There's a scene in Paul Thomas Anderson's epic movie about the porn industry, "Boogie Nights," when Jack Horner—the film director character famously played by Burt Reynolds—sees for the first time a porn movie made straight for video cassette. He knows his world will never be the same.
The adult entertainment industry is experiencing another big moment, and again, content format is critical to the changes taking place.
Data analysis is entrenched in many multibillion-dollar industries as they search for new ways to reach customers and create and sell better products to them, but when it comes to porn, many of the big players remain divided on whether the use of data is critical to keeping eyes on their product.
Some adult entertainment companies already swear by the process of collecting and analyzing data gathered from their customers, while others say that the industry is too segmented and customer whims change too frequently for analysis of an increasing amount of data to be of any use.
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The split, as you might expect, generally falls between DVD-focused companies and those with a larger online presence, such as webcam and "tube" sites (think YouTube for porn), which stream live content and XXX clips.
"The customers and genres evolve quickly," said Scott Taylor, president of New Sensations and Digital Sin, which has largely focused on the DVD market. "They have a tendency to catch fire for a short period, and if you can hit while the iron is hot, then that's what you do. Then you go on to whatever is next ... I don't even know where to go to pull down historical data from my customer."
Online-focused companies, however, say they're starting to pay more attention to uses of data, recognizing the potential increases in both revenue and user "dwell time" on their sites.
Pink Visual is an adult film production studio that was conceived with the mobile and online generation in mind, and it tends to be at the forefront of new technologies, including data analysis. President Allison Vivas said custom-built systems regularly sift through four databases that interact with each other to learn more about the company's customers and their preferences.
"It definitely helps to optimize revenue," Vivas said.
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As the company has analyzed user data, it has learned to stream higher-quality video to users who are accessing its sites via Wi-Fi (versus 3G or 4G connections), since they're better able to handle the bandwidth loads. IPad users also receive higher-quality streams, since it's more noticeable on a larger screen.
The company has also discovered that some areas with high traffic aren't worth the effort.
"It helps us analyze which countries aren't doing anything for us," Vivas said. "Sometimes there are countries where a lot of visitors come by, but the credit card holding status or ability to purchase isn't really there. In some cases, we'll have to block countries if they're sucking up too much bandwidth."