Innovation Lessons from Adult and Gaming Sites

Rarely acknowledged by the mainstream, adult and gaming sites collect a healthy percentage of web traffic and account for a good deal of innovation, too.

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Of course, IPTV content won’t appear on the Internet by itself. That will put CIOs in the TV business. “IPTV will blur the line between the data center and the broadcast center,” says Piper.

To make your data available to these new IPTV consumers, CIOs will have to digitally encode everything. Most of the major film studios are just beginning that process; New Frontier began digitizing its movies five years ago. One of the technologies New Frontier is using for this is MPEG-4, an emerging compression standard. Videos compressed with MPEG-4 take less space to store and less bandwidth to deliver. MPEG-4 also has built-in digital rights management capability.

But compressing and posting content is the easy part. With every program available at any moment, how will users find programs? Piper believes that search will be the killer app of IPTV. To that end, New Frontier is obsessive about metadata, watching every frame of every video it digitizes and recording as many attributes as it can. Customers can use these metadata tags to refine their searches until they find precisely what they’re looking for. (For example, if you have a thing for blondes on the beach, a search on New Frontier’s adult website Ten.com for “clothing-accessories-sunglasses,” combined with “setting-outdoors-beach,” and “physical-hair-blonde,” returns two 15-minute clips, the fourth scene from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Bimbos 2 and the first scene from Pick Up Lines 82.)

IPTV will require this kind of search on steroids. “There will be so much choice that the average consumer will be frustrated without concise recommendations,” says Piper. New Frontier is experimenting with a search that combines what people are looking for with information about past preferences. “This will not only be a great up-sell vehicle but also an avenue by which we can broaden people’s tastes,” Piper says.

Innovation from the Web's Red-Light District

Streaming video. YouTube made it famous; adult movies made it economically viable.

Videoconferencing. Businesspeople increasingly use online chat and embedded video rather than conducting face-to-face meetings. Before that, it was used to communicate with Live! Girls! Now!

Digital rights management.Through their disregard for intellectual property rights, adult sites helped spur the music and film industries to apply DRM to their online content.

E-commerce.The content on adult sites was so compelling (to some), it helped people overcome their fear of using a credit card online, according to Frederick Lane, author of Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age. Mobile Content Delivery

One of the biggest areas of growth in the adult space is delivering content to mobile phones. There are more than three times as many mobile phones in the world as there are computers. Plus, people always have their phones with them. And that’s important. “By its very nature, arousal is impulsive,” says Julia Dimambro, managing director of Barcelona-based Cherrysauce, which delivers adult material to mobile phones. “Mobile brings immediate gratification. With the Internet, you have to wait until you get home.”

Dimambro points out that what works on television and the Internet won’t necessarily work on the phone’s small screen. For starters, the screen dimensions are different, which means existing video form factors, as well as other content, have to be reconfigured to fit or be specifically conceived with the mobile phone in mind.

One type of mobile promotion meeting with some success is “bluecasting.” For example, an advertiser will have a billboard in Heathrow Airport that says that anyone interested in learning about a particular product (say a Range Rover SUV) should turn on their phone’s Bluetooth capability. The billboard then detects the phone and sends it an advertisement or promotion for the product.

One of the services that Cherrysauce is experimenting with is putting plasma screen TVs in pubs. The screen shows a picture of a sexy woman and then prompts viewers to switch on the Bluetooth on their handset. This then allows the “bluejacking” box at the side of the TV screen to send content directly to the handset. Another marketing initiative places advertisements on TV or in print and asks viewers to send a text message to a special short code number, like 12345, if they want to see more. If they do, a link to download the content is returned to their handset via SMS or WAP message, sometimes with a charge attached. This is a process called premium SMS, and it’s a way of giving customers access to the mobile Web without requiring them to type in complicated URLs. Each short code number is registered with the mobile service providers. “If the user sends his text message to an adult short code, he is checked automatically to see if he has age-verified with his network,” such as $41 billion British mobile giant Vodafone, explains Dimambro. “If not, he is sent to the age verification service in order to access the content.”

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