The future of porn: $42K webcam shows?

OK, probably not. But Kink's sale of a one-hour virtual show for five figures shows there's big money in webcams

Topics: Pornography, porn, Sex, webcams, Editor's Picks,

The future of porn: $42K webcam shows? (Credit: Nikolich, Bruno Passigatti via Shutterstock/Salon)

Forty thousand dollars can buy you a house in some parts of the country. But an Australian man recently plunked down even more in an auction for a private one-hour webcam session with dominatrix Maitresse Madeline. The adult website says it’s the highest amount ever paid for a webcam show, which enables a performer and viewer to interact virtually. As Kink’s publicist told me, this is porn for the 1 percent.

By the third day of the auction, bids passed $10K. The second-to-last bid was for $30,000 — but the winner apparently thought nothing of upping it by $12K. “As an hourly rate,” says the press release, “$42,000 puts Madeline in league with pop stars like Lady Gaga and Oprah.” Madeline told Kink’s BDSM blog, Kinky, ”People are paying for something they don’t get in their normal life, whether that’s a fetish that they are afraid to live out in real life or maybe their partner won’t give them what they desire and they look to cams to fulfill that missing part of their sexuality,” she said. “People want to remain anonymous and they pay for anonymity.”

This auction was a test case for a new way of marketing and profiting off of adult content. Maitresse Madeline plans on holding interactive auctions in the future, “featuring everything from webcam shows to pantyhose auctions and chastity keyholding services,” according to Kink.

Peter Acworth, the company’s founder and CEO, says that live and interactive porn is a growth area. “Customers’ connections to the Internet are improving and many want a closer connection to the performer,” he tells me. “One-to-one shows are very expensive, but some are willing to pay surprisingly large sums of money to get exactly what they want.” For those who can’t afford a one-on-one show, webcam portals offer customizable broadcasts to a chat room full of viewers. Kink also broadcasts many of its porn shoots, meaning viewers can pay to watch their porn sausage being made, or simply buy the end product.

None of this is to say that Kink is giving up on recorded content. “While it’s becoming progressively more challenging, we are building a new content distribution platform that will give personalized recommendations, like Netflix does,” says Acworth. “We think this service will be worth paying for even when there is so much free content available.”

At least for the 99 percent, the future of porn probably won’t be five-figure webcam shows. But the industry is banking on technology — the very thing that undid it — as its savior.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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