the Pornography Star
If you’re like most red blooded Americans, you watch porn (and if you just said “I do NOT!”, then you’re a liar. 30% of the internet is porn, with at least 10 million accounts on Twitter dedicated to the subject). As a carnal connoisseur, you obviously care a great deal about where your porn comes from. Only the finest of-age actors making a livable wage and safe working conditions will do for you, because wanting to ensure that the pornographic ecosystem is held to the same high standards as the other free market industries is important. This means you pay money for good quality, free range, organic porn.
If you’re like most red blooded Americans, when you get the itch you pull up a private browser, head to the various XXXTube sites and have at it for free. I have a bit of bad news, my randy friends: The porn industry is on the verge of collapse and it’s pretty much your fault.
While you’ve been whackin’, MindGeek, a self-proclaimed leader in “web design” and “IT”, has quietly taken over pretty much all the porn. You might not have heard of them, despite being a global force with over 100 million daily visitors, but I’m sure you’ve heard of their acquired websites: YouPorn, Pornhub, Tube8, XTube, RedTube amongst many, many others. They even bought several porn studios including Brazzers, Digital Playground, and Mofos. MindGeek is the monopoly of internet pornography, and while adult film actors struggle to get paid in this rocky contemporary market, MindGeek comes out on top because it produces and pirates the content it owns.
How could this happen? The internet was the best and worst thing to happen to the porn industry. Pre-Youtube, the internet and pornography had a somewhat symbiotic relationship: a user could find a site or link, be directed to a pay site, be charged, and enjoy the show. The pay site would pay the referring site a small sum for traffic, more if the user subscribed, and end of transaction. Happy endings for all! Porn sites, like social media sites, evolved into more visual formats, abandoning a screen of just lists of links (89.com anyone?) to a snapshot mosaic (Thumbnail Gallery Post or TGPs.) This set up drew more traffic and garnered more subscription sign-ups. Movie Gallery Posts (MGPs) worked even better where the pay sites would supply affiliates with the snapshots and clips for free. This was all going well until 2005 when YouTube was conceived. As is typical of the internet, someone made it halfway through a cat video and thought to themselves: “Holy shit, I bet we could do the same thing, but with PORN!” and thus naughty versions of Tube sites started showing porn for free (some licensed for super cheap, as no one knew any better at the time, the rest pirated because we didn’t get enough of Napster). These Tube sites aren’t making money off the porn they host, they’re profiting off time spent on-site and banner ads. I’m sure we’ve all seen Ron Jeremy wagging his dong at us from a banner ad on the side of the screen asking us to click to learn his big dick secret. And if you clicked on that ad, I’m sure your computer is still host to the spyware that snuck onto your machine as hundreds of pop-ups came at you like a wrecking ball.
Because of the new porned-up tube sites, traditional porn companies dissolved and DVD sales plummeted; porn was now available for free, so who was going to pay? The industry, mostly owned by MindGeek is now on the verge of implosion. Under the shield of unmentionables, it has systematically consumed and brought the adult entertainment industry to its knees (hehe).
The shift in the internet and digital technology has allowed for more user generated content such as amateur and homemade porn, just like the ones your mom makes. In theory, this should be a great time and space for the pornographic arts, with studio-quality technology at one’s fingertips and tubes sites for which to upload the videos, the moral compass serves as the only limit to content bred in the boudoir. Unfortunately if you want to make it big in porn and get your little clip up with a production company, you’re shit out of luck as chances are MindGeek owns the production company, and therefore owns your content (and if you think they’re going to pay you shit for something anyone can do and film now, I’ve got some penis enlarging pills to sell you).
The content creation and actors have certainly suffered, which in turn the media and creative space suffers. MindGeek’s producers make porn films mostly for the sake of being uploaded onto MindGeek’s free tube sites, with lower returns for the producers but higher returns for MindGeek, which makes money off of the tube ads and site traffic. If the company that produces porn is only worried about ad sales, the focus doesn’t need to be on the quality of production or even the content that is produced, much less the work environment on the production side, safety or workers, amongst other concerns. Slate author David Auerbach claims escort type sex work has increased because of MindGeek’s involvement in the industry. The conglomerate’s monopoly on the industry drives down fees and causing performers to look elsewhere to make ends meet. Back in the glory days of DVD production and early internet porn making, it was actually quite rare and even taboo for a porn star to also be a prostitute. Money was good on set and there was no need to dabble in both pornography and the other side of sex work. The game has changed and the opposite has become the reality, with most porn stars also appearing on escort sites. The nature of the current porn industry is that every major studio and star is either partnered with MindGeek or is working with a studio that MindGeek purchased, all the while watching their content get hocked for free on the tube sites MindGeek owns, though now sprinkled with banner ads and pop ups from various sources, much like glitter on a strippers’ ass.
The bad news doesn’t end there, folks. If you’ve been untouched by my cry of warning, know this: that private window is a one-sided glass, but not in a way that benefits the user. You think you’re safe, but really anyone can see what you’re doing (and you should be ashamed of yourself). Web 3.0, the semantic web in the personal data driven sense, is upon us and is dependent on user data and preferences on the web, social media and mobile usage as well. Web 3.0 will produce a personalized experience for the user/consumer all the while integrating real-time data through different platforms. The basic idea is to allow for better online matchmaking and content distribution, with hopes of better commerce via your purchase or click through on recommended material. A prime example of what companies want can be found via Facebook, which goes as far as to apologize when you opt out of sharing a memory they suggested: “We're sorry, we know we don't always get it right.” But have no fear, they’ve made a note of your preference, and someday they will get it right. Data will be an even more precious commodity than it is now as Web 3.0 rolls out. Blogger and software engineer Brett Thomas has this to say about data collection sites: “The premise of this post is simple: If you are watching/viewing porn online in 2015, even in Incognito mode, you should expect that at some point your porn viewing history will be publicly released and attached to your name.”
Things like “the fappening” – a 2014 data breach that leaked private and intimate photos of celebrities, and the Ashley Madison scandal, that released names and data of users of a site promoting adultery are all examples, and the next big internet privacy scandal could hit the everyday users. Even in “incognito mode”, your Internet Protocol (IP) address isn’t safe. Your IP address is both an identifier and a locator, which tells who you are where you are and what computer and network you’re using to access the web. Anyone with enough know-how can track your activity, whether or not you opted for a private session.
Speaking of web data collection, Alexa, an analytics provider used to compare businesses on the web reports that Pornhub is the 64th most popular website in the country and holds 65th place globally. That might not seem important until you compare to Gmail, which reported 90.7 million smartphone users in 2014, at 1653t h place in the US.
Can we still save the porn? I am of the opinion that the Golden Age is over; we are the proverbial Nero, watching the city burn as we stroke our instruments in the glow. Unless you travel to the deep or dark web via something like Tor, an open network that allows for better privacy, (if that even works, and God save your soul once you get to the uncharted part of the internet…) you can kiss your anonymity goodbye. And unfortunately for porn stars, the likelihood of the 300 million viewers of Pornhub will revert to a subscription model and give any money when free porn runs rampant is very small, and the industry could very well face implosion before the habit of watching pirated porn subsides. While MindGeek has developed a successful social media platform, it unfortunately did so by building it on the backs of the workers under its many companies. There are more people watching porn than not, the web analytics do not lie, but none want to unite together under the dirty banner of pornography to improve the space or go after the blatant monopoly MindGeek is running. The subject matter is still far too taboo to admit we each have sexual appetites or that porn can be fun or even helpful in certain relationships. So isolated enthusiasts we remain, hoping the amateur clown porn on our screen is less weird that what the next IP address is privately viewing.