Penthouse: Insert “social network” joke here

The double entendres pretty much throw themselves at you when you come across news like this: that the media group behind Penthouse is buying the company that runs the Adult Friendfinder service (among other things) for half a billion dollars. Various Inc., which runs a wide variety of other websites — including and — has reportedly been shopping itself around for some time, but investors tend to shy away from the adult-entertainment market.

The company isn’t getting much of a premium for the deal either, since it has annual revenues of about $200-million, or about 5 times what Facebook had last year. There was a fascinating profile of the founder of Various, a guy named Andrew Conru, in Business 2.0 magazine earlier this year, which described the nondescript industrial mall the company operates out of and Conru’s unremarkable background.

Penthouse also has an interesting history — a Porn 1.0 company founded by legendary party animal Bob Guccione as a more crude competitor to Playboy, it became a media and entertainment giant. Like many of its non-porn counterparts in media, however, the company failed to adapt to the digital age and eventually filed for bankruptcy (there were apparently some other backroom shenanigans as well).

With the Adult Friendfinder purchase, new owner Mark Bell — a Florida real estate developer and former owner of an Internet hosting company — is obviously trying to create a Porn 2.0 empire in its place.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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