ErosBlog: The Sex Blog

Sex Blogging, Gratuitous Nudity, Kinky Sex, Sundry Sensuality
 
 

ErosBlog posts containing "kink"

 
January 16th, 2019 -- by Bacchus

The State of Kink Unlimited’s Union

Amid today’s cable news babble, one bit of good news. The ongoing government shutdown disrupted plans for a State Of The Union speech that nobody wanted to hear anyway. But as I poured myself a celebratory shot of booze, it occurred to me that I never gave you all a report on Kink.com’s extremely rocky — but eventually successful — process of uniting its once-ragtag empire of kinky porn sites under the Kink Unlimited brand.

kink unlimited 70 kinky channels for one subscription price

I have a long and positive history with the company that became Kink.com in 2006. Peter Acworth’s original sites (beginning in the ’90s with Hogtied) were fresh and easily-marketed from an affiliate perspective. The company was professional, easy to work with, and paid like clockwork. As a sex blogger — even one not primarily focused on kink — I had a lot of time for all their projects. And at least in the early years, their models routinely reported safe and happy shooting experiences. They broke new ground with Sex and Submission, combining sex and bondage in a way that no mainstream porn company had previously had the courage to do. So great was their success, they were spinning out new sites like cotton candy. It honestly got hard to keep track of them all. They spent double-digit millions to buy their famous “castle of kink” — a former national guard armory — and ramped up production so much that by 2013 or so we started to need special web pages just to list all the Kink sites. Frankly, it was all getting to be more than just a bit of a wonderful mess.

But by that time, the arc of the profitable porn business had already peaked. Piracy, consolidation, and tubesites were taking their toll. In 2012 I noted with fascination an interview with Peter Acworth about his future plans for Kink.com in which none of those plans involved actual innovations in porn production. Obviously he wasn’t going to just walk away from his company’s core revenue stream, but his entrepreneurial eye was roaming off in other directions. About that time is when I started noticing that the affiliate department stopped being reliably and courteously staffed, too. Suddenly, getting affiliate support became catch-as-catch-can; whomever was doing seemed to be doing it “other duties as assigned” instead of as a core priority. Corners were being cut. Times were getting hard in the porn business.

One response from the company was to shut down or put on hiatus a few of its raunchiest sites (Bound In Public, Public Disgrace, and HardCoreGangBangs), eventually relaunching some of them with softer content, new shooting guidelines, and a bit of metaphorical soft-core Vaseline on the camera lenses. This was explicitly part of an effort to reposition the Kink.com brand as more of a mainstream lifestyle trademark a la Playboy. The unspoken notion, I think, was to license the fancy K on merchandise, and extend the “Kink” brand beyond porn, which was seen as a business in the final throes of ignominious death.

This cost-cutting and brand repositioning culminated in two huge moves in 2017 and 2018. 2017 brought news that all porn production in the huge San Francisco armory building had ceased, due to a search for tenants that were being dissuaded by sharing space with porn production. (That same story included rumors of a 40% decline in porn subscription revenue, driving the need to find tenants to support the massive space.) Porn production reported moved to “Southern California, Nevada and other parts of the Bay Area.” This caused one waggish email correspondent to describe the company to me as “a loose collection of contractors flying in formation” which I think may have been accurate at the time — except, I’m not sure if they were managing much of a formation. Of which, more later. (The move out of the Armory had to be traumatic for the organization. Empathy.)

Anyway, when I heard production was leaving the armory, my instant assumption was that this was preparation for sale of the building. I was not wrong: it sold in early 2018, for $65,000,000. (2006 purchase price: $14,500,000.) I’m not saying Kink.com didn’t make lots of money in porn, but this makes it look like a wildly-successful real estate business to me!

iconic armory building, long the home of Kink.com

But I got ahead of myself. Backtrack to 2015 or so, when nobody much was making any money in porn. Everybody was grasping at crazy straws like remaking themselves as “lifestyle brands” — this was the brutal year when even Playboy briefly flirted with the notion of abandoning nudity because they were bleeding losses and couldn’t get any social media traction due to #pornocalypse anti-nudity policies everywhere.

One strategy, widely adopted by the few remaining big porn companies, was to take all their little porn sites (and everything left was little compared to previous years) and shovel them together into package deals. “10, 20, 30 sites for one low subscription price!” Those were the shouty offers, and to this day they remain the industry’s default value proposition. Some of these offers — if they are backed by a company that’s still actively producing a wide variety of porn — are very good offers indeed.

The way these deals usually work is as follows: a porn company will take all their old sites, the ones that aren’t being updated any more but that have deep archives, years and years worth of old porn. In Kink’s case, this would be venerable old favorites like Wired Pussy (regular production stopped in 2014), Water Bondage (2013), and Men In Pain (2013). These get bundled together with sites that are still producing (sites like Sex and Submission, Whipped Ass, The Training Of O, Divine Bitches, Everything Butt, Hogtied, Device Bondage, Fucking Machines, and the Kink Men family of sites marketed at gay men).

But that’s not even close to the whole megillah. Every test shoot, abortive site concept, and side project that never saw release — why not throw that in? Stuff that only ever got sold via their Kink On Demand porn-by-the-shoot product, that goes in. If it’s got a shoot ID in their shoot database, there’s really no reason not to throw it into the final product. And then, icing on the cake — why not let other porn companies into the action? I don’t know the details of their cross-licensing details, but apparently it’s not hard to cross-license kinky porn from other companies and make that available too. (Presumably the back-end-software tracks views/consumption and compensates the original owners on some sort of negotiated pay-per-view basis.)

The end result? A product called Kink Unlimited. It rolled out in beta in 2016. The price point has fluctuated a bit, but it’s currently about forty bucks a month. That’s the base price. Sales — usually around various national holidays — can dip quite a bit cheaper. It’s also the case that if you’re willing to prepay for six or twelve months at a time, the monthly cost drops radically. Whichever price point you go for: for your money, you get access to a fucking ludicrous amount of porn.

Kink.com no longer makes any serious effort to estimate how much porn you get; the various banners and bullet lists don’t get updated regularly. “Over 70 channels” is their current claim — where a “channel” is code for a former site, or for a collection of content licensed from some third party. They say “Over 10,000 hours of HD video” — and they’ve been saying that for quite some time; I’m sure it’s rather more by now. “Over 12,000 shoots” — likewise. “Over 2,000 photos” — that number has not been updated since perhaps 2016. You get the idea. You get a shit ton of porn for your monthly Kink Unlimited subscription!

But friends, we did not get to “here” without some growing pains. The consolidation was painful.

Consider what the Kink.com porn site landscape looked like in 2015. They had thirty or more kinky porn sites, each on its own domain. Many of them were closed, or at least moribund, not being updated, with discount-priced access to stale archives. They had millions of affiliate links scattered all over the web (using at least three generations of different link structures) belonging to a bunch of affiliates most of whom where no longer active, due to the overall decline in the online porn business. They had millions of expensive “hosted galleries” — free porn, on their servers — to support those mostly-out-of-business affiliates and a bunch of freeloading porn surfers. And it was a world where the conventional wisdom was that the future was video, video, nothing but video. Google was giving all the search listing to porn tube video pages. Still porn photos weren’t appearing in search engine results anywhere in the top results (they still aren’t) because “the time the surfer spends on the page” is considered a powerful page quality factor by Google.

How in the nine frozen hells was Kink.com supposed to transition this mess into a single subscription offering under the Kink Unlimited banner?

In the event, they went with the Leroy Jenkins strategy:

That’s right. In June of 2016, they just burned it all down.

Hosted galleries? Gone. All the old legacy affiliate links? They mapped a few of them, but most of them broke. Gone. Those two million photos? It’s the age of video, we don’t need ’em. “Only…a small portion of our members use or appreciate them.” Gone. (Fortunately, the legacy photo collection did come back after about six months, although new shoots are variable; some sites don’t produce many more than the handful they need to show for free on the shoot promotional page.)

Needless to say, I found all this pretty demoralizing. My increasingly urgent (ok, desperate) emails to affiliate support were getting either no answers at all, or snotty “we don’t have the technical resources to address your issues” non-resolutions to my tickets. At one point one tech gave me a tiny cash credit for all the broken links he was refusing to fix, which I calculate was enough to cover about four hours of link repair work at my normal freelance rate. At this point I had something like 270 posts covering the years between 2004 and June 2016, call it an average of 3 links per post, something like 800 links. In excess of 500 of those were broken — either not going to the right place, or not crediting my affiliate account. Virtually none of these were simple, repetitive links amenable to a bulk find-and-replace. It was a fucking nightmare.

It was also too burdensome and demoralizing to fix. I didn’t even try.

What I did do, eventually, is start making new posts about holiday sales. I explained my reasoning here. And I noticed that people were buying, some, the Kink Unlimited product.

It’s a good product. It has kept growing since it was introduced in June of 2016. It’s fucking enormous now.

Finally, during the long holiday sales event that started in December, I bit the bullet and laboriously went through my 270 old posts, rooting out all the old broken links and replacing them with “new” working links. Everything is a Kink Unlimited link now — either to the main site itself, or to one of the channels (really just a themed subpage within the main site, showcasing the content from one of the old branded sites).

The laborious part was the old hosted gallery links. Those hosted galleries are gone. But, for the most part, each of the galleries had 20 pictures, and those same 20 pictures are now the free photos used to advertise the shoot. Most (but not all) the old hosted gallery links had the shoot ID numbers encoded in their URLs. So it was possible — not easy, but possible — to look at those old hosted gallery links, extract a shoot ID number, deduce a modern shoot URL, and edit the old post so that instead of saying “see more pictures in this free hosted gallery” it says “more pictures available with the shoot” or something.

But it took days and days and days. I drank. A lot.

Why did I do it? Honestly, it wasn’t about the money. Porn affiliate sales aren’t much of a thing these days, and what sales there are, come almost always from new posts. I have stats, and they tell me that old posts don’t see much traffic. A few long-tail searches, but the numbers are tiny. Honestly, rationally, leaving the links broken for 2.5 years didn’t cost me much, and leaving them broken forever wouldn’t have cost me a whole lot more.

Part of it was obsessive-compulsive disorder. It bothers me to have a large body of broken links in my archives. (Don’t tell me, I know, there’s still a bunch.)

But part of it was … the successor product is good. Kink.com has built a good thing with Kink Unlimited. All those hundreds of old posts, pointing at sites that no longer exist? I’m proud of those posts, and it’s worth some effort to point them at the closest thing to the proper modern URL.

In June of 2016 when Kink.com went Leroy Jenkins on us all, I didn’t imagine they’d build anything worth linking to. They were a company in crisis, a company in transition. A flock of contractors looking for a formation, with a boss looking for the real estate payout of a lifetime. I did not trust that it would be worth my time to invest in changing out half a thousand links.

It’s still very much my impression that Kink.com is a real estate company with a serious porn hobby. I don’t expect Peter Acworth to walk away from his porn revenue stream — which obviously remains substantial — but I very much doubt that porn is his primary obsession here in 2019. I don’t think it has been his first focus for many years. If he sold the business to MindGeek or another one of the big players, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. But that shouldn’t (fingers crossed) affect subscribers or affiliates too dramatically, at least in the short run. Kink Unlimited produces, licenses, and distributes a colossal volume of iconic kinky porn at a value-package price. It was worth a week out of my life to fix all my broken links. You might find it worth a twenty (or two) to subscribe.

 
December 26th, 2018 -- by Bacchus

Holiday Kink

I have neglected until almost too late the happy task of alerting you to Kink.com’s year-end holiday-themed sales. You still have until midday on January 3 to join at really substantial discounts — as much as 60% off!

Kink.com animated holiday sale banner

Are you feeling particularly gay this year? Better and better, for in that case I bring you great tidings of joy: joining Kink Men is even cheaper!

Kink.com animated holiday sale banner

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August 6th, 2018 -- by Bacchus

A Kinky Orgy In The Champagne Room

This looks to me more like something they darkroom-edited together for the cover of the October 1977 Italian porn magazine Supersex than like a party that anybody actually partied — but what do I know? It was a long time ago, and I was a mere slip of a child.

dominatrix performs femdom whipping on chained man while three simpering beauties pamper a dude with a bottle of champagne

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March 27th, 2018 -- by Bacchus

Kinky “Web Girls”

I have been saving the following Milo Manara artwork for a special occasion. The art originally graced the cover of a CD-ROM published around the turn of the century, and has been “cleaned up” to remove some of the commercial markings from the CD-ROM cover. “Turn of the century” is a rough guess, judging by the fact that the software supported by the CD-ROM included Windows 98 (released in 1998) but not Windows XP, which was released in 2001. In the artwork, we see a couple of lovely naked ladies in Manara’s trademark style, playing with each other via a HUGE (by modern standards) webcam:

camgirl art by Manara

You may be wondering: what’s the special occasion I’ve been saving the artwork for? In truth, I didn’t know myself. It turned out to be a request I received from Mistress World. They asked me to turn my skills at researching and porn art curation to the topic of camgirls, cams, camming, and especially fetish cams, which are their special thing and particular forte.

Obviously this is a bit of a challenge, since networked computers and webcams themselves date to precisely 1993, and the earliest webcam had a subject no more exciting than a coffeepot at the University of Cambridge:

first webcam of a coffeepot

History does not record the occasion of the first sexy camshow or the first kinky camgirl, but clearly seven years was plenty of time for the phenomenon to engage the popular imagination, if someone was willing to pay an artist of Manara’s stature to prepare what they would have called a “multimedia presentation” about sexy camgirls by 2000 (or so).

The 90s are remembered, in fact, for so-called “life-casters” — voyeuristic performers who kept webcams running on their lives, in the course of which they were sometimes nude and indeed sometimes had sex on camera. The first and most famous of these lifecasters was Jenni, who ran JenniCam from her college dorm. Later there were also AnaCam, DaniCam, and AtomCam, all before the turn of the century. But, especially at first, their always-on or most-always-on shows were only sporadically sexy, they were one-way shows with limited or no audience feedback, and they weren’t anything like the paid-erotic entertainment webcam shows we know today:

jennicam screenshot 1999

There’s some historical dispute about which of the lifecasters first discovered that they could set up paid memberships and extra-sexy private “pay-per-minute” shows to spin webcam gold, but it seems to have happened around 1998. By 2000 or so, certainly, it was definitely becoming big business!

Inject that kind of supercharged sexy spice into the popular culture and give Rule 34 almost twenty years to work its magic, and there should be a ton of secondary porn about camgirls out there, including the subgenre I went looking for, which was art (especially fan art) about camgirls and fetish camshows. I was expecting to find a metric buttload of it! In that I was disappointed; there’s less of it out there than I thought I would find. But I am who I am; my porn search skills are not easily thwarted. I did indeed find several nice pieces of fetish camgirl art.

The first of these is titled simply Camgirl, by artist Reptileye:

kinky camshow art

The next is a spanking extravaganza called “Put on a show!” by artist Mcrocks:

spanking camshow art

And finally, a bit of orgasmic pillowbiting for a camming audience called Inumimi CamGirl, by artist VeryMediocre:

pillow biting camgirl orgasm with tail and vibrator

If you know of any more camming and camgirl-themed art, please feel free to link it in the comments. In particular I expected to find fan-art tributes to particular camgirls, and in fact that didn’t turn up hardly at all in my searches. I won’t be at all surprised to find out that I missed some whole art community that one of you learned commenters can link me to.

mistress world banner

 
January 3rd, 2018 -- by Bacchus

Kink

Comments Off on Kink
 
January 1st, 2018 -- by Bacchus

Tied To A Tree, Kinky Plans Thwarted

The dyspeptic look on our slightly-mussed hero’s face tells me that he originally brought the rope along on this little safari/expedition with kinky games in mind, but he was emphatically not intending to spend any time tied to a tree himself. Sauce for the goose, it turns out, has a flavor the gander is not enjoying, especially when fed to him by local bandits he had assured her “were entirely a myth” during the planning phase of the trip:

couple tied to a tree

Artwork by Louis Carrière is a detail from this French-language pulp cover originally seen at Au carrefour étrange.

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November 24th, 2017 -- by Bacchus

Kinky And Stocked

combat shopping the old-fashioned way

You might have noticed that in general I’m doing a lot less promotion of commercial porn and other affiliate products here on ErosBlog. Partly this is the yields of futility; when there’s not so very much porn-buying going on, for all the reasons we’ve discussed at length in other posts, why “junk up the place” with marketing posts? And partly it’s because your steady Patreon support gives me a bit of breathing room, supporting at least partially my costs of operation and giving me the sense that it’s OK to focus on the kinds of posts that make me (and hopefully you) the most happy. Which is why, these days, if you see an affiliate link on a porn photo it’s very often there because it gives me rights to publish a photo that I otherwise wouldn’t have permission to publish, or wouldn’t have access to in the first place.

That said, I do notice that sales sometimes do still “perk up” at two of the old stalwart companies that I’ve been doing business for almost twenty years — since before I was a sex blogger — whenever they run one of their heavy-discount sales around one of our national holidays. I’m talking about Kink.com and The Stockroom. Whenever they run a big sale and I link to them, my stats show that some of you like to take advantage of the unusually-good bargains. So I consider such posts to be “reader service” as much as anything else.

Image credit (top of post): They say old-fashioned retail is dead. Well, there’s old-fashioned, and then there’s the interior of H.A. Goodrich and Co.’s store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, circa 1887.

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