Do It Yourself! Amateur Porn Stars Make Bank

Antoinette is 25 years old. She is an interior designer from Baltimore with a boyfriend and a degree. She describes herself as "a pretty normal woman."

But twice a month she sets up a camera, takes off her clothes and with her boyfriend makes amateur pornography movies under the name Sexy Secret. For what she describes as about 20 minutes worth of "work" she makes $500 to $600 a month.

"I'm not a porn star. I don't want to be a porn star," she said. "I'm a pretty normal woman. I don't wear makeup that often. I'm 5'6 and 140 pounds. I'd say I'm nice looking, sure, but otherwise I'm pretty average."

Despite not being a porn star, Antoinette's films are explicit displays of hardcore intercourse that if released in cinemas would earn a "XXX" billing.

While plenty of amateur pornographers or exhibitionists have posted their work online for free, some do-it-yourself pornographers are now posting videos to a new section of the video-sharing site XTube.com — and making money on it.

With so much free media available on the Internet, sites have long struggled with how to get users to pay for content, whether it is Facebook, the Wall Street Journal or the band Radiohead.

As it has in the past, the porn industry is showing others how to make the Internet profitable.

XTube, which also offers thousands of free videos, thinks it has solved the problem of getting people to pay for porn by offering users something different.

"Everybody has got free porn," said Justin Arilan, XTube's sales and support manager. "How you keep users on your site and how you monetize the site is the real challenge. We think we've done that here."

Xtube's business model hopes to harness popular Web 2.0 innovations like wikis and social networking. People who typically view free porn will be more willing to pay, the company believes, if they can get to know the models, form relationships and play a role in directing the action filmmakers produce.

The audience pays 50 cents to $2.50 to view the short homemade porn flicks.

Those who post the videos receive 60 percent of the revenue after processing fees. Beginning next month, posters will receive 50 percent of revenues.

"I get lots of comments and compliments," said Antoinette who asked that we use her middle name for this article and who said she usually shields her face in her porn videos. "We get lots of suggestions from people for things they want to see, things they want me to do."

Arilan says the Web site earns $140,000 to $160,000 a month, most of which comes from sales of studio-produced video-on-demand movies. But about 40 percent comes from the amateur section. The site receives about 56 million page views a day, he said.

XTube is making lots of money, but most of the amateurs posting videos probably can't yet quit their day jobs, said Stephen Yagielowicz, senior editor of XBiz, an adult industry trade magazine.

"These people are not porn stars in the traditional sense. They're actual folks that are trying to make a supplemental income. They're just trying to earn a few hundred bucks a month. There are lots of voyeurs and lots of exhibitionists out there. People have been using the Internet to fill those needs since its beginning, now it is giving them a way to make money," Yagielowicz said.

That is true for Antoinette, who said that making the films fulfills a voyeuristic fantasy, but that the money doesn't hurt either.

"It started out as a voyeurism thing and that was the fun part. At first we were skeptical that it would really work out, but then we got our first check and realized this is real, we're really making money," she said.

Online porn is estimated to be as large as a $14 billion industry, and the studios that have long controlled content are already feeling the pinch of the homemade competition.

"There is no doubt that there is real money in user-generated and user-shared content," Yagielowicz said.

But the term "amateur" has long been co-opted by the studios. When the first true amateurs began posting images of themselves online in the early days of the Internet, porn companies found they could create similarly stripped down Web sites that looked like they had been created by the girl next door but that were really produced by the companies.

"Many so-called amateurs are not real amateurs. Most young voyeurs these days are posting their pictures on places like their blogs and MySpace. The studios have already figured out how to dress up real porn stars like the girl next door on single-model, subscription-based sites, so I would expect they'll do the same on user-generated, revenue-sharing sites," said Yagielowicz.

Joseph Jaffe, a media consultant and author of "Join the Conversation," a book about social media, said that porn companies have always been technology vanguards.

"From an innovation standpoint, porn, like gambling, has always been ahead of the curve. They're always forced to adopt new practices and ways of monetizing. Whatever the porn industry is doing today, that's where everyone else will be in five years," he said.

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