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Cover story: 100% impure

Cover story: 100% impure

The New Zealand adult industry is no laggard in the technology and e-commerce stakes.

When Steve Crow announced his plan to film a former stripper giving birth and incorporate this into a porn movie, there were, expectedly, howls of protest and legal stumbling blocks. Technology, however, found a way for Crow, owner of adult supplies company Vixen Direct and dubbed New Zealand's 'Mr Porn'. The movie, Ripe, was eventually released, featuring 3D computer-generated images created by Crow's animation studios.

"We animated the childbirth. It was a world-first for a porn movie," says Crow.

"We have to come up with new ways," he says. The 'VHS revolution' and DVDs, with content such as multiple angles, and now "interactivity" in movies, was "largely driven by the adult sector", he adds.

Crowe, who has an MBA, contends sex is a $50 million industry in New Zealand, with $30 million of it concentrated in Auckland.

Crow likewise claims a New Zealand-first in using web broadcasts for Erotica Adult Lifestyles Expo 2000, the annual event he created, saying the website attracted over a million hits in three days.

Vixen Direct has just received memory cards containing an hour of porn when plugged into a PDA or smart phone. Though already available in Europe, such cards would need "classifying" by NZ authorities, an $1100 process, so Crow doubts their profitability in New Zealand.

"We are working with a cell phone provider overseas for downloading adult content through cell phones, which would bypass classification laws," he says.

Vixen Direct wholesales, sells online and by mail order. "We have a full e-commerce site, which is connected to our accounting package. We also use SalesLink. My sales staff have to carry PDAs. They broadcast back through their cell phones and can check stock levels, and update the website," he explains.

There are no Vixen Direct shops, though these are on the drawing board. Crow plans to set up a "sex precinct" for central Auckland featuring digital studios, interactive kiosks and cinema. Brothels are not his business, but he adds, "You can already order escorts online!"

Auckland business Adult Hosting has over 150 websites. The business was formed in 1997 because owner Charlie Riley received so much demand for adult hosting as part of his regular hosting business.

Demand is largely from overseas. Since porn websites are believed to be 'get-rich-quick' schemes, they attract dodgy elements. This means being particularly careful when checking clients' credit card details and addresses, so such payments do not get 'reversed,' as has previously happened, says Riley.

Adult Hosting sites are typically e-commerce with "standard shopping card stuff". They often process credit cards themselves or through third parties, as the banks do not like to be involved. "The New Zealand market is timid compared to overseas. Most sites are small businesses, gallery sites, a few e-commerce, a few blog sites, forums, chat, plus one to two adult search engines," says Riley.

Some 90 per cent of adult websites "cut and paste" content to save cost, but websites with their own, local content are more popular, he says. Most clients use about 20GB of bandwidth a month, com-pared to 1GB for a typical static HTML site.

"All our servers are hosted in the US, which is why we can offer so much bandwidth. We have a standard acceptable use policy and clearly defined terms and conditions. We police our adult sites and regulation breaches are pulled. We have worked with US authorities on child porn, which led to prosecutions overseas," adds Riley.

D. Vice

Another Auckland company, D.Vice, has offered "designer sex gear" since 1998 and says its third website generates a quarter of total sales.

Co-owner Ema Lyon says the re-launches are to "keep up with the play", and adds e-commerce with outsourced management is "easy".

The website has a full online party booking system, sex information and advice columns, product reviews and will soon feature a rewards-based CRM system.

Lyon says some clients prefer to view products online first, while others attend parties before entering a store.

"For us, the website is an integrated part of the business - shop, mail order, catalogue, party plan, etc," she adds.

The Den chain of Adult Shops also says a quarter of sales are online. "People that cannot bring themselves to come into our stores, or if they live outside Auckland, order online," says owner and director Adrian Jones.

Many adult websites do not feature a physical address, so Jones believes listing his stores gives his business credibility. "I'd be wary about sending money into cyberspace," he says.

Jones plans to develop the site but he won't accept streaming video. "We prefer to be more upmarket. We have been offered links to other sites. I'm not prudish, but I don't think our brand is about that."

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