Commercialization of the Internet took a toll on many traditional industries, forcing them to adapt to the new paradigm or disappear entirely. It also had an effect on non-traditional industries, especially an offshoot of one of the "oldest" ones, so to speak — pornography.

The Internet offered multiple new benefits to customers of porn, such as a massive increase in supply, the potential for greater anonymity, and the ability to connect easily with others having similar proclivities and form communities. It also flooded the market with mostly, if not entirely, free content. How could the local "adult" bookstore compete with that?

The Economist examined the adaptation of porn to the Internet age in a recent article and noted the similarity to social media websites in their evolution. How do we get from porn to Facebook and Twitter? It has nothing to do with the content; it is all about the business model and how money can be made within a particular field.

In the early days of Internet porn, it was relatively easy to make money. Oddly enough, the law worked in the favor of pornographers. Phone-sex lines were required to get a credit card number from their customers to prove they were of sufficient age, thus pornographers had a ready-made e-commerce infrastructure and experience with a revenue stream. The evolution to porn sites was simple. Load the pictures, set up the subscription system for access control and billing methods for payment, and business would follow.

Porn sites were easy enough to find through simple searches, making advertising relatively unnecessary (not that advertising porn is straightforward), and sites could easily be tailored to particular proclivities to distinguish themselves from alternatives and create a loyal customer base. It is estimated that over 3,000 porn sites took advantage of the opportunity in the early 2000s.

As the number of sites grew, it became necessary for a site to stand out. Sites began to give away free "teasers" to attract customers. Meanwhile, amateur postings added to the free content, and clever folks began to aggregate the free material through link collections. Availability of free porn began to take a toll on pay sites.

Expand this philosophy with each technological advancement, and it is easy to see how revenues have fallen off within the porn industry (or so it is thought, as Internet-porn revenue is not generally public information). The evolution of speed, storage capability, and simplicity of uploading/posting information introduced massive amounts of videos and other manifestations of Internet porn that are either free or inexpensive.

Finally, "tubes" — content aggregators that are the porn equivalent of YouTube — began to collect huge quantities of content, making free porn even more readily available. But how is money to be made? Advertising.

The ability to collect data through massive amounts of traffic on the "tubes" means that advertisers can provide highly targeted ads reaching specialized niche audiences, making them far more effective. In turn, content providers are forced to work out deals with tubes to carry their content and give tubes a cut of the revenue from successful click-through traffic.

Do you see the connection to today's social media sites? Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are on the same path, having evolved from simply linking content into hosting it and providing new services to increase traffic. Meanwhile, they struggle to establish their share of long-term revenue.

The market has huge demand. Thanks to technological advances, free material overwhelms the market and forces participants to find new ways to monetize services. Successful distribution and delivery systems find their role and expand their offerings. Once-profitable content producers are squeezed by the distribution. That model fits both porn and social media reasonably well.

Even though the form may change over the years, porn is here to stay, as is social media. That is one more area of common ground.

This article was provided by our partners at MoneyTips.