Philip Kaplan's AdBrite loses porn-ad network

When you talk about "the Valley" in tech, it's taken for granted that you mean Silicon Valley. But in the world of porn, "the Valley" is the San Fernando Valley, where the adult-film industry has established itself. Now, as porn goes online, there's a long, drawn-out war for dominance fought by the two valleys. And a tremendous battle has just been lost — by AdBrite, the online-advertising network based in San Francisco. AdBrite, Valleywag has learned, has lost the partner that gave it an entrée into the business of selling porn ads.

AdBrite is not keen to let people know it's in the admittedly lucrative business of selling ads for pornographic websites. But for some time, AdBrite has had a partnership with AVN, a powerful trade publication covering the porn industry, to sell ads for AVN's websites and many others, through a site called AVNAds.com. Philip Kaplan characterized the AVNAds relationship as a "technology-licensing agreement," though it's clearly more than that; until this morning, AVNAds listed AdBrite's fax number on its contact information, and ads were served on the adbrite.com domain.

This morning, however, AVN has broken off the relationship and redirected the AVNAds.com domain to a new, hastily built, barely functional website. The ads on the host of porn sites contracting with AVNAds, however, continue to be displayed from AdBrite's servers. From what I've heard, there's a legal tug of war over the relationship. And last month's meltdown at 365 Main, the datacenter hosting AdBrite's servers, doesn't seem to have helped matters. The press release announcing the new AVNAds website stresses that the new venture will serve ads from multiple datacenters. AVN's new online-ad network promises to be up and running by September 30.

Philip Kaplan's AdBrite loses porn-ad networkIn the meantime, though, it seems that Kaplan has a Plan B to keep AdBrite in the porn business under the name "BlackLabel Ads." Until Friday, when I called an AdBrite executive for comment, BlackLabelAds.com displayed a site identical to AVNAds.com except in name. The list of sites on BlackLabelAds.com, and the structure of the site, was identical to AVNAds.com; it even shared the same fax number as AdBrite and AVNAds.com. Today, though the site remains mostly hidden, the logo remains on AdBrite's servers. (The BlackLabel site currently redirects to AVNAds.com, but I believe that's simply because AdBrite execs were hoping to hide the existence of BlackLabelAds.com and were caught offguard by today's move by AVN.)

So here's how the battlefront stands: AdBrite has the actual ads served today on the AVN network; AVN has the AVNAds.com domain itself. The question will be — assuming AdBrite's not going to just give up on the adult-ads business altogether — is whether AdBrite can tell customers about BlackLabelAds faster than AVN can sign them up on the new AVNAds website. Like everything to do with the adult-entertainment business, this battle promises to be messy, dirty, and thoroughly entertaining. And it's all just one more back-and-forth tussle in the war between the two valleys of porn.