In my previous job, I attended lots of trade shows. Perhaps my favorite was the annual blowout put on by the National Association of Convenience Stores -- largely because many of the freebies involved salty snacks, beer or some of the other things that make c-stores such compelling places at 3 a.m.
Long lines were a fixture at the booths populated by skin mags such as Playboy -- largely because of the frequent autograph sessions with models. Yet a single bored man sat in the Hustler booth when I approached one afternoon to ask why his booth was located in an area of the show floor designated as the Technology Pavilion.
The man -- who turned out to be Larry Flynt's nephew Jimmy -- told me it was because his company was responsible for bringing high-def streaming video and other (then cutting-edge) Internet technologies to the forefront. I had to admit, he had a point.
He still does. Adult Web sites and their close cousins, gambling sites, are among the most innovative online businesses, as a recent CIO.com article nicely illustrates.
Though most companies don't have to worry about one of these industries' incentives to innovate -- to stay ahead of legislation designed to stymie them -- they will identify with their need to differentiate themselves from the competition and to appeal to increasingly sophisticated consumers.
After running through some of the emerging technologies that such sites are experimenting with -- including broadcasting content to mobile devices and employing advanced personalization and customization features -- the article touches on some innovation strategies that could serve many companies well.
Among them: Adult and gambling industries tend to favor open source so they can get in and play with source code when necessary, instead of waiting for vendors to address their needs. They also are more willing to back start-ups with funding because, as a source cited in the article says, "At the end of the day, content is all that they have, so an innovative technology can go straight to the bottom line."
With their ability to profit from content like nobody's business, the adult and gambling industries also reinforce an idea floated in the book "Payback: Reaping the Rewards of Innovation" -- that even the best ideas will never qualify as innovation unless they generate revenue for a company.