Porrrn in the U.S.A.

We take a lot for granted these days when it comes to technology trends, but when you consider that Windows 95 is now older than most college freshmen, it doesn’t take much to recognize how far the world has actually come in a relatively brief period of time.  Oh sure, for some more seasoned types, there may be a certain degree of nostalgic yen for times that current froshes will never know, like that ubersatisfying blooop-brrrrrp-screeeeech of a dial-up connection, for example.  (Come on, you know you loved it when it worked.  Admit it.  It made you happier than Gumby at a yoga class.)  In any event, it seems that for the most part, people just roll with the changes regardless of age–and regardless of the disruptions caused by advancing technologies.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the adult entertainment industry, at least from the consumer side.

To get to the eventual point quickly, let’s look at this in eighteen year blocks.  In 1995, the year that most of today’s college freshmen were born, the primary means of enjoying adult entertainment at home was by VHS video tape, either rented from the back room of a local mom & pop video store or purchased by mail order.  Eighteen years earlier, in 1977, the accepted medium for the same entertainment was film-based.  Full length feature presentations were usually limited to theaters and, as the first viable video players were just hitting the market back then, prevailing home entertainment options were either in short form reels that were played on 8mm projectors or film-strip loops requiring a specialized cartridge player.  There was certainly an upheaval in the adult entertainment industry when the disruptiveness of video tape over film occurred, but the disruption ultimately ushered in what many considered to be the golden age of adult entertainment from a business perspective.

In the eighteen years since our current college newbies were born, VHS gave way to DVDs which gave way to file sharing, digital downloads and real-time streaming as the most commonly desired delivery forms.  With rapidly improving bandwidth, wireless delivery systems, increased file storage capacity and various ‘smart-devices’ (which, themselves, are now usually obsolete as they roll off their assembly lines), not to mention an incredibly wide variety of do-it-yourself platforms, adult entertainment production and consumption has never been more convenient or cost effective.

As you might imagine, this pace of disruptive change has caused rapidly increasing upheavals and shifts throughout the adult entertainment industry, significantly shrinking the business value of professional performers and first-rate content creators in favor of an emerging model where lower-quality providers can thrive.  In other words, no more ‘golden age’ as it was, and while that’s certainly not good news for the existing industry, consumer trends indicate that most people are indeed just rolling with it–and rolling in a big way.  Most of the world’s top adult content providers reported record years in 2013, with the U.S. leading the way in per capita porn consumption across the board.  (Yay, we’re number 1!)  In fact, every major country measured increased consumption in the 2012-13 year-over-year analysis, but here’s the twist:  Very little (if any) of the content provided through these systems is actually produced directly or even purchased by today’s largest suppliers.

As is the case these days with most forms of social-based new media, content is often provided by the user base; either DIY produced, technologically stolen from other producers and repurposed into clips to prod a viewer to another site or, in fewer cases, just for fun if the creator has an exhibitionist streak or fancies themselves an amateur porn star and doesn’t really care about revenues or intellectual property rights.  Anyway, since the platform suppliers aren’t enduring content costs for the most part, much of their fare is given away free in order to encourage maximum consumer traffic which enables commanding higher advertising prices, all resulting in a very clean and significant revenue stream which is highly efficient based on today’s technocapabilities.

Indeed, the past business model has been disrupted to the point where an entire industry will have to either adapt or die, but that’s not really all that dissimilar from previous disruptions which have been endured.  The thing is, those pesky college freshmen are-a-comin’ and very soon will be the industrial brains and muscle, both on the business side as well as the consumer end.  Eighteen years from now, they’ll be the ones nostalgically looking back on today with a fond view of how ‘technologically primitive life was in 2014′, but it’s also likely that they’ll be responsible for whatever the next big thing will be.  That is, unless some more seasoned types beat ’em to it.

What do you think that will look like?

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