Is Online Porn Going Soft?

Brad Abram is quick to debunk the myth that porn, in its current state, could ever be recession-proof. It's a big business just like any other, he says, and as such it has the potential to fall. While it may appear that porn makers abound, a wave of consolidation has actually left the industry with a small number of large companies running lots of subsidiaries. Even the tube sites have banded together, says Abram, leaving only a handful of sites whose content makes up 80 percent of what people see when they're out surfing free porn. When one of those companies suffers losses, the effects ripple through the industry like a jiggle through a silicone implant.

Though both traditional and online porn vendors have seen portents of approaching doom--luckily the four horsemen of the apocalypse have yet to be turned into a skin flick (that we know of)--there's still hope for adult entertainment on the Net. Companies that take an even higher-tech approach are emerging from the woodwork, and doing well. Why? Because they offer consumers something they can't get on the tube sites, something they're still willing to dish out cash for: interactivity.

Allen Stein makes sex machines. Imagine an electric mixer strapped to a dildo and you'll begin to get the idea. In his latest endeavor, he's combined his most famous invention, a large machine called TheThrillHammer (adult, NSFW), with a live cam Web site. On one side of the Webcam, women sit with the machine poised for pleasure, while potentially thousands of miles away, customers pay to control the devices, deciding what kind of stimulation to dish out. This combination of machinery and online tech, referred to as teledildonics, has provided Stein and his performers with a steady income at a time when his old-school comrades are scraping the barrel. "Live cam sites are having a really good quarter," he says. His site in particular offers "a new level of intimacy… People come back again and again because they've consummated their relationship with the performers."

Also seeing consistent sales is Trixie, the star of (adult, NSFW), a personal site that provides members with not only photos of Trixie but also live shows and 24/7 spy cams into her home. Businesses like hers often start when performers decide to break off on their own from large cam conglomerates. Hosting her own site gives Trixie the control to decide her own content and build personal connections with her members. To be fair, Trixie says her revenue hasn't gone up in 2008, as it had in past years. Still, she feels she has a leg up on privacy due to the home-grown nature of her site. She compares herself to a neighborhood espresso stand taking on the Starbucks of big-name porn. "When money is tight, people feel more resentful towards anonymous corporate entities and want the dollars they spend to go towards people they can relate to," Trixie reasons.

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