So why is it significant that a year has gone by without my retaining an “adult sophisticate” (porn) publisher as a client?
There’s a stream of conscious commentary that the porn industry is always on the leading wave. They’re the first to adapt to a shift in technology, or they push the bounds retail or social trends. The big one, of course is that porn merchants are early adapters of technology (examples here: http://bit.ly/Gq92u and here: http://bit.ly/avcUtK). Perhaps it’s true. Or perhaps it has more to do with the mainstream side of the world being enthralled and amused with an industry and it’s inhabitants who live outside of the rules.
In my last post (http://bit.ly/aSoAKI), I mentioned the impact that the Meese Commission report had on the adult business in terms of the single copy sales of “sophisticate” magazines. Both Playboy and Penthouse Magazine, for example, used to have their own field forces to supplement the circulation activities of their national distributors. They consistently sold a million or more copies on the newsstand.
A decade after the Meese Commission report, Penthouse was selling slightly over 750,000 copies on the newsstand. Playboy about 775,000 copies.
Fast forward a decade to 2004 and we see Playboy down to 450,000 copies and Penthouse at 226,000 copies.
According to Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) reports, Playboy now sells under 225,000 copies on the newsstand. Penthouse under 100,000 copies. Talk about losing your market clout.
The consensus among most of the people I talk to about this trend is that several events followed Ed Meese’ little gift to the religious right that created a “perfect storm” for the adult magazine business:
1. The loss of retail outlets. Convenience stores were reluctant to carry the magazines. The shift of convenience store images to more “family” and “food” friendly places to shop meant they weren’t getting back in. And forget about mainstream accounts like drugstores and supermarkets.
2. The advance of DVD’s and DVD viewing technology in the ’90’s meant that interactive adult entertainment could more easily take the place of magazines.
3. The advent of reasonably fast and inexpensive high speed internet connections meant that online porn videos took the place of DVD’s in the middle of the last decade.
So wither the printed porn magazine? Are they a leading wave for what will happen to mainstream general interest and special interest printed magazines?
If I were a TV reporter, I suppose my sign off right about now would be: “So is this the end of the line for the printed porn magazine? Only time will tell. For News 4 You, I’m Joe Berger.”
And it may very well be the case that time will tell. I almost always had an adult oriented publishing client because there was always some changes I could affect to their distributions. If not in the mainstream wholesaler market that is now dominated by Source, News Group and Hudson News, I could work some positive change in the secondary and specialty market where we still find regional magazine wholesalers.
But in this case, both technology and social trends may trump tradition. If you want an adult magazine nowadays, they are a little hard to find. You either have to go into an adult bookstore (where their presence is also diminishing), or an old style newsstand, or some of the convenience stores (mostly independent) that carry these titles.
Or you can download the latest from the web in the privacy of your own home And if you don’t want to see the whole thing, you most likely can get a lot of it for free.
Of course, that could be the topic for another post.