Really Sexy Sindication

Steve Rubel suggests that the reason that RSS and newsreaders haven’t caught on is a lack of “mass adoption by b-to-b and b-to-c e-commerce sites.” He turns to the history of Amazon and ebay and the explosion of the web to suggest a historical analogy. But he has fallen into the trap that many commentators on communication technologies do: ignoring the primary factor moving many such technologies from the innovators to the early adopters. Porn.

Yeah, sure, Amazon and ebay were popular, but online porn was making money way before either were breaking even. From VCRs to cable to Usenet to IM and video streaming — what moved it out of the lab was porn. The private nature of pornography (at least from the consumers’ perspective) makes it relatively invisible. Once people realize that a “newsreader” can support pictorials, and especially as the combination of RSS and bittorrent grows, we will see a rush to newsreaders. When that happens, many people will also begin subscribing to “legitimate” news and entertainment feeds, and we will once again get collective amnesia about the prime mover.

What is the state of Porn RSS? A quick googling of “RSS porn” calls up some interesting musings that suggest I am not alone in seeing the connection here, but few actual feeds. One exception is the evocatively named Channel of Filth, which is dedicated to “servicing the teaching and learning community’s needs for accurate, timely and quality-assured descriptions of kinky amateur fruit session videos…” (link is rated PG). Syndic8 scares up 77 feeds with “porn” in them, many moribund or ill-formed. Right now, there are a number of pornographic blogs with feeds (most famously Fleshbot), but most are in fact “meta-porn” blogs. Nonetheless, if we are to use history as a guide, this is where the RSS killer app is to be found.

So, the primary factor limiting the rapid diffusion of RSS is a lack of porn feeds. Conscientious educators and public intellectuals should mount an effort to create high-quality RSS porn. If we look to some of the literature on diffusion, we see that the technology itself is not as likely to diffuse as rapidly as, say, blogs. The major reason for this is that they lack the ability to be easily observed. If someone asks you “what is a blog” you can point them to several examples (indeed, this usually is easier than trying to define them). The same may be possible if you happen to have a newsreader on your laptop, but it remains a far more “hidden” technology. When you go over to a friend’s house, it’s easy to see their new Tivo unit, and see how it works, but his newsreader is less likely to be on display.

Until recently, many newsreaders also lacked good “trialability.” That is, trying out a newsreader meant downloading and configuring sometimes finicky pieces of software. I think Bloglines has largely obviated this latter concern, and somewhat dissipated the former.

(Any double-entendre in this post was indeed recognized and enjoyed by its author, but I am trying to avoid the whole giggle-giggle-porn thing since I’ll have to be teaching about it for 15 weeks.)

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  1. Pornonymous
    Posted 6/30/2004 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    If it’s such a great opportunity, then why isn’t anyone doing it already?

    I’m not trying to be a smart aleck, but these porn guys (as I like to call them ; > ) are hardly shy about finding new ways to turn a buck.

    So what’s the limiting factor? Certainly not lack of exposure for blogs and RSS? Lack of audience? No way to charge for feeds?


  2. Posted 6/30/2004 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Great article. It’s in tune with Baker’s (my) Law of Technological Success: “No technology will succeed unless in promotes violence or pornography.”

  3. Posted 7/1/2004 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    I think that it isn’t yet as widely used because the technology hasn’t been there until very recently. That’s not to say that we haven’t had RSS for quite a while, and that there weren’t plenty of syndication schemes before that, only that there hasn’t been enough good readers — especially readers that could support embedded images and video — until fairly recently.

    I suspect that within the next half a year or so, the 77 feeds on syndic8 will be many times that. And in any event, I suspect that we will see porn companies at the bleeding edge of b-to-c RSS use before we see other types of commercial use. We’ll just have to see. After all, Porn companies aren’t making use of a lot of technologies yet, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be instrumental in mainstreaming them, though.

  4. cyborgopoulos
    Posted 7/1/2004 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    it is interesting that with adolescence, the transition from not having, to having testosterone also coorelates with the piagetian years of significant cognitive milestones. Porn was part of my youth.

    Now as the cellphone that can Moblog and text message, the issues of growing up becomes integrated with the technology. I think that an entire generation of persons will learn alot about the opposite sex via this medium. This will also be the common meeting ground for learning about how to communicate. That porn is here to stay, is a reality. I think many will transition from immaturity towards maturity in this manner: alearning about sex, learning about dating, learning about technology.

    Adults will have to set examples towards younger generations to learn the harm that pornography can create to ones socialization. how things will play out is interesting: but first of all, we need that behind all the communication and messages on blogs, are real people with feelings: some in unfortunate circumstances; others going through phases, some expressing individuality, other experiencing abuse and inner pain.

  5. cyborgopoulos
    Posted 7/1/2004 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    and having a cellphone with multiple capacities is becoming an adolescent status symbol as opposed to a geek toy. so this all will converge with the technical issues. as it becomes part of language, the key anthropological forces will be displayed upon the screens of wireless technology, and within the collective memories of bloging.


  6. cyborgopoulos
    Posted 7/1/2004 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    so as the elderly recall the inventions of the radio and TV, and as we witness the accelerated changes in human interaction, we will get a glimpse into the future of our networks: a well distributed spirituality part of an evolving ethical dialog with the extended self: the spirit within the machine.

  7. Posted 7/2/2004 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Hmmmm… yes porn is about broadcast and RSS is also a kind of broadcast but that’s pretty much where it ends… as you say porn runs on money, I don’t think authenticated RSS feeds are available yet are they (thus no real money options)…. RSS is also very selective (you hardly stumble across a feed) and not dissimilar to email in a subcriber sense (and email porn is hardly a booming industry!)

    I’m no expert but I reckon the kind of things a porn merchant would be looking for are not the advantages of RSS.

    Interesting thought though!

  8. Posted 7/2/2004 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    p.s. Love the way you’ve incorporated (wordpress is it?) commemnts into this front page… have you investigated email updates for posts and comments?

  9. Posted 7/2/2004 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    Just an RSS feed is nice but if, like me, you often comment while going through your feeds often subscribing to another RSS feed is tricky at that time… I’ll stop the irrelevance now… Cheers, James

  10. Posted 7/2/2004 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    James: All the same could be said for the early web. Authentication and online payments happened, in large part, because the porn industry drove those innovations. Early stages were teasers for paid content. I suspect that will be the first step for RSS. After all, to give a concrete example, a site like Daily Topless (NSFW) makes far more sense as a feed than it does as a web page. They don’t even have advertising obviously displayed on the page — the only way to get to the profit center is to click through. It seems to me that this could be directly translated to RSS with little effort. So could services that, while not pornographic, are right on the edge, like Am I Hot or Not. This kind of opt-in spam seems ideal for porn companies.

    Although the focus is on the porn industry here, it would be wrong to forget the impact of porn file trading among the audience, from BBSs to Usenet’s alt.binaries, to Kazaa.

    Finally, I don’t know that porn is about broadcast, unless you take broadcast to mean something fairly elastic. Much of the profit for online pornographers comes of live shows and the like. Indeed, CUSeeMe and other video technologies owe a debt of gratitude to the pornographers that helped shape them. I think the key here really is narrow-cast. RSS allows for channels that may be pulled by only a few dozen or a few hundred people. Right now, it is unlikely that a larger organization is going to be able to cater to such a narrow set of tastes.

  11. Posted 7/3/2004 at 2:11 am | Permalink


    stumbled into some greek engineer humor: the link is a spoof on a greek pornography site: but if you tap on the two pink hyperlinks, it leads you to a very funny greek bouzouki song: thats the second link with the mu.

    the first is a link to hacking into wireless devices and quite sofisticated: instructions to hack in greek only…sorry.

    so all this is learnt from greek pornography…

  12. Posted 7/3/2004 at 2:16 am | Permalink
  13. Posted 7/13/2004 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    thx for correcting my tb-entry :o))

  14. Posted 3/25/2005 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Just wait.. This will happen :) In fact it is, I bet this is going to work very well.

  15. Nguyen
    Posted 11/17/2005 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Can RSS feeds have thumbnails? Something like TGP but accessible through RSS. This could apply to other sites too, like flickr, picasa…

  16. ron
    Posted 1/8/2006 at 5:21 am | Permalink is there already :)

  17. Posted 2/22/2006 at 8:10 pm | Permalink
  18. Posted 2/22/2006 at 8:10 pm | Permalink
  19. Posted 2/22/2006 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    game pokeR look here.

  20. Posted 5/23/2006 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    There is now a site with categorized Sex RSS Feeds of adult porn galleries – with thumbnails!

    Our Sex RSS Feeds are here:

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8 Trackbacks

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  2. By Wikilab » Really Sexy Syndication ^ 3 on 7/12/2004 at 2:51 pm

    […] logs Broadcatching — Luca Lizzeri @ 4:48 pm Talmente azzeccato il titolo di questo post di Alex Halavais ripreso da Cesare Lamanna, che lo devo riprendere anch’io: Reall […]

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  4. By we make money not art on 7/1/2004 at 8:43 pm

    About the primary factor moving technologies
    While Steve Rubel suggests that the reason that RSS and newsreaders haven’t caught on is a lack of “mass adoption by b-to-b and b-to-c e-commerce sites”, Alex Halavais argues the author of Micro Persuasion “has fallen into the trap that…

  5. By 4 Banalitaten on 7/12/2004 at 5:24 pm

    Really Sexy Syndication
    Come per il videoregistratore.

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  7. By on 12/5/2004 at 4:05 pm

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    I recently incorrectly predicted that porn was to be the killer app for RSS enclosures (Really Sexy Sindication). In fact, podcasting seems to be picking up steam An adroit commenter wondered why they weren’t doing it already if it was…

  8. By Alex Halavais » BestBlogForward? on 5/28/2006 at 10:03 pm

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