What the journalism industry can learn from porn

Stay with me on this one. I was channel surfing last week when I landed on G4‘s coverage of the Adult Entertainment Expo and a group of panelists discussing how technologically advanced the adult film industry had been and become.

“Everybody knows that porn drives technology; sex drives technology,” said one panelist.

Statistics vary on how much of the internet is made of porn, but there’s no denying adult themed websites had a greater presence on the internet long before news ever did.

Porn has already begun to conquer the mobile web, allowing users to view their favorite photos and videos on the go. And yet only a conservative number of media sites are optimized for cellular devices (kudos to Fox News, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, CBS News and others for their mobile optimized sites).

I remember hearing stories of people watching porn on their iPods and digital devices on the BART trains of San Francisco, but in my time living there I rarely saw somebody reading news content from anything other than the traditional newspaper. If we could more assertively rush content to mobile devices we could not only capture the average business traveler, but also save the BART system from cleaning up the large piles of newspapers left behind.

Video on demand has been a boon to the porn industry for years now. Instead of going to the video store and sifting through shelves to find captivating titles, users can download or stream a variety of adult films in a diverse number of niches that surpasses even what’s available in brick and mortar stores.

In the G4 interview, adult film director Richard DeMontfort argued that porn sustained the early stages of video technology, including VHS and DVD, because people could enjoy the films from home. “When video came out, porn was the first one there, porn kept video growing like crazy,” DeMontfort said. “The method of transmission changes every few years… now it’s changing faster than ever.”

Very few online news sites are providing large amounts of video content produced exclusively for the web that is not derivative of a print or broadcast story. Right now that isn’t a bad thing because you get more bang for your buck if the package is available on more than one platform. But it doesn’t help to change the prevailing ideology that print/broadcast consumers and online consumers are the same group of people. Often the online user is in a completely different market than the target audience of the news site and requires more sophisticated content than what is being offered to the traditional news consumer.

The journalism industry is often reactive instead of proactive when it comes to new technology platforms. We see some cool technology that many times has been out for a long period of time and figure out how we can copy it and make it our own. Instead, we the media should be on the forefront of how our content is delivered, instead of waiting for Joe Porn to figure it out.

Tod Hymes, publisher of XBiz World, offered salient advice: “The smartest people in the world are looking at the internet and all these delivery platforms figuring out how to capture the demographic they want and how to get them to pay money.”

Finally, one panelist said that no matter the transmission, it all boils down to people watching other people have sex. And for journalism, it boils down to the written and spoken word. The news will never die, we just to need adjust how it’s presented in order to stay on the forefront of the technology that’s changing our work and our lives.