“Once a leader, porn industry falters in search for Internet profits”

from www.huffingtonpost.com – From music to movies to newspapers, the media industries are struggling to figure out how to use the Internet without losing their shirts. With some combination of envy and disgust, they’ve watched from the sidelines as the pornography industry seized every opportunity to get before the wider audience all of them sought. But today, the technology that once pushed the adult industry forward is stripping away its profits.

The 14-billion-dollar-a-year industry is facing its most serious economic slump in decades. Porn producers led the way in technological innovation and media distribution in the ’80s and ’90s. They were often credited with ensuring the domination of VHS over Betamax in the costly war for control of the format used on home video tapes. They boosted cable subscriptions, popularized the DVD as the successor to tape and leapt onto the Internet as the obvious new vehicle to give people access to porn in the privacy offered by their personal computer screens. Secure online payment systems and streaming video, not to mention nuisances such as spyware and spam, advanced with the increasing popularity of porn and the public’s apparently insatiable appetite for watching online sex.

When I proposed to my bosses at Current TV that I look at the porn industry for answers to the quandary of other popular media, eyebrows shot up around the office. Was this just an excuse to look at porn at the office and hang out with naked women all day?

As I ventured behind the scenes, what I saw surprised me in ways I never expected. The business people and techies I met were young professionals with credentials as impressive as those from some of the hot Silicone Valley startups.

And contrary to their image as Internet pioneers with an ever-increasing market, I found porn producers just as perplexed as other media as piracy and the plummeting costs of production sucked away the sizable profits they used to enjoy. Even the sex has changed in the race to keep a step ahead of copyright thieves and amateur porn pushers. It’s never been clearer that if the industry wants to survive in this day of age, it needs to adapt to a changing marketplace.

Editing “Porn 2.0” for Vanguard’s documentary series was a challenge because the subject matter we were covering could not be shown on television. At the same time, we couldn’t just show the talking heads of industry executives bemoaning the downturn. On the first day of work for our new crop of interns, I handed out a boxful of hardcore adult DVDs and told them to look for some “tasteful” clips we could use on the air. I knew the assignment would either get me called on the carpet for offending the newbies or go down in Current history as the coolest internship assignment ever. Luckily, it was the latter.

Showing how pornographers are trying to make the online experience more interactive by linking images to physical devices was trickier. We hope it works.

[Christof Putzel is an award-winning journalist for Current TV.”Porn 2.0″ airs tonight Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 10/9c on Current TV. For more information, visit www.Current.com/Vanguard ]

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