COLUMN 200506 - Brick, Mortar, and Pigs

Allow me to introduce myself: I'm the new editor of AVN Online. Though I've toiled in the industry for more than 20 years, I'm relatively new to this side of the fence. I come from the land of what you digital folks quaintly refer to as "brick and mortar," a term that always brings to mind the tale of the Three Little Pigs...and portentously so.

Most of you already know the story, but for those of you who don't, it goes something like this: Way back in the mid-90s, there were three little pigs in the porn business. All of them had grown fat and prosperous selling videotapes to chronic masturbators and horny couples to enjoy in the privacy of their own homes. The pigs had been visionaries of sorts, having seen the imminent demise of the movie house and 8 mm loop, and for their efforts they had been rewarded with untold wealth. Sure, they had been burned by the Betamax and Laserdisc formats, but with the exception of some pesky federal prosecutions that cost them millions and some jail time, business had been good.

Now, however, the Big Bad Internet was rearing its ugly head and they didn't know which way to turn. Dot-coms were all the rage. The dorks they had beaten up as kids were getting rich overnight. Telephony, synergy, convergence...It was all Geek to them. Worse, it seemed like each of their friends had a different opinion...and not one of them really knew what he was talking about.

"You'll make millions on the World Wide Web!" said Dick the Duck.

"No one wants to watch porn on the computer!" whispered Mike the Mole.

"Monthly memberships are the only way to go!" shouted Gary the Goose.

"I recommend credit-card fraud!" cried Wally the Weasel.

"The sky is falling!" lamented Chicken Little.

The first little pig listened to Mike the Mole and refused to believe that the Internet was the future of the adult industry. Mike, ever the thoughtful friend, then offered to buy the Internet rights to the first little pig's entire still and video catalogs, "just to take them off his hands."

Mike the Mole now lives in a palace on Ibiza, and the first little pig lives in a straw hut where he's still trying to unload VHS copies of Backdoor Sows #63 for 50 cents apiece.

The second little pig thought Wally the Weasel was a really smart guy. He liked the idea that credit-card fraud would be a cheap and easy way to augment his bank account. Who's going to notice a few extra bucks on his Visa statement every month?

Now the second little pig wonders, "How will they ever find Wally the Weasel's body in the Nevada desert?" as he sits in self-imposed exile in a twig shack somewhere in Guatemala.

The third little pig, though, listened to all of his friends. He threw out the bad advice, he ran with what he thought was the good advice, and he learned from his mistakes. He knew that some people would watch porn at their computers even if he gave them shitty lo-res pics. But more would watch if his content bespoke quality and changed on a regular basis. He looked up the word "niche." He charged monthly memberships but didn't get drunk with power just because he had credit-card numbers at his fingertips. He learned about ad space and banners and traffic back when the word "affiliate" applied only to local TV stations. He sent Omaha Steak gift packs to webmasters. As technology advanced, so did his ability to offer better content...and faster. And he could track every nuance of his business model and adjust it accordingly.

In less than 10 years, an entirely new wave of adult commerce had risen up like, well, a tsunami...and the third little pig rode that bad boy all the way to the beach. Unlike his two porcine pals, who now dwell in utter squalor, the happy hog built his new offices in a thoroughly modernized, totally remodeled, turn-of-the-century abattoir overlooking Patong Beach. It's no coincidence that these deluxe facilities are constructed entirely of durable, long-lasting brick and mortar.

And that, my friends, is the true story of how one of the online industry's most rustic and hoariest phrases came to be.

So says Mike the Mole.