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Paid Porn Is Backdooring Into the iPad, But It's Not Going to Get Far

Steve Jobs' anti-porn rants provide good comedy, but the truth is that porn companies are making adult entertainment easily accessible on tablets and phones -- including the Apple (APPL) iPad and iPhone. That isn't an issue for the adult world, an industry that virtually sets the pace for where technology goes. No, the real problem is that porn kings believe the mobile space will save them from nosediving profits. It won't, at least anytime soon.

Let's look at how porn gets on the iPad. Short answer: the Web.

From Rick Johnston at Portfolio.com:

Pink Visual rolled out the first iPad-optimized adult site on the Web, PinkVisualPad.com, the day the iPad hit stores. The forward-thinking strategy is part of what keeps the adult-content company ahead of the curve in an otherwise crowded field, according to President Allison Vivas, who has attracted some accolades in the past for her business acumen.

Vivas doesn't much care whether Jobs likes it or not. She's not necessarily looking for a porn app, though one would be nice. Instead, she's looking at a huge potential market of sophisticated consumers shelling out $40 for three-month subscriptions to watch porn on the iPad's superior screen. Already, about 10 percent of iPad buyers have been attracted to her product. And that could spell quite a healthy niche in a crowded online-porn market.

It isn't the only conglomerate jumping on the bandwagon, either. Big dogs, like the mobile porn forerunner Digital Playground and potential Playboy (PLA) purchaser Brazzers have formatted their content for smartphones, tablets and other devices. iPadPorn.com and most other vanity URLs are purchased. Many direct traffic to the main site but, in the near future, it's easy to imagine original designs for the upcoming platforms.

As I mentioned in my review, the iPad is incredible for media consumption -- and porn is meant to be consumed. The advantages are pretty strong here:

  • Large, high-resolution screen
  • Easy wi-fi connection screen
  • Light and portabile
  • Always open Internet access
Based on Vivas' comments, companies are already making a tidy profit on iPad pornography, using the device for their own purposes -- and without giving Apple a 30 percent cut. Nice job, Steve.

Now, let's look at why porn isn't going to profit on the iPad. Short answer: the Web.

Porn conglomerates are jumping to the new device, but so are the freemium -- or just plain free -- adversaries that are dipping into their online coffers. YouPorn, RedTube and dozens of ad-supported websites aggregate paid content and repost it for free. iPad consumers will figure this out quickly and, we can bet, there will be even more free websites as tablets take off.

Furthermore, it is easy to assume that the average viewer doesn't need a full 60-minute, 30-minute or even 20-minute clip offered by the conglomerates. Most people probably fast-forward to the "best part" anyway, which is what the aggregate sites offer for free.

Finally, high-resolution pornography -- arguably the biggest strength of porn conglomerates -- has always been viewed as a luxury, not a necessity. Most of these aggregate sites have poor visuals -- on par with, well, early YouTube -- but that hasn't stopped the money -- or the copyright-violation suits. As I describe in my book Porn & Pong, the first computer pornography was created with ASCII characters. Low resolution has never stopped pornography from prospering -- especially if it's free.

Pay-walled porn websites with rare, specific niches or fetishes will do fine, but the bigger, mainstream companies are still in trouble. The question is, Why pay for something that is free?

The only way larger porn companies can differentiate themselves is not by pushing Web content, but by creating original apps with features unique to that platform. It is comparable to book publishers, believe it or not. Book publishers have been welcomed into the Apple iBookstore, with its fancy page turning and such, but to stand out with a truly amazing multimedia book, a publisher has to do a standalone app -- like the gorgeous pop-up book Alice.

Anyone can do something for the Web and format it for the current devices. It takes power and respect to get an app on the iPad. That would require the porn industry getting in bed with Steve, which, as he made clear in his puritanical rant, isn't going to happen anytime soon.

Based on the porn available on the Google (GOOG) Android phones, the Google tablet will be the ultimate dream machine for pornography apps. It isn't here yet, though -- and neither is a long-term solution to porn's dwindling profits.

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