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At the end of the day, all porn is handheld

This Magazine Staff

Porn is a bellwether of media format success. Typically, its seedly, unspoken nature, at least according to prudish Western sensibilities, belies the fact that it has proven time and time again to be a pioneer on new technology fronts.
Take, for example, the internet. While the battle fields of the world wide web lies scattered with the carcasses of many unmonetized dot.coms, Porn has proven itself a stalwart and profitable colonizer. Looking further back to the eighties, Betamax’s superior quality standards were thwarted in part by the porn industries rally behind the VHS format. The current high definition format war between Blueray and HD-DVD is claimed to be actively courting the porn industry to “strongly influence” the balance of adoption to their respective formats. So with porn’s pioneering track record in check, where is there left to conquer?
Wireless.
Canada’s adoption for wireless benchmarked versus the rest of the world is markedly slow. This molasses-like pace is linked to many reasons including Canada’s lower levels of disposable income, high network to low population density cost ratios, and a national competitive set consisting of only three giant, fiscally conservative telecoms.
While countries like South Korean, the UK and Japan continue to innovate laps around Canada with average consumers lapping up streaming TV, radio, games, customized downloads, instant messaging, email, social networking and GPS/LBS services all from their mobile devices, the average Canadian consumer remains in the dark ages with single digit percentages of Canadians using, let alone aware of such capabilities.
Enter Porn.
Given that the telecom trinity is reluctant to drop prices to increase consumer uptake on wireless services, adult content again becomes a pioneering spirit of, pardon the pun, “sex it and they will come.”
Of the top 25 Web sites visited by Telus customers via their handsets in December, more than half were adult sites, Telus spokesman Jim Johannsson said. So if people are already seeking it out on their own volition, why not provide more of it? And charge $3-4 per item? The economics of it are a no-brainer.
The old tennet of “sex sells”, holds true. In this case, perhaps sex sells cellular, but it is nearly unfathomable that any modern man or woman did not any any stage of their emerging sexual identity did not look a piece of porn. Because the lesser know tennent of “sex wanted is less than sex gotten” also holds true, sex and sex proxies have an ascribed value similar to any scare resource. Once a subsegment of people try paying for adult mobile content, people will be disposed to try other types of mobile content. Since Canadians have show reluctance to pay for more acceptable mobile content such as music or tv, adult content, becomes a more seductive ringer albeit on a teeny tiny mobile screen.
So why did it take so long for porn to make it to the mobile handset?
Without trying to sound like a broken record, it breaks down to the conservative nature of the telecoms and the prudish Western sensibilities on sex and pornography. Canadian telecoms are notorious for having a tight leash on content control over their airwaves. Unless you’re crafty enough to have obtained an unlocked GSM phone from Chinatown, very little gets on or off the handset without authorization. The recent Catholic Church furor over Telus’ initiative to monetize adult content is both expected and fading. Can you imagine if religious groups even tried to remove porn from hotel pay-per-views across the country? Inconceivable! In fact, the other two telecoms, Rogers and Bell, are likely waiting in the wings to launch their own adult content services while Telus navigates the theo-political minefield.
But at the end of the day, porn, as uncomfortable as it makes people feel (at least publically), should have an acceleration effect on Canadians using their handsets beyond just voice service. To Telus’ credit, they are “giving consumers the option to access it in a responsible way, with proper age verification and ensuring that the content is actually legal for download in Canada.” It took Canadian Idol to help mainstream text messaging to the broad Canadian public. If it takes adult content to eventually mainstream mobile phones as multimedia devices, personally I would consider that a less heinous price to pay with just a shred more dignity.

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