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The Power of Porn

April 24, 2010, 11:02 AM
Porn-posters

Do you frequent porn sites? If you do, you’ll be pleased to know that you are a customer of one of the most tech-savvy industries in the world. It’s a well-known secret that porn is the Apple of adult content, always thinking of innovative ways to provide the most intimate and real-time pleasurable experience possible.

In the era of Google valued at over $170 billion, it is easy to forget that it was the porn industry that first figured out how to make money on the newly minted Internet while every other startup struggled to monetize its web presence. In its toddler years, the Internet’s popularity was single-handedly fueled by the porn industry which flooded it with easy-to-access adult content using features such as embedded video, live-streaming, credit card payment, encryption, chat rooms, and membership plans. Of course,

But CEOs of porn companies would scoff at this narrow appreciation of their ingenuity: they’ve been leading the adoption of new technology from instant cameras to VCR to DVD and mp3s.  As Jonathan Coopersmith, who teaches the history of technology at Texas A&M University, tells CNN in this fascinating piece on high tech porn, the adult industry has always been an early adopter of the latest technologies: less than 2 years after the first movie was screened in 1895, the first adult movie was created.

Similarly, barely a month after the iPad slid into hundreds of thousands of eagerly awaiting hands, the world’s largest porn company, appropriately named Private Media Inc, is bringing the equivalent of an iTunes for adult content which can bypass Apple’s store (that restricts porn). It aims to become the one-stop shop for a wide variety of high-definition adult entertainment for viewers.  This is no small feat and the presence of a 25 person strong IT department at Private Media speaks volumes on the company’s commitment to technology.

Porn's reach is certainly not limited to the Internet. The sector invests in everything from magazines to comic books, chat lines, strip bars and mobile apps. And it likes to think big. Did you enjoy the movie Avatar in 3D? Say no more. Pornographer extraordinaire Stephen Shiu is working on a $4 million 3D porn film - 3D Zen and Sex - just for your viewing pleasure. "Imagine that you'll be watching it as if you were sitting beside the bed,” he says, “There will be many close-ups. It will look as if the actresses are only a few centimeters from the audience."

If that doesn’t get you excited, here’s what else is coming to your triple-X medium of choice: holographic strippers dancing in your living room (yes, you can virtually slap that booty now); avatars of beautiful men and women that please you tirelessly (Private Media’s CEO Bunimovitz says he wants to work on a live porn star generated using sophisticated artificial intelligence who would "interact" with the user); and teledildonics, or toys that can translate the actions of others sent over cyberspace into different sensations of touch.

Even you aren’t a patron of porn, you have to admit that it sounds like a good business, Margins are high: at conservative estimates the industry makes over $60 billion a year worldwide (more than double Google's revenues), And it reaches millions of people around the globe (apparently even the SEC watches porn). Plus, the industry has a proven record for always being cutting-edge and fearlessly embracing disruptive technologies to its benefit. While the stocks of companies like Playboy Enterprises and Private Media Inc haven't done well recently, we suspect the owners of such companies will continue to reap significant profits as they find new ways to monetize the pleasure principle.

Ayesha and Parag Khanna explore human-technology co-evolution and its implications for society, business and politics at The Hybrid Reality Institute.

 

The Power of Porn

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