This is the headline of an article in the May 12, 2005 issue of the Wall Street Journal. It is great to see that certain patterns play out with remarkable consistency.
In this case, the WSJ observes that "wireless operators in Europe [and] Asia find that racy cellphone video drives a surge in broadband use." As one example, "Orange, a unit of France Telecom SA, says as much as a quarter of all videos accessed from its portal are erotic - the equivalent of about 3,330 hours of viewing each month." More broadly, the article reports that "world-wide, analysts expect spending on such content for cellphones to top $1 billion this year, up from virtually nothing a few years ago. Spending could triple or more within a few year, some say, particularly as the number of cellphones with video downloading capabilities grow."
What a surprise. As the article briefly notes, "pornography helped drive the early adoption of new technologies such as the VCR and the Internet." That's putting it mildly. Someday, someone is going to write the full history of the role of pornography in driving the early adoption of virtually every major consumer-oriented entertainment technology over the past 30 years. Pornography not only helped drive early adoption of the VCR, it played a non-trivial role in the victory of the VHS standard relative to the Betamax standard. It certainly played a significant role in the rapid take-off of DVD's, the rise of the consumer-oriented World Wide Web, the growth of broadband connections to the home, the early adoption of electronic payment media and content syndication and the spread of digital cameras, Web-based video cameras and video streaming technology, to mention just a few products and services. Ever seen an uncensored view of the most requested search terms on Internet search sites? Sex and sexually oriented topics remain very popular.
In fact, if you want to understand the technology and business models that are shaping network-based digital entertainment, you can learn a lot from studying the leading adult content sites. In Eric von Hippel's terms, these are often the "lead customers" pioneering and shaping the use of new technology. JSB and I talk about the edge as the source of innovation - this isn't what we had in mind, but it is in fact another meaning of edge.