Illustrated cover of Bloomberg Businessweek with three large pink X's.
Illustrated cover of Bloomberg Businessweek with three large pink X's.

Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that high-end adult film industry producers will soon introduce a proprietary micropayment system designed to push back against the rise of free pornography online.

Promising to do for adult movies what Apple did for the music business with iTunes, advocates want to differentiate poorly produced free offerings with their high-quality productions. They will replace the traditional porn site model of US$24.99 up-front monthly memberships with 99-cent short clips that also would be mobile-friendly.

Snickers aside, the industry is very serious that what they produce is high quality. And people should pay for quality. Critical to high-end adult film advocates is that the value proposition is about price, quantity, and specificity.

Jordan Weissman, writing recently in The Atlantic, exposes the flaw in the porn industry’s comparison of their content to the music industry: “Here’s the problem: Pornography is mostly a commodity product. Music is not. People have favourite bands and expect a certain level of product value in their music.” He goes on to extol the virtues of Bruce Springsteen while pointing out that porn audiences aren’t “sensitive” to production values.

So, where does journalism fit on the quality prism of music to porn?

Weissman places journalism more toward commoditised porn — with notable exceptions being the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and their demonstrated ability to get people to pay. Writes Weissman: “What holds for journalism in this case holds for sex. In both cases, the competition is so broad that customers are likely to go elsewhere rather than pay.”

How is the journalism that you produce demonstrably different than citizen bloggers? How is the video and photography you produce sharply better than a really talented amateur? What attribute in the content that you produce would drive a person to pay at least one penny? How about 50 cents? How about US$1?

The answer to these questions will determine whether your journalism is closer to music or porn in the “quality” prism.