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Is There a Future for College Porn?
Boink may bring it back to life
Thomas Johansmeyer (tomj)     Print Article 
Published 2007-10-07 10:52 (KST)   
Where have all the college kids gone? A market that was on fire, at least according to the mainstream media, college porn magazines popped up on campuses across the country, with the first and the most prominent (H-Bomb and Boink, respectively) in prudish Boston. As quickly as it started, the college porn market has all but disappeared. The publicity showed one story, but the private reality reflects the reality of businesses that did not have a chance.

College porn refers to the efforts of campus dwellers to launch adult websites and magazines focusing on their own demographic. Typically consisting of articles, erotic fiction and softcore photos, they vary from sex-positive endeavors to content aimed specifically to titillate. Many have receded from 쐏orn because of local criticism, editor squeamishness and lack of writer and model participation. Instead, they tend to focus on 쐓exuality.

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Early Attempts at Commercial Success

The college porn movement started in 2004 with a $2,000 grant from Harvard University. H-Bomb, which bills itself as a magazine dealing with college sexuality, was greeted by reports from the Boston Globe, NY Times and others announcing its arrival.

Boink followed in 2005, though under much different circumstances. Founded by Alecia Oleyourryk and Christopher Anderson (the latter a participation in H-Bomb셲 launch), Boink was strictly a private endeavor. Boston University, where Oleyourryk studied journalism, announced its contempt for the magazine publicly. Others followed. Yale, University of Chicago, and Brandeis all had on-campus experiments with sexually themed magazines.

By the time the first issue of Brandeis Romp hit the streets of Waltham, MA, the end was already near. H-Bomb, on its third Editor, had receded to online only. Chicago셲 Vita Excolatur was just a blog. Boink had suspended publication.

Most appear to have entered the market under the naive 쐓ex sells theory, assuming that people would be drawn to the young flesh that populates college campuses. Pure id, the founders of college porn magazines overlooked the business challenges that all content producers face.

A number of factors converged to prevent college porn from realizing its potential. Management experience, business planning and capital constraints made it difficult for these magazines to survive, but entrepreneurs routinely overcome such challenges. What college porn magazines could not overcome was an early and strategic miscalculation.

The overwhelming strategic flaw has been the availability of content. Universally, college porn began with a focus on the print medium, without consideration of the tightening print media market. Magazines certainly are not dead, but they have to be unique; the value proposition must be self-evident. In college porn, the college theme could be perceived as the differentiating factor, but it was largely restricted to editorial. Unfortunately, few care to read about dorm room conquests or the contrived sexual dilemmas of 20-year-old kids.

But, at least there are pictures.

Photos of hot coeds have been a staple of porn for decades, but now they compete with freely available hardcore videos, often featuring the same stile of performer. If a consumer wants to find photos or video of late-teen/early 20s women involved in softcore or hardcore acts, he doesn셳 have to look far.
College porn could have survived on photos alone by using context as a differentiator, even within the print medium. But, all except Boink pulled back from explicit photos in favor of editorial, mostly as a way to mitigate the risk of being considered 쐏ornographers.

What셲 left? Collections of immature writing styles on pedestrian sex.

Weakness in the college porn market led most publications to pull back to the web, abandoning their print dreams. Under some circumstances, this would have been a prudent strategic decision. But, the driver was cost. Instead of embracing the online venue, most college porn operations made the newspaper mistake. They tried ot recreate print on the web. In doing so, they limited potential revenue streams while delivering an inferior product. As a result, most are merely limping along.

Moving to the web succeeding in alleviating college porn magazines of the costs associated with publishing a print magazine, but the lack of aggressive online marketing and pertinent revenue models does not extend inflows of cash. It only reduces the amount of money that is outbound.

Boink may not have been college porn done right, but it clearly was college porn done best. Almost immediately, the publication attained a circulation of 20,000, with newsstand distribution limited to the Boston area. A sure sign of health, approximately one third of circulation came from subscriptions. Yet, NY Times Magazine mentioned casually in a March 4, 2007 article that Boink had suspended publication of the magazine.

The most successful of the college porn magazines and the most viable business was no longer in the business of selling magazines. Boink셲 situation was unique. While its peers failed to gain any real traction in the market, Boink was crushed by the weight of its own success. With a tight budget, Boink relied on the services of volunteers, which is neither unusual nor imprudent for a startup publication. But, the free labor disappeared when it found work rather than parties. Warner Books picked up the Boink Book, a prestigious opportunity that left the staff stretched far too thin. They agreed to suspend publication of the magazine in order to meet its obligations to Warner Books.

But, Boink is coming back, according to Anderson. In addition to plans for a one-hour scripted drama, he and Oleyourryk intend to resume publication of the magazine and seek national distribution. Anderson made clear that the suspension of circulation was a temporary measure.

The expansion of the Boink brand into books and possibly television still overlooks the web. While there are plenty of ads on the site, content is missing. One must subscribe in order to view pictures or articles, which in itself is not a strategic misstep. The problem comes from the dearth of content offered.

There is no added value delivered by the website. With only quarterly publication, it seems that extra editorial submissions, not deemed worthy of the magazine but not of low quality, could be put to work on the web as a way to entice visitors to return. Also, film and product reviews, the mainstays of most adult websites, could bring in additional affiliate revenue, particularly in light of the brand셲 notoriety.

A Second Chance for College Porn?

There were no press releases announcing the demise of college porn. It happened quietly, seeping into the mainstream consciousness. Great men and women did not suffer spectacular falls. They had not attained the heights to do so.

College porn was a media phenomenon. An interesting, though brief, mix of youth, sex and entrepreneurship attracted a tsunami of coverage. In the end, nothing happened. By March 2007, when NY Times Magazine ran a long profile piece on college porn, the movement had waned considerably, and now it merely limps.

Refocusing on the web, especially for Boink, could revitalize this niche. College porn is leaving money on the table, limping when it could sprint. Early missteps should not signal a death knell. A change of strategy could turn mainstream titillation into fiscal reality, and the best chance for the survival of college porn could come from the people it rejected. A savvy adult entertainment company operator could integrate a college porn publication easily

Expect a fresh round of press in February 2008 with the release of the Boink Book. True to the Boston roots of this market, the media will fulfill the loose prophesy of President John F. Kennedy. 쏛 rising tide lifts all ships. Coverage of the book will resurrect the mainstream media셲 interest in H-Bomb, etc., retelling the story of horny college kids out for their fifteen minutes.
The article has appeared on my adult entertainment blog.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Thomas Johansmeyer

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