Founded in 1974, Hustler is perhaps best known as the publisher of its sometimes controversial pornographic magazine. However, over the years, it’s become a powerful brand, grossing roughly $300m annually as of 2009 through initiatives that include a California casino, a chain of bars and clubs, and branded retail stores.
Of course, the company is inseparable from founder Larry Flynt, the larger-than-life personality that was notably brought to the big screen in the 1996 drama The People vs. Larry Flynt, a film that grossed $20m and was nominated for two Academy Awards. Cinema aside, Flynt continues to remain active despite longstanding health problems, and maintains a role in his business.
For example, on 9th July, Flynt gave the green-light for Hustler to embrace yet another sometimes controversial idea – digital currency – when it partnered with digital payments processor GoCoin to accept bitcoin, litecoin and dogecoin for its lifetime memberships.
This was a move that Derek Meklir, vice president of the Larry Flynt Publications Internet Group, suggested was in line with the founder’s classic decision making, telling CoinDesk:
“Larry likes to be on the cutting edge of technology, that’s what he’s always done, and that’s how he’s done well over the years.”
However, despite his brand’s affiliation with risqué and fringe tastes, Meklir said Hustler decided to take digital currency in part due to how widely it has now been adopted in the mainstream.
“The adult industry has led the way in a lot of technologies and, in this case, actually a lot of mainstream companies have been doing it as well,” he said. “There have been cable providers that are accepting bitcoin, and we’re going to be one of the first ones, but it already seems like a lot of people are seeing the value of bitcoin.”
The former Playboy Enterprises VP said his company is happy with the returns bitcoin sales have generated so far. While Meklir doesn’t see bitcoin becoming Hustler’s largest source of income, he believes it will become one of the company’s most frequently used payment methods.
Perhaps most surprising to Meklir has been the popularity of Hustler.com’s litecoin and dogecoin payment options.
He indicated that, although these currencies initially seemed just a nice addition to the overall package, they have proven the enthusiasm and purchasing power of their respective audiences.
“I wasn’t expecting more than bitcoin, I thought the others were nice to have, but it turns out we’re seeing transactions across all currency types.”
While he declined to offer specific sales figures, Meklir did say that he expects the volume of transactions on all three digital currencies to increase over time.
In particular, he noted that Hustler is seeking to expand the offer to overseas markets, although he declined to provide a specific timeframe for the service, stating: “We’re still implementing how it’s going to [work] for foreign transactions.”
Even though mainstream consumers are increasingly adopting digital currency, Meklir suggested he still sees the technology’s enthusiasts as a bit of a niche audience.
When asked if he believed porn could provide a compelling use case for first-time bitcoin buyers, Meklir suggested he feels this transition is still one that will take time and won’t be helped by any single use case.
“What I think is going on, is there’s a consumer base that is already part of the digital currency market, and they have options of what they can do with their bitcoins and other digital currencies – whether it’s holding on to them or spending them,” Meklir said.
Still, he did acknowledge the appeal of bitcoin’s relative anonymity for his brand and his industry, adding: “If you’re going to spend, it might make sense to do it on things you want more anonymity with.”
Meklir went on to say that it is likely to be the porn industry’s established embracing of new technologies, rather than user demand, that encourages wider digital currency adoption among Hustler’s competitors.
Above all, Meklir stressed that his brand’s embrace of digital currency payments was simply a logical way for Hustler to expand its audience.
For example, he noted the potential downsides of refusing to offer a digital currency payment option, stating:
“We want to be able to open up our site to [...] as large of an audience as possible. If we were only accepting US dollars, it would limit us.”
As for Flynt’s involvement in the project, Meklir said he keeps the founder updated on the bitcoin payments program, and that Flynt is eager to see the results.
“I keep him up-to-date on how things are going. We may be looking to expand on it.”
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