Video killed the radio star, and internet has killed the porn star. In a recent interview with radio show Day 6, online porn producer Mike South, who has worked in the adult industry for more than two decades, confessed to the show’s host that porn’s migration to the internet (and the subsequent pirating of copyrighted material, much like what happened to the music industry) triggered the end of an era. “We had a goose that was laying golden eggs at one point in time,” he said of the once lucrative porn industry. “We were going around collecting the eggs, but we didn’t really protect the goose.”

Sources estimate that global porn revenues have dropped 50 percent since 2007 due to the mass amounts of free porn available online. It’s estimated that 80 to 90 percent of users now only access free porn.

South, who used to manage databases at NASA before setting foot in adult entertainment, remembers this hit was particularly tough on the performers, who entered the industry in a time of prosperity and had grown comfortable with the lifestyle it provided them. But when the money vanished a decade ago, many had to file for unemployment, and, in extreme cases, supplemented their income by selling their bodies. “When I came into the business in 1992, we were very tight-knit. Nobody in the industry was prostituting and if they were, they were keeping it way, way under the radar,” he noted. “Nowadays, I can actually count the number of girls who don’t prostitute on one hand.”

South remains firm that traditional porn (DVDs, Blu Ray, etc.) is no longer lucrative, nor will it ever be. As an example, he highlights that the biggest porn producers have pulled out from investing in traditional products. “Vivid no longer produces any product at all,” South said. “And Wicked Pictures cut their production by 75 percent because the market simply isn’t there.”

The industry is now taking on an entrepreneurial spirit to combat piracy and recoup losses. That includes talent fiercely marketeting themselves online through personal branding on social media and webcamming during off hours. In other words, the future of porn now relies on the woman who, either by herself or with her husband, creates and markets her own products. “She can earn a very good living,” South said. “I could name a half a dozen of girls you’ve never heard of who could buy Jenna Jameson with the money in her purse.”

But what does webcamming offer users that’s so fascinating to us that we’re willing to cough up wads of cash? Increased interactivity with adult performers, for one. Figures show that people see value in tailor-made content. In 2013, for example, the New York Times reported the webcam industry alone brings in around $1 billion in annual revenue, sparking the profitable trend that, at the end of the day, a lot of people are lonely and those people crave interactivity. In many cases, the actors don’t even have to perform sexual acts during their performances; they just converse with fans in their underwear while they sit in bed. The ultimate goal for the models is to encourage repeat customers who will then pay top dollar for private, one-on-one viewing sessions. Many webcam models also have links to Amazon wish lists on their profiles, where fans are pressed to purchase gifts (usually sexy underwear, toys, clothing, etc.) for their favorite performers.

It’s worth noting that the webcamming trend was especially evident at this year’s AVN Awards and Expo (known as the “Oscars of porn”) where webcam sites not only took up the majority of real estate on the floor at the Hard Rock Hotel, but the show itself was sponsored by myfreecams.com, a frontrunner in the live-sex landscape.

While webcamming has obviously proven itself to be a profitable mainstay in the industry, another growing property, virtual reality (VR) porn, is far less certain. According to Lynn Comella, a professor of gender studies and sexuality at the University of Nevada (who was also interviewed on the radio show), the prospect is still too new, too unproven and too expensive to hit the mainstream. As such, companies are taking a wait-and-see approach. “They’re not entirely convinced that the consumer demand is there for them to invest in another business infrastructure,“ she said.

Steep prices of $70 to $1,000 for a clunky Cyclops headset and the fact that it takes the coveted spontaneity out of watching porn are just two setbacks inhabiting the VR space. Not to mention, VR lacks the discretion porn viewers tend to favor, considering that just about anybody could walk into the room and witness you making love to yourself without you having the faintest idea that someone has caught you.

Porn isn’t going anywhere, but there was indeed a point in time where its future was in question. This perilous circumstance caused the industry as a whole to put their heads together and offer a solution, the solution being the discovery that people aren’t necessarily looking for more perversion in their porn, but instead a more genuine connection with it.