What Online Porn Can Teach Journalism (and Vice Versa)

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The news business isn't the only industry being upended by aggregators and amateurs online. Pornographers are suffering too -- and newspapers could learn a thing or two from them. Here's why:


Amateur content and "tube sites" (that's industry-speak for free porn portals) have been eroding revenues in the porn industry, according to a story from Monday's Los Angeles Times. But at least one porn company is embracing something every online news editor has grappled with quite a bit: Aggregation.

Frustratingly for porn producers and distributors in the Valley, none of these [aggregation] sites appears to be making much money. Suzann Knudsen, a marketing director for PornoTube, said the site's parent, Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, uses it to attract customers for paid video on demand.

"PornoTube isn't a piggy bank," she said. "Its true value is in traffic."


No newspaper or magazine is making enough money online, and many are focusing on building traffic in the meantime by linking and aggregating. Sure, you send some traffic away by linking to the competition, but that's the price many websites have to pay to be considered an indispensable one-stop shop.

And it's clear that newspapers are already experimenting with the, um, "PornoTube" model, by combining free news and aggregation with pay-to-read juicy content. That's the basic model used by part-free/part-paid sites like the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. It was also the model the New York Times tried in a brief and heavily criticized experiment called TimesSelect. The program might not have been as profitable as the Times hoped, but it still brought in $10 million a year. That's 15 percent of the Times' total online ad revenue.

There were some other ideas on how porn stars are staying afloat, like producing themed products, but there's probably not much of a market for New York Times-branded lingerie (or is there?). Still it's interesting to see that the online porn industry is facing the same aggregation vs. paid content dilemmas that are plaguing the news industry.

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Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com. More

Niraj previously reported on the business of the nation's largest law firms for The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper. He has also been published in The Hartford Courant, The Seattle Times and The Age, in Melbourne, Australia. He's also a longtime programmer and sometimes website designer.
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