Thoughts Over a Late Morning’s Coffee: Attorney in Forbes Article – AVN’s Stats are “Baseless”

In 2001 attorney Dan Ackman called AVN’s bluff in Forbes magazine with Ackman stating that AVN was putting out numbers and statistics for porn that couldn’t be substantiated.

I’ve contended all along that AVN, with these misleading figures put out by Paul Fishbein, created a California gold rush that helped destroy this business. Piracy merely sealed the lid of the coffin.

Nothing’s changed. In an article that came out this week on, a figure attributed to AVN’s Theo Sapoutzis says the industry made $10B in 2012. CNC goes one step further claiming that between Manwin, Vivid and Digital Playground we’re talking $14B.

Let’s look at the Ackman piece which is about the only mainstream article written about porn that came close to telling the truth

“Skepticism is in order,” states Ackman. “David Klatell, associate dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism notes, “[Pornography] is an industry where they exaggerate the size of everything.” The fact is pornography, or ‘adult entertainment,’ is as marginal now as it ever was.

“Take for instance the New York Times Magazine: It ran a cover story on May 18 [2001] called “Naked Capitalists: There’s No Business Like Porn Business.” Its thesis: Pornography is big business–with $10 billion to $14 billion in annual sales.

“The author, Frank Rich, suggests that pornography is bigger than any of the major league sports, perhaps bigger than Hollywood. Porn is ‘no longer a sideshow to the mainstream…it is the mainstream.’

I heard a lot of stories concerning that Rich piece including the fact that porn companies wined, and dined him and supplied him with other forms of entertainment. Allegedly.

States Ackman: “The idea that pornography is a $10 billion business is often credited to a study by Forrester Research. This figure gets repeated over and over. The only problem is that there is no such study. In 1998, Forrester did publish a report on the online ‘adult content’ industry, which it pegged at $750 million to $1 billion in annual revenue. The $10 billion aggregate figure was unsourced and mentioned in passing.

“For the $10 billion figure to be accurate, you have to add in adult video networks and pay-per-view movies on cable and satellite, Web sites, in-room hotel movies, phone sex, sex toys and magazines–and still you can’t get there.”

Continues Ackman: “According to Adult Video News (AVN), an industry trade magazine, Americans spent just over $4 billion to buy and rent adult videos last year. This figure is baseless and wildly inflated. From there, the numbers get even more obscure.

“Tossing in the Internet will add less than $1 billion to the total porn pie. The 1998 Forrester report pegs the online adult content market at $750 million to $1 billion, which was an increase from its initial estimate of $150 million. When a study admits that its initial result was off by at least 80%, it’s hard to be confident in the new result. In any event, Tom Rhinelander, a Forrester research director, says they have given up trying to put a price on porn–either on the Internet or otherwise. “

There’s more to the article, but I think when someone in the know outright tells you AVN’s statistics are baseless that also means the magazine is baseless. That’s another reason why I left.

Here’s is Ackman’s piece; it’s on the level:

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