The new marketing tactics of porn | Financial Times


Jason Maskell sips green tea in a London café. The bespectacled and dressed businessman has just emerged from a meeting in the House of Lords. If this conjures up an image of respectability and establishment, this is exactly what Maskell is aiming for.

For the entrepreneur he is a veteran of the adult industry. It is looking to launch adultXfund (AXF), a crowdfunding platform for the industry, and is in talks with the Financial Conduct Authority. A former makeup artist, he entered the industry by accident after being offered a job on the set of a pornographic film. “This led to other business opportunities and it has grown from there.”

His visit to the House of Lords took place as part of the Digital Policy Alliance, a cross-cutting body representing the internet and technology sector, to discuss new proposals for online age verification for sectors such as gambling. , tobacco, alcohol and the adult industry. The founder of Adult Lifestyle Media Company, which creates adult content for mobile, web and DVD platforms, Maskell believes it’s important to put his “two cents worth” on the subject.

The idea for AXF came about after an attempt to raise money for an adult studio and distribution business on a traditional crowdfunding platform failed when the owners got cold feet. Crowdfunding, Maskell had hoped, would provide an alternative source of funding to banks, which were, in his experience, very capricious when it came to lending to entrepreneurs in his industry. Last year, he says, his bank withdrew his corporate account. “Moral standards” was the reason given. Morality has lifted the banks’ agenda since the financial crisis, he says.

Maskell hopes his platform will soon receive the green light. It is intended to finance all types of products and services, from underwear and toys to distribution, websites and DVDs.

The figures for the adult industry are impressionist at best. Most of its members are private companies or freelancers who are not obliged to publicly disclose their data. A survey by trading organization Xbiz.net in 2012 estimated annual revenue of $ 5 billion worldwide, which includes DVD sales and rentals, subscription-based websites, video on demand, live webcams, mobile movies and pay-per-view cable and satellite.

However, the industry took a hit. DVD sales and rents have fallen due to piracy and the wide range of free online offers. “The market has evolved. The adult industry has been very proactive in terms of innovation. In recent years, it has had to change in response to free content, “says Steve Winyard, vice president of ICM Registry, which owns and oversees the .xxx domain name. So-called” tube sites “- free video sharing websites like PornHub and YouPorn – rely heavily on aggregating content and selling advertising based on visitor traffic volume.

Those entrepreneurs who are profitable are optimistic about the industry’s future – they all agree that they need to work harder to push their content. Social media, mobile technology, and expansion into areas like live webcams and online dating (or, to be more precise, hookups) are key to sustaining revenue. As in other areas of the publishing and entertainment industry, the digital revolution has had a profound effect and brand building is the key to being a profitable business. As with the mainstream media, the disruption had a ripple effect on the fees paid to content providers, in this case artists and models.

“The market is soggy; where before you could make a movie and sell it, now you have to split it into six or seven revenue streams: DVD, online, mobile, so you can enter license agreements in different countries, “says Maskell.

“It’s not like it was, but there are still tons of people making money,” notes Mark Spiegler, a talented Los Angeles-based agent for female porn stars. “Making porn isn’t that expensive,” he adds. “If you can’t make money, you’re not very good at it.”

The former day trader entered the industry after his cousin asked him to invest in a movie he was making. She founded her agency in 1999 and believes women need agents because they have a “short working life” and need to maximize their opportunities. Competition is fierce, he says. “In the old days, girls fell into porn. Since the Internet, many women watch porn and aspire to become stars. “

The dark side of that pursuit of fame was highlighted in Netflix’s recent documentary Wanted hot girls, showing the belly of the amateur porn industry. He portrayed five teenage girls, who leave home in search of a new life. They go very quickly from euphoria to exploitation before being washed, only to be replaced by a new crop of willing candidates.

Maskell divides the porn industry into five genres: the real amateur (“the guy who picks up a video camera – or today a smartphone or an iPad – and films him and his lady, or anyone else in a hotel room. “); amateurs filmed by professionals; gonzo (“shots with hand-held cameras, very cheeky but professionally made, well assembled”); the high-end, high-budget (“performers – they’ll spend a lot of money”); and the rarest epic film (may follow the plot of “Pirates of the Caribbean, spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to rent helicopters “).

He insists that most viewers’ tastes are relatively mild: “A lot of them want a good quality product, good sets and good locations, well shot, well edited, good looking actors. All these things about the hard and the horrible, they don’t want it. Most of the time, it’s not what it sells. There is a small niche that can go to the extreme, but that’s not what people are looking for. ”

LiveJasmin.com was launched in 2001 by Hungarian entrepreneur György Gattyán and in 2012 a more mainstream sub-brand, Jasmin.com, was introduced. The website initially had basic design and streaming technology, but over the years it has evolved for mobile consumption. Starting with 100-200 models online at any given time in the early 2000s, Jasmin.com now offers 2,000-3,000 live streams per second year-round and over 1.5 million registered models (400,000 of those active), according to the society . It claims to have 50 million registered members. The way he makes money is through pay-per-minute for live private chats and a subscription to the premium model channel content.

Károly Papp, CEO of Docler Holding, the holding company that owns Jasmin.com, sees the future in “raising brand awareness and promoting engagement”.

The money, Maskell notes, is “behind the camera – you earn more if you own the content, rather than just performing.” However, he says, smart performers diversify and build their brands. “They could move on to more traditional things or create their own label or website and generate revenue from it.”

Social media is key to brand building. Twitter, many business owners note, is far more laissez-faire than Facebook or Instagram at showing fairly explicit content. Mark Hassell, head of marketing and sales at Paul Raymond Publications, a British publisher of both digital and print magazines such as Mayfair and Men Only, believes that Twitter is a double-edged sword. “I’ve been doing adult stuff for 10 years, but I’m shocked at what you can see on Twitter. If there’s all this free stuff on Twitter, why would people pay for it? ”

However, he sees social media overall as an industry boon, offering a gateway to paid content and helping his business tap into a younger demographic. Popular stars have strong social media following and, like Hollywood actors, see such channels as a way to engage their audience.

Print magazines and DVDs have gone back in the past year, Hassell says, with consumers becoming eager to stumble upon shocking material or being tracked by internet companies. “People are afraid of the internet, especially free tube sites. They know their cookies are being tracked. People can buy magazines and DVDs and throw them away ”.

He also believes the backlash to men’s magazines – men’s lifestyle magazines that featured female nudity, such as Loaded (which Paul Raymond Publications owned for a time) has boosted sales of premium material. “There has been a lot of reactions to the mid-shelf market being visible to children. Adult magazines had a clearer differentiation ”.

Ultimately, Spiegler believes the porn industry is very similar to any other. “There is politics and infighting,” he says. “It’s just like high school with ashtrays. There is a lot of gossip. “

Photographs from CJ Everard’s ‘US’ book


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