About Tom Evslin

Video Profile of Tom Evslin

Follow Tom Evslin on Twitter


Add to Technorati Favorites!
Powered by TypePad
Member since 01/2005


« Thinking Like a Publisher | Main | Sex Sells Engines? »

Pornography Drives Technology

As exciting as podcasting is, it may be iBods that drive the next wave of iPod and iPod-like device adoption.  iBods are soft porn offered by Playboy for downloading and viewing on iPod Photo.  Pornography often drives new technologies over the chasm to mass markets.  This is a marketing observation on my part, not a moral one.

On the web, the “adult” sites have the kind of successful paid model which almost no other content providers have been able to achieve.  All of us who were involved with ISPs know that viewing porn was one of the important drivers of early demand for dial access.  Demand for broadband is similarly goosed by the desire to download more porn faster.

Camera phones are significantly used for both personal and commercial porn. One great advantage of a digital camera is that no nosy developer gets to look at the pictures you take.  A generation ago, Polaroid filled this niche successfully.

One of the many advantages of cable and satellite and soon-to-be Internet TV are that wardrobe malfunctions are permitted here.

The most important revenue source for AT&T’s “intelligent network” was 900 service which was used mainly for – surprise, surprise – sex talk.  In fact, the PC boards first used for VoIP are direct descendants of boards developed by Dialogic, Brooktrout and others for VARs whose major applications supported call-for-sex.

Going back to ancient history, the skin flick trade was a huge early adopter of video tape technology – beta and VHS.  They produced content which drove VCR sales.  Consumer video cameras helped expand the cottage porn industry.  The popularization of the Super 8 projector was boosted by the pornographic content which was quickly available for it.  The Super 8 camera was a favorite for fraternity house “home movies” although it was a drawback that the film had to be developed.

Why does porn have such a key role in driving the mass adoption of new technologies?

One reason is obvious: sex sells.  A corollary is that sex sells particularly well to almost the same demographic as new technology: young men.  Very early adopters typically care more about the technology they are buying than the content available for it.  That’s a good thing because there never is sufficient content until there is a market of people with the right players to look at and/or listen to it.  The high margin and guaranteed demand for porn encourages its production early in the technology adoption cycle.  Just when the market of early adopters is depleted, sexual content vastly expands the market for the device.

More devices mean both more content and lower unit cost for the devices.  Ironically, “sin” plays a major role in closing the virtuous circle of:

  1. more content creates a broader market for the device
  2. which leads to lower prices
  3. and an even better market for the content
  4. both of which further broaden the market for the device.

Populations obviously wouldn’t grow without sex; many technologies wouldn’t either.

There’s got to be a moral here somewhere, right?  Not really.  But if you’re inventing, investing in, or marketing a new technology, the pornographers may be your best friends.  Usually they’ll figure out how to use whatever you have long before you know how to evangelize them.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Pornography Drives Technology:


dulce mendez

caca con chorro okay


It's easy to understand why pornographers are always technology pioneers.

In a 1994 article entitled "Porn, the Low-Slung Engine of Progress," the New York Times' John Tierny wrote:

Men are the chief consumers of pornography, and men are also the main enthusiasts for new communications gadgets. This means, for instance, that the markets for the first home-movie projectors or CD-ROM drives have conveniently overlapped with the market for pornography.

I hate to call out my fellow computer geeks, but some of them are just a little too lonely.



David Zahn

Immediate benefits drive new technology

My understanding of what is going on with pornography and new media is this:

Illicit activity is generally driven by powerful human urges; there's always money to be made serving these urges. When you combine advanced technology, as an enabler, with the deep underlying motivations of illicit activity, you get the ingredients necessary for the first phase of a new technology breakout; that is, people who want the benefit of the new technology enough to pay a premium for it, in terms of money and in terms of effort.

There is typically a cost barrier to adoption of any new media format, as well as a requirement for technical gregariousness. For the new format to succeed against these thresholds, the early 'consumers' of the new format have to have a correspondingly high 'need', coupled with a certain propensity for taking on a new and untried technology. We could say that, for pornography consumers, the return on 'investment' with porn media is substantial and immediate; we might also suppose that, for these early adopters, it does not matter if the new medium actually goes on to succeed in the marketplace.

Historically pornography is overwhelmingly a male phenomenon (although we have evidence that this may be changing a bit due to the internet). With sexually energetic young males we have 'consumers' that are both 'motivated' and demographically more inclined to take on the challenge of a 'technical' task. So, with pornography, the illicit meets a perfect confluence of factors: consumers who 'care', who are willing to experiment, and who have the necessary 'open to buy'; this is a match made in heaven.

For these reasons I expect that sex will always be a driving force in the advance of new media technologies, no matter how we try to censor, or regulate, emerging applications. There will always be a strong market for new forms of 'virtualized' sex. None the less, there are myriad ways that the advance of any 'consumer enthusiasm' can be distorted into unwanted outcomes; the proof of this is the way that illegal drugs are presently driving huge unwanted consequences in our society, the same way prohibition did in the 20's. Supposing that we can't actually stop determined porn enthusiasts, what are the unwanted consequences of making pornography more difficult to acquire through government regulation, both for the evolution of new media technologies, and for society at large? By making porn more difficult to acquire online (as the bush administration would like), are we arresting the advance of 'critical' new technology? ...or are we incentive-izing, and bankrolling, emergent new media developments, by effectively making them more profitable in their fragile early stages?

Ross Dennis


We have been doing technology market research for mobile broadband market. It is an industry in which handheld wireless devices are capable receiving video of news, movie trailers, games and of course adult content.

Mobile broadband is at an very early stage in U.S. but it is alive and well in Europe and Asia. We certainly agree with your premise of adult content driving technology but at first we believed porn on the cell phone would be an exception. Who would want to view this material on such a small screen? We were wrong. Now we believe that adult content is helping to drive mobile broadband. Content download sites such as bango.com which hosts material from hundreds of sites with names like mobile-babes.com has only reinforced our belief in your original premise.

I do want to re-iterate that we are researching the mobile broadband market not adult content sites.

Ross Dennis
Clearsight Reseach
East Brunswick, NJ

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Now on Kindle!

hackoff.com: An historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble

CEO Tom Evslin's insider account of the Internet bubble and its aftermath. "This novel is a surveillance video of the seeds of the current economic collapse."

The Interpreter's Tale

Hacker Dom Montain is in Barcelona in Evslin's Kindle-edition long short story. Why? and why are the pickpockets stealing mobile phones?

Need A Kindle?

Kindle: Amazon's Wireless Reading Device

Not quite as good as a real book IMHO but a lot lighter than a trip worth of books. Also better than a cell phone for mobile web access - and that's free!

Recent Reads - Click title to order from Amazon


  • adlinks
  • adsense