen their ability to make a living seriously challenged. Since the heyday of the early 2000s (Warning: blue language in this link), many of the porn production companies have been shuttered, and porn stars, looking at per scene payouts that top out at one third of their former heights, are increasingly using their film performances as calling cards for their main business: prostitution. (Journalists, for their part, are increasingly being made available for closed-door meetings with moneyed clients by media companies. In both cases, personal access is a difficult thing for the Internet to supplant.)

As go porn and print, so goes TV. A story by Henry Blodgett over at Business Insider makes the case that television is also about to have its first real encounter with the disruptive nature of the Internet and will follow closely in the footsteps trod by journalism (and porn) before it. Blodgett makes the persuasive case both from comparative trend analysis as well as from inductive reasoning based on his own changing consumption patterns. Do read the whole thing. His takeaway:

Bottom line, as it has in newspapers, the TV business is going to have to get radically more efficient. It won’t disappear—newspapers haven’t disappeared—but the fat and happy days will have to end.

Regular readers of Via Meadia will recognize this refrain by now. Leaner, meaner, and more efficient are the watchwords of the new economic order which is springing up all around us. Consumers, by and large, should be much better off with the change, as old cartels are broken up and individuals are able to pick and choose just what they want. It will be a painful and trying time for those who are unable or unwilling to adapt. But for those us of specifically involved in and devoted to new media (and specifically Via Meadia), it’s both a challenging and immensely exciting time to be alive and working.

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  • Chris

    The last point about TV collapsing; look at the numbers for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Nearly as many people downloaded it illegally as watched it on HBO in America (and that doesn’t factor in people who stream it illegally, putting the pirate numbers higher than the legal numbers). All while people are constantly shouting that they’d love to pay for the channel or show, individually, without paying for cable.

  • http://Gaboworld.blogspot.com Gabo

    Agreed. Too much hulla balloo over new media. I think it’s going to over all be a good things. Things may get fragmented but it will allow for more tailored news intake. 15 years ago I just read the times and that was it. Now I’m completely enriched by everything else. But how will it pay ?? We need to come up with a post-advertising model for revenue. Micro charging? I pay 2 dollars a month already for certain listservs and I think that may be the way out. For instance, Walter, if you charge 2.99 a month. I’d buy in. You must have at least 10,000 loyal followers ? I’m guessing. That’s a nice chunk of change.

  • Kansas Scott

    It’s really none of my business but this post reminds me that I have always wondered how Via Meadia finances itself. There is one ad showing on my page no other obvious revenue generator.

    Like I said, it’s none of my business other than it is in my self interests that this site remain healthy and viable.

  • Anthony

    WRM, core of Blodgett’s argument rests on user behavior and evolving traditional models of servicing. His overall article provides a general impression of information/entertainment/content world of digital delivery and its impact on traditional television. Inter alia, the creative destruction of capitalism may be at play.

  • Taeyeong

    Re: online advertising

    I wonder whether online advertising is sometimes counterproductive. I’ve noticed that the Obama campaign (or an affiliated PAC) has blanketed youtube with a huge volume of ads for the President, some of them incredibly long ads, and some of them timed so they’re short enough that you can’t just skip after 5 seconds (I think ads under 15 seconds are unskippable). I’m not the target market for the President, since my low opinion of him is pretty well locked in, but I can’t imagine anyone else is happy to have to watch a campaign ad, just so they can get to their videos of silly cats.

    Re: Chris:

    All while people are constantly shouting that they’d love to pay for the channel or show, individually, without paying for cable.

    I actually haven’t downloaded Game of Thrones illegally, but I would be willing to pay to stream it, if I didn’t have to pay for the channel or cable (I don’t have cable). I can watch it, just have to wait a year or so.

  • http://Inthisdimension.com Alex Scipio

    So this raises an interesting question or two or three.

    Those of us in tech & entertainment have long-recognized that, as noted here, Cable, VHS, DVD and now the Internet all have been supported in their early years by porn. Now that the porn/prostitution model is evolving (devolving?) to the denominator of the equation, what does that say about the model of politicians in this new world?

    No one is really sure which is the oldest profession, pros or pols, but the internet is changing both models quickly. I guess the hookers are smart enough to have figured this out.

  • Mrs. Davis

    No one is really sure which is the oldest profession, pros or pols, but the internet is changing both models quickly. I guess the hookers are smart enough to have figured this out.

    Well, it only costs $3 to have dinner with Anna, Sara Jessica and Baraq. The convergence at hand?

  • silia

    destruction of traditional porn industry, not porn itself which is more ubiquitous and widespread than ever.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    I’m glad the porn makers are being run out of business. You can’t compete with amateurs who do it for the love of it. 🙂

  • Eurydice

    If there’s one industry I’m not worried about, it’s porn. I remember reading somewhere that the very earliest examples of the Ancient Greek alphabet are erotic poems inscribed on pottery. Whatever the new technology, humans will figure out how to first use it for porn. 🙂

  • LarryReiser

    Adaptation on a firm foundation has always been a formula for success.Evolving methods and means of communication sharing of facts and opinions are signs that Liberty and Freedom are alive and well.

  • Gary L

    (Warning: blue language in this link)

    Does the blue language have any connection with the blue social model?

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