Bloodbath at the Mothership: AVN Layoffs Reduce Editorial Staff to Two Dudes

“It was like a bucket of cold water,” says Dan Miller, Editor-in-Chief of AVN Magazine which, since 1983, has been the publication of record in the adult industry. He is calling to tell me that the freelance budget has been cut entirely and I will be let go. It’s awful news and he is sorry to give it. More than 20 people from across the company got similar news. The editorial staff, which once numbered in the dozens and easily employed double-digits full time, has been reduced to two: Miller and Peter Warren, both of whom have been with the publication for almost two decades.

AVN was the type of place where porn star Whitney Wright would bring you pastries

There was a similar round of layoffs in April of 2020 when Managing Editor Sharan Street and Novelties editor Sherri Shaulis were laid off. With the departure of these two full-timers, AVN’s in-house editorial division consisted of two middle-aged men. Today, since Portland-based fetish and BDSM authority Theresa “Darklady” Reed was laid off, as well as regular contributor Anka Radakovich, there are no female writers at the porn trade publication.

Reed had worked at AVN in different capacities for 21 years, starting in 1999 by writing reviews of VHS porn movies. At that time there were a number of women on the full-time editorial staff, including Ellen Thompson, Rebecca Gray, and Suzie Mid-America.

“Those were wild and wooly times,” says Reed.

I’ll hasten to add that Miller and Warren are solid, thoughtful writers who care about the business and who have seen a lot of changes in it. Further, they’ve adapted to the mutating expectations of AVN with real care. When I returned to writing about the “industry” after a hiatus, it was a pleasure working with Miller, Warren, Street, and Shaulis on AVN Awards nominations. The amount of consideration and—this is weird to say—actual kindness that went into selecting nominees was a pleasant surprise in that monthlong process.

Adult Video News was founded as the newsletter of a Philadelphia porno store in 1983 by Paul Fishbein, who is now an independent producer of documentary films. Fishbein took AVN west in the 1990s and presided over a rip-roaring company that was at once a trade publication for the adult industry, an advertising-fueled news outlet (I was hired in 2002 as the editor of and was fired after I wrote something inconvenient about major advertiser Digital Playground, then freelanced off and on until this morning), and an awards arbiter. There were a lot of masters to serve; it was like if Variety hosted the Oscars.

…or you could bring your dog to work.

But free internet porn gutted the adult industry and, when the Manwin/Mindgeek conglomerate that brought the world Pornhub began buying up Porn Valley’s adult studios on one end and facilitating porn piracy on the other, Fishbein cashed out of AVN, selling it to “the Greeks”: Theo Sapoutzis and Panos Kouvatsos (and other Mediterranean investors) who then, half a decade later, sold it to current owner Tony Rios and another group of backers, who remain a mystery to most.

Alex Sanders and Nyomi Marcella from “Whoriental Sex Academy 4,” my first set visit in 2002

Under Rios, AVN has launched its OnlyFans-style platform, AVNStars, and forged partnerships with MyFreeCams (MFC), which has been a major contributor to both AVN and its rival, the Hollywood-based XBiz, founded in 1996. Recently, MFC pulled sponsorship from XBiz, which now gets financial support from rival Chaturbate. XBiz and AVN have traded editorial staff over the years, as the porn world is very small.

It is whispered that bankroller MyFreeCams is on the verge of collapse, thus AVN’s woes. There’s another industry rumor that MFC actually owns AVN. I stress that these are rumors. They may be convenient wishful thinking.

AVN still has its Adult Entertainment Expo, which draws thousands of fans to Las Vegas each January (when there’s not a plague on), as well as its AVN Awards show, which enjoys an edited airing on Showtime. Along with the promise of AVNStars, which employs coders overseas and customer service reps in the Philippines, it is the awards show and its Showtime deal which keep AVN afloat, say insiders.

Further Damage

But those insiders are fewer and fewer. In addition to the liquidation of the editorial freelancers, which also included veteran writers Tod Hunter, Jared Rutter, Dirty Bob, and Mark Kernes (who was the company’s longest-serving employee, having been with Paul Fishbein since the Philadelphia days), AVN laid off its controller, Marlene Amata, longtime sales executives Timothy Ferencz and Sara Harter, Media Manager Carol Walker, designers Andrea Wimberly and Robert Bailon, and office manager Bonnie “Bon Bon” LeBlanc. Further, the hours of Peter Warren and Events Manager Teri Fernandez have been reduced.

“A total of ten full-time employees,” says a staffer who got the axe. I’ve included a masthead of the most recent AVN Magazine with a “Family Feud” X next to the name of the person who no longer works there.

Also laid off, but not on the masthead, were three full-time software designers.

“Preparations for the January, 2022 AVN show, likely the first live adult industry event in two years, might be difficult with the sales staff gone, the designers gone, and the editorial staff reduced to two,” says Gram Ponante, quoting himself. ” But I’ve seen AVN bloodbaths before, and I wouldn’t count AVN out just yet, even though this news is grim for a lot of people.”


One of the interesting things about working in the adult industry is the occasional reminder of how recently the whole business was illegal. We’re just a generation away from the Freeman Decision (1988) that basically decriminalized adult video shooting in California. As the industry has wrestled with its own sense of legitimacy—how does the outlaw spirit that animates porn “creatives” reconcile with meeting deadlines, paying people on time, executing business contracts, and paying rent?—I have now and then received feedback from concerned individuals who don’t want me to write critical things.

“It makes the magazine/porn stars/industry (in general, take your pick) look bad,” I’ve been told.

I’d answer that, when the L.A. Times or KCRW lays off much of its staff, there’s a press release. Yes, competitors will feel triumphant, but layoffs are part of any legitimate business and it is not disloyal to say what happened. Similar to this week’s mass-termination, last year’s April bloodletting that removed Shaulis and Street from their positions went unrecorded by the magazine.

“I think there’s people who still think I work at AVN,” says Shaulis, now employed as Catalog Manager for San Francisco-based Innov8, which handles the online stores and e-commerce platforms of various adult retailers.


Just as in any legitimate business, there is a great deal of schadenfreude in adult, as well as a robust BBS-era messageboard culture and a few lingering porn blogs (I call these the Gene Pool, after Gene Ross, AVN’s first disgruntled employee who launched a website to comment on what AVN didn’t. The porn blogs were often mean-spirited and poorly-written, but very informative). Me, I take no joy in people getting laid off, or scandals, or failures of judgment, but somebody has to write about them without acting smug about it. I mean, I’m out of a source of income, too—is everyone supposed to roll over and shut up, and only write positive things, or is the business mature enough to withstand mainstream-level introspection and scrutiny?


Miller sounded truly anguished in his call to me. I’d worried something was up last week when I hadn’t received a check; since my return to adult biz freelancing, AVN had been great about paying on time.

AVN has employed a host of thoughtful, cynical, funny writers who have seen the tectonic upheavals of a fascinating industry; it would be a shame if coverage were allowed to die out, even if writers constantly walk the line of angering advertisers.

Says George Bailey, “This town needs this measly one-horse institution if only to have some place where people can come without crawling to XBiz.”

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: It’s Different Than It Was—the AVN House Party; “Naked Came the Porn Star

About Gram the Man 4399 Articles
Gram Ponante is America's Beloved Porn Journalist


  1. this isn’t the circus leaving town, this is more like the animals and the clowns are gone from underneath the big top… all that’s left is a handful carnies asking for a few bucks to walk around and take a peek at ‘what’s left’….

    nothing wrong with starving to death in porno, even if/when you’re good at your job. trust me, I’ve been doing it for years. -Swiney

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