As One Show Winds Down, Another Starts Up

The walk down the long hallway from the Venetian Hotel to the Sands Expo Center was different today. In addition to the earnest khaki-and-polo-shirt CES attendees, there were young buxom women in halter tops, short skirts, and four-inch spiked heels. At the end of the hallway those spiked heels made a right-hand turn and negotiated a long staircase downstairs to the 2008 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, which opens to the public tomorrow, the same day CES ends.

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No one knows how big the adult entertainment industry is. Iâ''ve heard estimates from $15 billion to $60 billion. But we do have some idea of the size of the AVN show. Sean Devlin, the showâ''s spokesperson, says it will be bigger than last yearâ''s, which had 30 000 attendees. Of them, 17 000 were fans, 12 000 were people â''from the trade,â'' and 1000 were journalists.

This journalist will be one of them this year. While itâ''s a tricky subject area for a general-interest magazine, itâ''s also one that canâ''t be ignored. The adult industry has driven technologies at least since the early days of photography in the 1850s, and technology has benefited ever since.

Consumers of adult content back up their interest with real dollars in ways that other consumers are less motivated to do. Some pay as much as $60/month to subscribe to individual websites. Modems, graphics cards, and webcams are a few product categories that came to enjoy low prices and broader usage because adult content consumers were high-paying early adopters. Today, mobile video is almost too new to be a hot category at CES, but itâ''s already a major topic at AVN.

When it comes to reporting on the leading edges of technology, we at Spectrum sometimes find ourselves in some pretty unusual places. Tomorrow itâ''ll be in the basement of the Sands, not the ground floor.

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