Rewind | 2009 in Hindsight

The Mainstream Tried to Kick Porn’s Butt ... and Boosts Its Ratings

In 2009 the mainstream didn’t just aim to gently kick porn’s butt; it tried to stomp its ass to the curb. Mainstream wanted blood and got puddles of it—in a way that didn’t kill the beast but kept it around to use as needed. “That’s a good beast,” the mainstream media all but purred, as local and national media outlets used porn angles (and curves) to grab viewers with breathlessly delivered yet poorly reported stories about the industry’s decline and imminent demise, its source as a sex-trafficking pipeline, and its role in addicting the country to sex and ruining marriages and families.

The Consumer Also Tried to Kick Porn’s Butt

There’s nothing new about the generations-old struggle over the control of intellectual property. That said, the war does seem to be escalating and may have reached a serious tipping—or breaking—point. Whether we’ve tipped or broken is a glass-half-full assessment that depends upon one’s own business circumstances.

Like music, porn is a deeply personal acquisition, easy to steal, somewhat easy to produce and a lure for non-professionals who think they can make and sell it. Many of them actually do make it, and then just to give it way. The challenge for the adult industry is to figure out a way to not only to survive this attitude but also profit from it. The great news is that the ultimate winners in this contest are far from determined; fortunes are yet to be made. The consumer remains unruly, fickle and as malleable as ever. The engagement has only just begun.

The Economy Actually Did Kick Porn’s Butt ...  But Not for Long

This year was also one in which the full impact of the market meltdown of late 2008 was finally felt by anyone in the industry who is dependant upon the availability of easy credit for consumers. In the United States, unlike most other countries, a majority of transactions use credit cards; when credit limits are slashed and charges decline as a result of altered ratios, the damage is immediate and sometimes fatal. Add into the mix the other challenges faced by the industry—including its own seeming acquiescence before the wholesale theft of its content—and the additional injury inflicted as a result of a very weak economy felt like a dagger through the heart. Ultimately, the pain will pave the way for more consolidation of companies within the industry—a house-cleaning that hopefully will produce businesses that can meet the needs of the consumer base and at the same time foster healthy competition. The opportunities for the adult industry to control its destiny and learn to reengage with a whole new generation of fans and partners, are, to be sure, awesome.

This article originally ran in the December 2009 issue of AVN.

See other year-in-review coverage in the next few days. Tomorrow: the ups and downs in the adult film industry.