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Porn industry experiencing — dare we say — shrinkage

Joe "Boots Stoneleigh" Brown

At the CES gizmo expo at the Sands Convention Center, it’s all about finding the Next Big Thing. But down the hall at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, it’s always been about the Next, Even Bigger, Preferably Biggest New Thing.

But even the adult industry is suffering from, well, shrinkage, this year.

The economy has had a noticeably diminishing effect on this annual bash for flesh, flash and cash: The expo floors (including the downstairs B2B booths, which means business-to-business and get your mind out of the gutter) are down to about 250 exhibitors (companies, that is) from 400 or so last year.

It’s still one of the best people-watching (and people-watching-people) opportunities of the year in Las Vegas, of course, and you don’t even need to buy a $120 ticket: Just hang out in the DMZ (the Sands lobby between CES and AVN) and watch the stars and their hilarious fans come and go.

But in addition to general belt-tightening among consumers, the skin biz is feeling the pain of such perennial woes as piracy and a relative newcomer:

Competition from a recent explosion of amateur sites like XTube and PornoTube that, like YouTube but with a crucial difference, offer startlingly specific varieties of streaming video content – for free.

“If I may be blunt,” says Sean Devlin, a spokesman for the Expo (and if you can’t be blunt at the porno convention, where can you, Sean?), “your average porn consumer only needs to spend – what, maybe 3 to 5 minutes of quality time? – once he’s found what he’s looking for. Everyone in the industry is kind of tearing their hair out over these sites.” Earlier Devlin told a Sun reporter that he expects to see a slight decline in attendance from last year’s numbers, which reached nearly 30,000.

Of course, there are still plenty of flashy booths from all the major studios, where makeup-encrusted starlets teeter on towering heels in Band-Aid-size skirts. (And there are exponentially more doofuses with cameras bumping into each other on the floor). But the scale of the studio booths, in square footage and in grandiosity, is visibly reduced in 2009.

Last year, 6-year-old Miami-based Bang Productions, in addition to the standard starlet photo ops and autograph signings, set up an elaborate carnival setting, with unprintable variations on traditional casino and fairground games such as ring toss and beanbag throw. But this year, Bang owner Penn Davis scaled way back on his Expo footprint, and limited the interactivity to signings.

Noticeably missing was last year’s most eye-catching booth, the Australian Abby Winters’ gigantic, centrally situated site with dozens of its amateur models playing girl next door in jeans and white bras, romping on AstroTurf under artificial sunlight and posing with fans across a chessboard.

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