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2009 Porn - A Year in Review

Ok you can exhale now. 2009 is coming to an end and perhaps the toughest year for the adult industry ends with the ball drop in Times Square.  The bad news of 2009 for porn is pretty well documented. 2009 proved that porn isn't as recession proof as everyone once thought and the huge uptick in piracy was a one-two punch with tough economic times. 

But 2009 wasn't a knock out for the adult industry. While some studios packed up their stuff and folded, many dug in and looked long and hard at their business.  Studios tightened their belts, looked at what they were doing and started realizing that the market is really changing.

One of the brightest spots for 2009 was of course the Porn Parody. Most every studio jumped on this bandwagon and pumped out as many spoofs as they possibly could. Leading the pack was Hustler who produced and distributed the most porn parodies. It didn't hurt that Hustler had X-Play and Will Ryder in their corner, the MVP of porn parodies.  New Sensations/Digital Sin had the biggest balls when it came to lampoons. They took on such heavyweights as Seinfeld, Scrubs and X-Files and did a bang up job of getting the word out.

Also in 2009 the scrappy crew behind Popporn.com made the transition from web site to porn producers. Their partnership with Zero Tolerance shows that as the industry changes that it can create unique opportunities for new content and new approaches to porn.

2009 was a real mixed year for the contract star system. At the front lines of this was Digital Playground who saw one of their key contract girls, Stoya, get entangled in a messy contract dispute (messy enough to make many of the mainstream tabloids).  Then Angelina Armani departed, making a successful stab on her own. Finally the year was capped with a shipwreck of a signing and quitting of McKenzie Lee. But every year has its drama and DP had some strong and interesting moves bringing on Raven Alexis and Janie Summers who both had strong web followings.  They also saw their up and coming starlet Riley Steel make great ground in 2009.

Vivid also adjusted in 2009 with a leaner roster of contract starlets and a change in their longstanding directing stable. The signing of Aj Bailey was one of their most interesting moves as they continue to shift their line up to meet the needs of the changing market.  This was also reflected in a big uptick of web friendly titles from B. Skow and a strong reduction in big features.

Wicked faced 2009 as they have almost every other year, slow and steady, without many major changes to their line up and with a huge feature release featuring their key contract starlets. This seemed to work well for Wicked who also bucked the trend of putting out more comps with a strong line up of titles featuring each of their contract performers. 

With all the buzz about the web becoming the dominate place for porn, 2009 closed out without any real clear sense of this coming to fruition. While piracy and tube sites seemed to be the primary focus and crisis management for the industry there weren't a lot of compelling and creative alternatives presented to porn consumers.  For an industry known for innovation, this year saw very little real innovation for porn on the web and many studios only dabbled with Blu-ray with almost no titles priced to get fans to try the medium out.

While 2009 saw performers like Alexis Texas, Jenna Haze, Tori Black, Lisa Ann, Kagney Linn Karter, Kristina Rose, Ashlynn Brooke and Bobbi Starr all do well, there was a real lack of cross over activity. Sasha Grey was one of the only starlets to really cross over and while she got some fantastic press (including a nice spread in Rolling Stone) she didn't quite fill the void created in an industry that's used to depending on a Jenna Jameson like megastar. 

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of 2009 was the line up of titles. With such a huge emphasis on porn parodies there was little room left on the porn plate for fans of features.  Adam & Eve and Wicked did commendable jobs with their big releases but the year on balance left us wanting something more.  Digital Playground who has lead the industry with their mega blockbuster releases limped in with their showcase title Teachers. Teachers was a fine addition to their vocational series but we wanted more.  It's like when Quentin Tarantino did grindhouse when we knew he could do Inglorious Basterds.

Outside the parody and feature space we must tip our hat to Elegant Angel who in 2009 delivered one of the most compelling and consistent line up of films we've seen. Keeping the quality up and the quantity of releases down (including a nice spattering of Blu-Ray releases), Elegant Angel was an absolute proof of concept of how an adult studio can change to meet the market and prosper. 

We were also quite impressed with Zero Tolerance, Evil Angel and Jules Jordan Video for continuing to deliver at or above the level of quality that they've maintained over the years. 

Jules Jordan in particular offered cash strapped porn fans more fuck for the buck than almost anyone else and with Jenna Haze in their stable they'll continue to be an extremely strong player in 2010.

One of the most exciting things to happen to porn in 2009 was twitter. More porn stars hopped on the microblogging site to share their thoughts and connect to fans directly. Starlets who used twitter saw a strong uptick in fans, proving just how important the offscreen work is for performers in this industry.

So 2009 wasn't the apocalyptic year for the adult industry that many prognosticated, but for most it sure wasn't fun. The important thing will be for the industry to learn the lessons that were taught in 2009.  The adult industry has inexorably changed and in 2010 the companies who understand, embrace, innovate and accept that change will thrive.

As I look in my crystal ball for 2010 I see a mix of good and bad for porn.  On the bad side I think a few studios who ambled their way through 2009 won't see it to the end of 2010. While the market will absolutely improve, the damage done in 2009 to some will have been too great for them to be able to really seize the uptick. In 2010, studios will either have to solidify their web strategies (and that doesn't mean turning it over to some hip 20 something who they don't undertand a word that he says) or they'll have to get out of the sandbox. All things will be connected in 2010 and if there's a missing piece of the porn pie for a studio it could spell a rocky road for them.

2010 will be a year that sees the lines blur for porn. Where releases happen across formats and across e-retailers and sites. The performers who prosper in 2010 will spend more time connecting with their fans than infront of the lens and who make intelligent partnerships with studios, PR agents or web sites. I don't think 2010 will see the end of the contract star, but I do think we'll see it continue to evolve with more starlets coming to studios to partner on their efforts rather than turn to them for the whole enchilada.

For XCritic, 2010 will be a year of continued growth. We'll continue to bring on some of the best and brightest starlets to blog for us. Expand our ever growing collection of interviews and our newswire. Most importantly we'll keep vigilant on our course to find the very best in adult entertainment for our readers, no matter what the format. We're hard at work at expanding our review staff for 2010 with a diversity of voices and backgrounds that provides an extraordinarily comprehensive view of porn.

So exhale folks. 2009 is at an end and we at XCritic wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2010.

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