Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Porn

Some readers who blog may have noticed lately that Google's Blogger service has announced that, come March 23rd, they're going to eliminate explicit content from their system.  I'm glad to say that this blog, which has no images of naked people, will not be affected.

I have seen some call this an act of vandalism.  I have also seen the term pornocalypse used.  If the reader has the bravery to follow this link (that I discovered when a blog I shall not name linked it), there can be read a long diatribe about the persecution that large technology organizations perpetrate on the use of porn.  It's interesting, but . . . as someone who has been on the inside of a porn-distribution service, it is way, way off the mark.

It is true that groups like eBay, Amazon, Craig's List and so on seem to be permissive for a time, only to change their minds and apparently revoke the privilege with a moral crusade.  Morality, however, is not the reason why services suddenly condemn the very porn that once they supported.  Nor is it the outcry of mothers or private businesses.  Most businesses, in fact, retain a defacto nod-nod-wink-wink policy towards a company's inclusion of porn in their bottom line.

In my late position working for a pay-per-view service, I spent a few years keeping track and updating the many, many porn movies that were available for purchase.  On average, the service launched about 20 titles a week, provided by a wide variety of both classy and sleazy porn film companies, including Mile High Media, Erobec, Valentine . . . even Penthouse.  These went through the same process as any other film we included, except that great pains were taken to ensure that some child with access to the system could not see any of these films if the adults in the house appropriately net-nannied the storefront.  Many conversations were had about that - and if a porn movie got put into the wrong categories by mistake (where it could be seen by anyone), things got very, very interesting - particularly if it came to the attention of the company's CEO (and here we are speaking of an 11-billion dollar company).

So why did we have porn on the system at all?  One simple reason.  The service was not making money.  Throughout my entire experience - five years - we were firmly in the red.  There was never any chance of our division making a profit; in fact we were making less and less profit every annum.  We were kept alive because the service was a very visible part of the company's public perception and because it's existence drove other money-making services within the company, supporting its competitive acquisition of the marketplace.

In a situation like this, a VP will take any opportunity to reduce the amount of loss every quarter.  Thus, the inclusion of porn.  For a company just starting out, for a division that is perpetually losing money, porn is low-hanging fruit.  It is easy to get, easy to sell and thus easy to turn into immediate capital.

Porn has problems, however.  Yes, like the accidental misfiling that I mentioned above, but also in a host of other ways that affect daily operation.  See, porn is largely created by people who are uneducated, unreliable, unhappy or who just don't give a shit about laws or regulations.  Companies have to care about those things.  Because the porn industry does such a shitty job of regulating themselves, however, companies that use porn have to do it - and that means hours and hours of fixing images that were poorly conceived, fixing titles, fixing descriptions and synopses . . . and actually watching the porn to ensure that no content appeared that could not be legally run on our service.  We paid two people to sit around, all day, doing nothing but watching porn.

Before the reader gets all excited, thinking, "Kewl, I want that job!" I have to explain that having spoken to the people who did it that the job was horrible.  Mind you, these were people who did not have trouble with porn - otherwise, they would not have taken the job.  Porn in large amounts is, however, depressingly uniform in its presentation.  In large amounts (35-40 hours a week), it takes on a degree of disgust that doesn't go away.  The burn-out rate for people who did that job was 1 to 8 months.  This despite the money they were paid, which was very good.

Throughout all this watching, the viewers had to be very careful to miss nothing.  That's because it only takes a couple of frames to start a major freak-out among moral pundits and the mainstream media.  So not only are you watching a lot of crap you've grown very tired of, you have to watch it closely.

Finally, porn can only make you so much money.  At the beginning, that amount is nice . . . but it tops out at a given amount and that's it.  The clientele you have will only support so much.  That's because there are two kinds of porn-watchers (I know, I've tracked the numbers month to month for years at a time): the kind that watch one or two porn movies a month and the kind that watch porn continuously whenever they are at home.  A business depends on the latter kind for its bread and butter - but there are only so many of those guys that exist in the world (yes, I said 'guys').

So porn is a lot of trouble.  So it stands to reason that if you reach a point in your business where you are in the black without needing the porn, what do you think happens?  That's right.  You dump the porn.

In order to justify this dumping, you get on the bandwagon of claiming you're cleaning up your service, you're paying closer attention to the family and the upstanding merits of doing business responsibly, blah blah blah, because if you're going to ditch the porn anyway, you might just as well take advantage of the PR hit you can get by pretending that you now care about family values.

This recent step by Google Blogger means one of two things - either the company has decided that there are enough non-porn bloggers to justify the service's existence without porn . . . or its gotten to be too much trouble to police the mess.  Google, I promise you, does not care the least about the moral implications of including porn.

They just don't need it any more.

P.S.

Porn is also great for bloggers.  Any time a blogger can find a justification for talking about porn, count on the numbers to go up.


4 comments:

Scott Driver said...

My last full-time job before law school was the late shift at what's called an "adult bookstore" here. It was a porn shop (we sold no books).

At the time, that meant renting out VHS tapes, selling shitty sex toys, dealing with drunks, and pushing tokens for the viewing (gloryhole) booths. The money was made on the last.

For municipal ordinance reasons, we were a "private club" and we charged a membership fee immediately paid back in tokens, and our clientele was mostly gay men who used the gloryhole system regularly and mechanically. The predictably sketchy owners made an unbelievable amount of money on tokens.

My impression is that the shops down here are still token-driven and any other trade they do is a bonus. (They made enough on tokens that they'd pay me for an extra shift to yawn and watch the guy emptying the token machines.)

VeronaKid said...

". . . you might just as well take advantage of the PR hit you can get by pretending that you now care about family values."

This got me thinking, Alexis. I wonder if, these days, a business/organization/individual actually does get a positive PR "hit" from outlawing anything. I am the father of two young children and when I read anything like this decision by Google, the first thing I think of is "Well, that certainly smacks a bit of censorship." I am not convinced that today's society doesn't just accept porn as a given.

That is something that has certainly changed in the last 5-10 years, of course.

It is my job, not Google's, to monitor what my kids see or don't see. . .so I wonder if this type of thing might not be a negative PR hit actually.

Ozymandias said...

I would disagree. My experience (and some data, though I'd have to dig to find it) suggests that people still perceive porn (and those who promote it) as a negative thing. Which is really interesting, given that there's a correlation between those who oppose it and those who use it...

Alexis Smolensk said...

Here's the thing. While the company I worked for instituted the sale of porn, hired people to manage porn, had meetings about porn sales and inclusion . . . no one EVER talked about the porn itself. Right through the department, porn existed as a word that was allowed to carry no context whatsoever. When the upper management had to address anything regarding porn, it was clearly with distaste - and I would often find that people working for the same companies in other departments HAD NO IDEA that porn was part of the pay-per-view service.

If you've never worked with a class of people earning really good money in a professional environment, you might be surprised to find how neutered such people are where it comes to any discussion of sex or things related to underground culture. The stick is firmly embedded, let me tell you; the presence of porn-for-sale changed nothing.

I also need to point out that when I wrote this post, I was accused by PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET of promoting rape. Just saying.