June 06, 2001 01:13am
Porn: Profitable or Really Not
Everyone knows that pornography is profitable on the wired Web. But will it, or any content similar to it, thrive on the wireless Web? Find out what insiders think. Is there a lesson for multimedia providers of any type of content?
Well, that didn't take long. Wireless commerce is still in its infancy, and already the porn industry is setting up shop. Hardly surprising, really, since the human penchant for nekkedness has driven so many innovations on the wired Internet. So perhaps this was inevitable.
As the adult entertainment industry looks to capitalize on the wireless wave, it does so with its usual blend of candor and comedy. Take for instance http://Erotigo.com -- publishers of a free wireless directory listing strip clubs, video stores and lingerie stores in New York City.
The corporate slogan: "Sex in the palm of your hand."
As with all thing wireless, technical limitations today are keeping the growth of adult offerings in check. With small screens and limited bandwidth, the industry cannot readily proffer its most familiar commodity -- that is, the visual element.
Still, where there is a will, there is a way.
"They are quite creative. While there are a few that do pictures, there also is quite a bit of erotica and stories about experiences," said Jackie Peterson, spokeswoman for Cellmania [http://Cellmania.com], which publishes a worldwide directory for mobile Internet services.
Of the 15,000 Cellmania directory listings, almost 190 sites offer adult content of one sort or another. "One of my favorite sites is Puntersearch [http://PunterSearch.co.uk] -- a prostitute finder in the United Kingdom. You can search by attribute -- blond, blue eyes -- or by location, and get back field reports on different men's experiences with this person," said Peterson.
But wait, there's more. Peterson points for example to the Position Calculator [http://mgo.to/positions]: answer a series of questions, and you'll be given detailed instructions for new and unusual positions, including graphic illustrations. Then there's http://XXXWAP.net [http://tagtag.com/xxxwap], offering a position of the week, adult jokes and stories, and sex advice.
Here in the United States, some of the biggest names in porn are getting in on the act.
Penthouse magazine [http://Penthouse.com] announced recently that it would soon bring a version of its online content to the wireless space. "The potential upside for wireless is definitely there," said David Bienenstock, editor of Penthouse.com. "It is definitely a growth market in so far as the number of people who have these devices, and the part these devices play in these lives, is definitely going to increase."
He said there are pros and cons to bringing Penthouse to the handheld space. "One barrier is that you are not viewing this material in the way it is meant to be viewed. It is not going to be as beautiful as the magazine in your hand," he noted. "At the same time, you can take these things with you and interact with them in different places, in ways that a computer or a magazine does not really make possible."
Will people want to "interact" with Penthouse on the bus or in an airport terminal? And aren't there laws against that sort of thing?
"I think it's a mistake to think that that is the only way that people interact with the magazine," Bienenstock said. "Aside from all the articles we have -- investigative journalism, movies, music sports and sex -- there are any number of instances where people would enjoy this content."
Is there money to be made here? Analysts are withholding judgment.
At Jupiter Media Metrix [http://JMM.com], for example, analyst Seamus McAteer suggested that the adult entertainment industry could succeed in the wireless market if content providers can tie themselves to location-based services such as Vindigo [http://Vindigo.com].
"Those types of applications will conceivably have some addressable market. There are online listings of local adult entertainment, for example, and that may well be one of the things that would be accessed by lonely traveling business people," he said.
Overall, though, McAteer is skeptical -- especially when it comes to the commercial potential for more traditional forms of porn in the wireless space.
"Is there really a market for mobile porn? I don't think so," he said.
"There is always market for sexual content, sex sells, and there may be a demand for some kind of sexual content delivered to mobile devices. In Japan for example we do see pornographic images shared on wireless devices, that's no secret. But will that cross the Pacific? Structural issues here in the U.S. will dictate monochrome displays with relatively low resolution for at least the next two to three years, so I don't see a huge market for the display of pornographic images," he said. -- Adam Stone.